Retired director of Thunder Bay, Ont., public school board faces professional misconduct allegations


Warning: This articles includes alleged comments that are offensive:

The recently retired director of the Lakehead District School Board in Thunder Bay, Ont., faces allegations of professional misconduct by the Ontario College of Teachers, which regulates educators in the province. 

The college will hold disciplinary hearings into allegations Ian MacRae committed acts that would reasonably be seen as “disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional,” and engaged in conduct unbecoming a member, according to the notice of hearing published on the college’s website.

The notice of hearing includes details from 21 employees or trustees for the public school board (also known as Lakehead Public Schools) and contains allegations that date back to June 2014, the same month his appointment as director was first announced.

MacRae retired in August after more than 40 years working for the board. He had served as a superintendent of education from 2009 to 2014. Before that, he was a principal and teacher.

He had put his name forward to run as a board trustee during the 2022 municipal elections, which are this Monday, but was disqualified because he was ineligible to run at the time as an active employee of the board.

The notice alleges MacRae made racist and demeaning comments about Indigenous people, staff and board trustees. 

It alleges MacRae fell asleep during work on multiple occasions, including during a student expulsion hearing, an anti-racism meeting, and at board and teleconference meetings.

It’s also alleged he insisted on watching staff members while they completed an appraisal of his own performance, and he made inappropriate comments to potential witnesses in a harassment investigation into his conduct.

The Ontario College of Teachers’ disciplinary committee has not proven the allegations. A date for a hearing has yet to be set.

Lawyers representing MacRae did not immediately respond to CBC’s request for comment.

Inappropriate comments, interactions with staff alleged

Around June 2016, MacRae had “inappropriate physical contact” with a colleague, rubbing an unnamed woman’s arm while telling her “she was ‘special’ to him,” the notice of hearing document alleges.

Throughout his time as director, MacRae also allegedly made comments to staff that either “he knew or ought to have known were unwelcome,” which included calling different people “back-stabbing two-faced lemming,” “wannabe beauty queen,” “stupid,” and “the nun,” among others.

In reference to one woman, MacRae allegedly said “he would ‘blast her,’ or words to that effect,” according to the document.

Around the spring of 2017, MacRae allegedly asked communications staff to remove the achievements of one staff member from the board website and said “he wished for bad things to happen to her.”

Around May 2019, while speaking to a candidate for a superintendent position with the board, MacRae allegedly said, “The job is yours and you will get it based on looks alone.”

Allegations regarding Indigenous people

A number of inappropriate comments MacRae is alleged to have said about Indigenous people are included in the notice of hearing.

“When we used to have meetings, we put a jar in the middle of the table and you had to put [five] bucks in whenever you said something negative about Natives. I always put 20 bucks in at the beginning of the meeting. I had a lot to say,” MacRae allegedly said in June 2016.

Around the same time, while selecting the name of a new school, MacRae allegedly said, “It would have an Indian name over my dead body.”

Ellen Chambers, chair of the Lakehead District School Board’s board of trustees, said she was aware of the upcoming disciplinary hearing, but declined to comment further as this “qualifies as a personnel matter.” 

CBC also contacted the school board for comment, but had not yet received a response at time of publication.

If found guilty, there is a range of possible disciplinary actions, including:

  • Being reprimanded.
  • The suspension or cancellation of MacRae’s teacher’s licence.
  • A fine of up to $5,000.

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