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Stephen Lecce apologizes for fraternity 'slave auction'; calls from NDP to step down

The NDP is accusing Lecce of choosing to conceal his involvement in the events that “mocked and trivialized” the history of the slave trade.
Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce speaks at a press conference at Queen's Park in Toronto on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

One of the Ford government’s highest profile cabinet ministers is apologizing after it was revealed he took part in a so-called “slave auction” while in university.

The NDP is now demanding Stephen Lecce step down as the Progressive Conservative candidate for King-Vaughan. The party is also calling on Premier and PC leader Doug Ford to “clearly and unequivocally condemn Lecce’s actions.”

“Mr. Lecce must apologize for the deep pain his actions caused, educate himself, and attempt to make amends to Black communities,” reads a joint statement from three NDP candidates.

“But under no circumstances should the people of this province, or even more alarmingly our children, be represented by him at this time.”

The outlet Press Progress reports Lecce took part in a hazing ritual, known as a “slave auction,” while a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity at Western University in London, Ont., in 2006.

The report cites archived postings on the fraternity’s website that suggest the ritual was held on numerous occasions during his time at the frat house.

In a statement to CityNews, the education minister is apologizing for his actions 16 years ago.

“The event from 2006 was inappropriate and in no way reflects who I am as a person, which is why I unreservedly apologize,” reads the statement. “I will continue to passionately advance the interests of all Ontarians – irrespective of faith, heritage, orientation or race.”

The NDP is accusing Lecce of choosing to conceal his involvement in the events that “mocked and trivialized” the history of the slave trade. The statement says Black Ontarians deserve “so much better” from their elected officials.

“Mr. Lecce must apologize and take responsibility for his involvement,” said Kristyn Wong-Tam, NDP candidate for Toronto Centre, in a tweet. “He’s the Minister of Education and if (he) can’t learn from his past wrongdoings, then he has no credibility governing over the education system.”

The then 31-year-old Lecce became one of the youngest members of Ford’s cabinet following his 2018 election victory. He was sworn in as Ontario’s education minister in 2019 and served in the role through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Party leaders back on election trail in Ontario as campaign rolls on

Ford is not scheduled to make any public announcements on Wednesday as the provincial election campaign continues.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is starting her day in Brampton, where she’s set to make an announcement aimed at helping drivers. She’s then set to make stops in Waterdown and Thamesford to meet with local candidates and supporters.

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca will be making an announcement in west Toronto on health care before heading to Vaughan and Ajax.

Health care, housing and highways were the major topics at a debate on northern issues held Tuesday, with each party leader attacking their opponents’ records and offering their own solutions for the region.

With files from The Canadian Press

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