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Motion calling on EMSB commissioner to resign over controversial tweet defeated

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The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) commissioner who tweeted remarks that were offensive, particularly to French-speaking Quebecers, will not be asked to step down.

A motion calling for the resignation of Commissioner Sophie De Vito failed in a 9-2 vote during a special meeting Wednesday evening.

The furor began at the beginning of August, as the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) was being launched amid technical issues that caused problems for commuters. De Vito took to the social network to post a reaction.

"How's the REM working out? Leave it to the french to get this working Anglos and immigrants would have had this thing running smoothly. Everything has to be done in french," De Vito wrote in a tweet, which was later deleted.

Much backlash followed. The pushback came from many who saw the post, including two Quebec ministers. Jean-Francois Roberge and Simon Jolin-Barrette called the remarks "unacceptable" and even "racist" in their own posts.

They both called on De Vito to retract her comment and apologize, which she quickly did.

She issued a statement that read, "I sincerely apologize for the inappropriate tweet I posted earlier. I recognize that my words were offensive and did not reflect the values that I strive to uphold. Looking ahead I am committed to building bridges between all Quebecers."

SPECIAL EMSB MEETING CALLED

That apology was enough to satisfy concerns from EMSB Chair Joe Ortona that de Vito had recognized her error and was remorseful.

"I spoke with Sophie De Vito on the day of her tweet and she had already deleted it, regretted what she had written, she was apologetic. She feels bad about what she did, and she was sincere in her apology, and I accept her apology," Ortona told CTV News in an interview.

As far as he was concerned, he said, that was the end of it until two commissioners called a meeting to present the motion, which, under the terms of the Education Act, Ortona said, they are obliged to hear.

"I don't know why two weeks later, two commissioners felt the need to bring this forward and bring this up again in the public sphere after this was already dealt with and settled," Ortona said, calling the move "disappointing."

At the meeting, Joseph Lalla, one of the two commissioners in question, along with Agostino Cannavino, explained why they decided to raise the issue and asked de Vito to step down.

"A simple apology from Commissioner de Vito, while it is welcome, will not erase the damage that has been done to the reputation of the English Montreal School Board. These remarks are totally unjustified. As leaders of the school board, we must be models of behaviour for our parents, our students and the general public," Lalla said.

Ortona said that even if the motion had passed, the school council does not have the authority to force anyone to resign. 

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