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Brampton’s Municipal Councillors & Petty Bureaucrats Reveal
An Ugly Strain Of Bigotry





Brampton, Ontario, Canada

At 3 pm on a Wednesday, the otherwise sleepy stretch of Maitland Street in front of Brampton’s Khalsa Community School – a private Sikh school – looks like downtown Toronto at rush hour.

Exhaust rises from 16 idling cars winding down the street. An overwhelmed teacher in a neon vest attempts to help parents and students cross Maitland while directing cars coming down the road, others turning left, and the ones leaving the parking lot.

Parents of students want a pedestrian crossing, flashing lights up the road to let drivers know they are entering a school zone and city-paid crossing guards.

The publicly funded ‘Mother Mary Ward Catholic School,’ which was previously on the site, had these safety measures. And nine kilometres away, the private Christian institution ‘John Knox School’ has a flashing school zone sign.

The city removed the signs from here on Maitland Street in 2010, after ‘Mother Mary Ward’ closed. The next year, The Khalsa Community School moved in. Neighbours and parents say children have been nearly hit outside the school by cars zooming down the road.

The twice-daily chaos at pickup and drop-off is at the heart of a long-simmering conflict over crowding, safety and tolerance that pits local residents against parents and the city against the current school. [No such conflict existed during the tenure of the Christian school … during which the safety measures were in place.]

Brampton is one of the country’s fastest growing cities, and one-third of residents identify themselves are South Asian -- many of whom belong to the Sikh Religion.

Ms Simmar Kaur Boparai, whose son is in junior kindergarten at Khalsa Community School, points out that while the school is private, she pays Brampton property taxes and cannot help but view the traffic safety issue through a religious and cultural lens.

At the start of year, she encountered a group of angry neighbours outside the school when she dropped off her son.

“I heard a bunch of people saying, ‘We’re working on getting this school shut down. We don’t want these people here,’” she said.

Last year, the school was ranked at the top of the Fraser Institute’s Report Card on Ontario Elementary Schools, which is based on results of annual tests administered by the Education Quality and Accountability Office. Fees range from $3,000 to $5,575 a student.

A parent of two students, who did not want to give her name due to professional concerns, said she has stopped two pedestrian collisions outside the school. Drivers, she observed, do not always take the school staff who act as crossing guards seriously. At the end of the day, 20 school buses ferry children home, but many are picked up by parents who park on Maitland or neighbouring streets. Many have to cross the road getting to and from the school.

Megan Ball, a spokeswoman for the city, said the site does not meet Brampton’s requirements for a crossing guard because it is not publicly funded, and only a few children walk there (most are driven or take the bus).

Ripsodhak Singh Grewal, principal of the school, said he offered in a meeting with city officials to pay for crossing guards – but did not get a response. Ms. Ball said the city has not received a formal request from the school.

Mr. Ripsodhak Singh said the system at the school is safe, but he would prefer city-trained crossing guards. In January, students who take the bus home will be dismissed 15 minutes earlier to alleviate some of the congestion.

Crowding at schools is a problem across Brampton, and portables are the norm. Last year, Mr Ripsodhak Singh received approval from the city to erect six portable classrooms. The school put up an additional seven and the city has taken it to court, saying it has violated the building code. Court proceedings resume in February.

“I think the big issue with the Khalsa School is that the site was really never intended to have as many students there as there are today,” said Gael Miles, a Brampton regional councillor. The Catholic school was built for 248 students. Ripsodhak Singh said the student population now is about 800, hence the need for 13 portables.

“We have a property right and we have a right to develop the way we want to,” he said.

Ms. Ball said in an e-mail that the school-crossing signs were removed when ‘Mother Mary’ closed “as the intended need was no longer there.” A sign about 200 metres from the school on an eastbound lane says the speed limit is 40 km/h and that it is school zone. A similar sign for westbound traffic was removed, but Ms. Ball said it will be replaced soon, and U-turn and parking restrictions may be on the way.

But parents want flashing lights and a well-marked pedestrian crossing. The city removed the paint from the road at the high-traffic crosswalk in front of the school in December.

“What are they thinking not having a crosswalk there?” Simmar Kaur Boparai said.

Given that portables are common in Brampton – ‘Castlemore Public School’ in the north end of the city has 18 – parents have wondered aloud if something else is at play.

“I sense there is a bit of negative energy between the community and the school,” said the parent who has stopped collisions outside of the school. She said one neighbour told her, ‘This used to be a good Catholic school, and you people have taken over.’

Tony Iacobacci, who lives across the street, said he gets along with everybody, but parents make it impossible for him to leave his driveway during drop-off and pick-up times and cut across his lawn. Parents dispute this and say they believe the grass they walk on is beyond Mr. Iacobacci’s property line. The school is a hub for after-hours activities, too, which means the street is often filled with cars on weekends.

“They have functions at this school. I don’t know what kind of functions because I am ... Italian background,” he says.

Mr Ripsodhak Singh said he has not felt any racial or religious hostility, save for an incident in 2012 when vandals spray-painted a swastika and “KKK” on the side of the school. The tensions in the neighbourhood are because of “a little more cars on the road. Nothing else,” he says.

From September to the end of November, by-law enforcement officers visited the school 35 times and issued 24 parking tickets.

The average number of tickets issued at other schools in Brampton was six.

The private ‘John Knox School’ has a school crossing sign up the road that tells drivers to reduce their speed to 40 km/h when its lights are flashing. Ms. Ball said the city reviews each school’s situation and determined the sign was needed outside the Christian school because it is on a four-lane roadway.

Ms. Simmar Kaur Boparai said she cannot understand why the city has not posted school-zone signs around The Khalsa Community School. She estimates the cost is very low, and notes that that the city has signs instructing drivers to slow down for deer, ducks and even turtles.

[Courtesy: The Globe and Mail. Edited for]
January 2, 2015

Conversation about this article

1: Jill Hargreave (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada), January 02, 2015, 7:10 AM.

Isn't this the same municipality whose Mayor was accused of being one of the crookedest municipal politicians in the region, and shown the door, ending a long and meandering career? Looks like those who have succeeded her on the council, or remain from the previous one, are little better. Dinosaurs?

2: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), January 02, 2015, 7:24 AM.

We desperately need to educate these bigots, otherwise their tribalistic and hate-filled dogmas or soap opera lifestyles will undermine the great Canadian values of fairness and decency, and bring your beautiful land into disrepute.

3: Sunny Grewal (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), January 02, 2015, 4:02 PM.

No worries, once "white flight" kicks in, this neighborhood will shift from Italian to Punjabi. Then the politicians will miraculously go from being bigoted to crawling behind the local Punjabi community to have some votes thrown their way.

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An Ugly Strain Of Bigotry"

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