CAMROSE — A newly elected school trustee in rural Alberta is apologizing for sending tweets that were racist, homophobic and sexist.
James Andre said Wednesday that he never should have sent the remarks and they don’t represent his views. He has since shut down his Twitter account, which used the handle “hotone1963.”
“I’m deeply sorry for what happened,” said the 50-year-old husband and grandfather.
“I don’t want people to get an impression of me, because that’s really not me.”
Andre said most of the comments were jokes he retweeted to his friends and he sent them out before he won his seat on the Battle River School Board on Oct. 21. Based in Camrose, the board is responsible for an area southeast of Edmonton
He retweeted several jokes from The Funny Racist.
Some of the jokes denigrated black people, made reference to Auschwitz and gay sex. One called singer Miley Cyrus a prostitute.
“I found them funny so I just retweeted them,” said Andre. “They’re offensive. There’s no doubt about it and it’s something that I should have thought of before I retweeted them.”
He admits not all of the comments were retweets. Some tweets were his own.
“Watching black people on maury povich … not hard to tell the porch monkey gene still run wild,” he tweeted.
Alberta’s Education Minister Jeff Johnson called the tweets “completely unacceptable.”
He said someone from his department would soon be meeting with the board’s members to discuss proper conduct.
He wouldn’t say whether he thinks Andre should be forced from the job. Johnson said he was leaving that up to the board to decide.
Board chair Kendall Severson said the group is getting legal advice on whether Andre can be removed from his position.
Six of the eight board members are new, including Andre, who is a former maintenance worker with the school division in Killam,.
Severson said the board hasn’t even had its first official meeting yet. More on the tweets may be discussed at a meeting on Nov. 14.
Earlier this year, three Toronto firefighters lost their jobs over comments they made on social media, including sexist posts on Twitter. Kris Wells with the University of Alberta’s Institute for Sexual Minority Studies sent the province a letter last week saying Andre is not fit for public office, especially in a position responsible for the education of children.
“His pattern of tweets clearly indicate that this is not a simple mistake in judgment or one-time occurrence,” Wells said. Andre said he hopes to meet with Wells and convince him that he is a good guy.
Andre said he decided to run for trustee because others encouraged him to do so and he wanted to give back to the community.
He signed up with Twitter less than a year ago, and said he has learned a valuable lesson.
“The thing that people should realize is that when you tweet something on Twitter, it’s there for the entire world to see.
“And think twice before you tweet anything. You never know who may be reading it and who may find it offensive.”