In yesterday’s Ottawa Sun, I had a column detailing the truth behind the much publicized student trip to campaign for Obama. In a nutshell, the school teacher behind it always said that the trip was about working for the Obama campaign. According to the documents, board officials never questioned the nature of the trip until the media started calling.
In the column, I quoted from emails and memos, and in the print version, there is even a large graphic showing the original proposal that was approved by principal Norma McDonald and superintendent Manon Seguin on October 2, 2012.
Sun reporter Michael Aubry tried to follow up with the board yesterday to get reaction. First, he was promised a statement at 3pm that would answer all questions then it was put off until 4pm and then just minutes before closing up the office the board’s communications officer Mardi de Kemp sent this.
“I’m glad you connected, and I do understand that you have concerns. We have concerns too.
We were sorry not to be given an opportunity to participate in Brian Lilley’s piece Sunday (online), Monday (print). We would have offered some context to Brian’s excerpted quotes and comments. We regret that we missed the opportunity to join this conversation in a proactive manner.
We’ll decline to comment further now, after the fact.
Now I’ve been around this game for a little while and I am used to the BS “I was taken out of context” line that de Kemp tried to pass off. But for her to try this, when I have a stack of internal documents detailing all aspects of the conversation surrounding the trip, is ridiculous. First off, I did attempt to contact Norma McDonald by phone and email and she did not reply. I suspect that de Kemp knows this and was informed of my contact attempts and chose not to reply. As for context, I’ve got plenty of it.
The Ottawa Catholic School Board has been caught in a lie. They should fess up and maybe consider going to confession but don’t claim you were taken out of context.
As promised, here is some context to what was going on with this trip. I wish I could post the entire file as a PDF but the board’s response to the Ontario FOI request that was submitted came back as a jumbled mess of paper stapled and bound in all manner. I will post relevant portions and let readers decide.
Hopefully one day soon the board will do the honest thing.
Here is cover page of the trip proposal with McDonald and Seguin’s signature.
Here is the proposal detailing what students will be doing. Notice that the trip is even called “Obama for America.”
Here are several pages from the presentation given to parents and students ahead of the trip. I’ve taken out only information on where the kids would stay, what they should pack etc. Remember all of these GOTV (get out the vote) activities are taking place in an Obama campaign office environment.
Ms. de Kemp says I took her out of context so let me post the full email exchange that I quoted. In this exchange de Kemp is reacting to the media calling and advises teacher Scott Searle that he should make sure students only observe and do not participate. He tells here he can’t do that. This is a two page print out so read it straight through.
If de Kemp, McDonald and the rest of them at the school board office want to continue to claim that I have taken them out of context then I welcome their phone calls or emails to explain and I will happily publish them.
For full disclosure, I send my kids to the Catholic school system in Ottawa and that makes me doubly upset. The board officials are setting an example that teaches children to dodge, obfuscate and then lie when you are caught doing something you shouldn’t.
The documents I have show that the Archbishop contacted the school board to ask what was going on and he was told the children were simply observing. So in addition to not telling the truth to concerned parents and the media, the board also failed to tell the Archbishop the truth.
I await further word from the board.