Alex Chumak

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Alexander Chumak is a former politician in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He served on the Toronto Public School Board from 1974 to 1994, and later ran for a position on city council. He is a probation officer and social worker in private life.[1]

School trustee[edit | hide all | hide | edit source]

Chumak was first elected to the Toronto Public School Board in the 1974 municipal election, and served until he left the board to run for city council twenty years later.

Policy views[edit | hide | edit source]

Truancy

Chumak chaired a board committee on absenteeism in the 1970s, and suggested bringing back a truant officer for the city. He argued that student absence rates were as high as 30%, although others questioned this figure.[2] Chumak presented a similar argument in 1985, after a provincial law on truancy was overturned.[3]

Religion and homosexuality

Chumak was a prominent social conservative on the school board. He advocated reinstating the Lord's Prayer to Toronto schools in 1979, and also called for the return of religious instruction and a return to corporal punishment in the same year.[4]

Chumak was a vocal opponent of a 1980 board resolution which created a subcommittee to investigate forming links with Toronto's homosexual committee. Chumak argued that homosexuality was contrary to Judeo-Christian values, and was quoted as saying "The gay and lesbian association is attempting to promote a lifestyle which is unacceptable to the majority of people. Homosexuals should not be brought into schools."[5] He argued that board's decision to create the liaison committee "breaches and violates what education stands for", adding "What is happening in our schools is alcohol today, gays and lesbians next year and perhaps brothels" in the future.[6] He also proposed to lead a one-day school boycott, if the board carried out its plans.[7] Chumak's comments were widely criticized. The board did not overturn its resolution, although the committee was later disbanded.

In 1986, Chumak voted against a motion to prohibit discrimination against homosexuals in Toronto schools.[8] He criticized the boards's decision to provide students with information about sexual orientation, arguing that some parents would take their students out of the public system in protest. Chumak said, "People are going to hear that the board is entertaining the teaching of homosexuality".[9] In 1992, he moved a motion for the school board to defer discussions of sexual orientation in the high school curriculum for another two years.[10]

Bilingualism and multiculturalism

Chumak was a strong supporter of bilingualism and multiculturalism programs. He supported increased programs for immigrants, and recommended in 1979 that the school board carry out its promise to provide a school for Toronto's French-language community.[11] The following year, he endorsed the creation of distinct schools for Ukrainian and Armenian minority groups. Some critics argued that the latter measure would fragment the school system, although Chumak argued that any parents could choose to send their children to the new schools.[12]

Chumak chaired the Toronto School Board's Race Relations and Multicultural Relations Committee during the early 1980s, and was among the most prominent supporters of a plan to integrate languages other than English and French into the education system.[13] In 1988, he suggested that Toronto consider financial incentives for French-language teachers to move to the city.[14]

Chumak played a significant role in having Ukrainian-language instruction included in the Toronto school curriculum (for credit), and prepared a teaching unit on the Holodomor. In 1994, he helped establish a liaison between Toronto and the Ukrainian ministry of education. Chumak was himself active with the Ukrainian National Congress, and was involved in immigration issues.[15]

1991 Crime Committee

In 1991, Chumak was appointed by Toronto City Council to head a committee examining the city's crime rates. He indicated that special emphasis would be placed on violence in schools.[16] The committee held several public meetings throughout the city, and submitted a report late in the year.[17] The report made forty-three recommendations, including increased penalties for drug dealers, a city-wide committee on school safety, and the creation of a crime hotline. In releasing the report, Chumak noted that Toronto was still safer than major American cities such as New York and Los Angeles.[18]

Campaigns for City Council[edit | hide | edit source]

Chumak retired from the school board in 1994 to seek election to Toronto City Council. He campaigned on a "law and order" platform, seeking to rid his ward of drugs and prostitution. He also promised to target pollution.[19] During the campaign, a Toronto Sun columnist suggested that he tried to bribe rival candidate Myron Tymochko to leave the contest. Chumak denied that he made any such offer, and said that his former campaign manager Walter Melnyk offered Tymochko a position on the Toronto Board of Health in return for dropping out.[20] Chumak dropped Melnyk (who denied any wrongdoing) from his campaign, and suggested that Tymochko was conducting a smear campaign against him.[21] On election day, Chumak was defeated by David Hutcheon.[22]

He later campaigned for a seat on the amalgamated Toronto City Council in 1997, but was again defeated. Chumak continued to work as a probation officer after leaving politics.[23]

Footnotes[edit | hide | edit source]

  1. Steve Donev, "`Third force' speaks up on the unity issue", Toronto Star, 23 April 1978, A15; "The candidates", Toronto Star, 11 November 1988, A12; Timothy Appleby, "Girl's disappearance the stuff of parents' nightmares", Globe and Mail, 4 March 1989, A1.
  2. "Metro schools may need truant officer: trustee", Toronto Star, 16 June 1977, A18; K. Lynn Lamber, "`Whoever said school should be fun?'" [letter], Toronto Star, 5 July 1977.
  3. Victor Maralek, "End of law on truancy alters little", Globe and Mail, 17 January 195, M6.
  4. Rosemary Speirs, "Reinstate Lord's Prayer in schools, province tells Toronto board", Globe and Mail, 14 September 1979, P1; Barbara Baker, "Discipline lack top problem facing schools?", Globe and Mail, 10 December 1979, P5.
  5. "Trustees maintain position on gays" Globe and Mail, 29 August 1980, P4.
  6. "Board turns down fact-finding panel on homosexual teachers, students", Globe and Mail, 1 August 1980, P1. The article title refers to a separate committee effort.
  7. Howard Fluxgold, "School board's plan for gay-liaison group sparks boycott threat", Globe and Mail, 14 August 1980, P3. The article quotes Chumak as saying, "if we approve this today, then we can set up a liaison committee between the board and the prostitutes. It's just as valid; and then alcoholics next, and gamblers. For God's sake, there's no end to this."
  8. Susan Delacourt, "Board moves to policy on sexual orientation, but key proposal lost", Globe and Mail, 24 April 1986, A15.
  9. John Ferri, "Rights classes will protect homosexuals, trustees say", Toronto Star, 24 April 1986, A6.
  10. Susan Walker, "Parents denounce sexuality document", 22 September 1992, A4.
  11. Alex Chumak, "French school" [letter], Globe and Mail, 18 December 1979, P7.
  12. Howard Fluxgold, "Give ethnic minorities schools, Toronto is urged", Globe and Mail, 8 May 1980, P1. For criticism, see Margaret MacMillan, "Ethnic schools", Globe and Mail, 13 May 1980, P6.
  13. "Trustees plan department for immigrants", Toronto Star, 20 June 1975, B1; Zena Cherry, "New citizenship director honored at dinner", Globe and Mail, 3 October 1980, P16; Robert Matas, "Racist callers plague trustees over proposal", Globe and Mail, 23 April 1982, P4.
  14. Paul Moloney, "Kids wasting year without French, parents charge", Toronto Star, 12 December 1988, A6. See also "Bilingualism foe called obnoxious", Globe and Mail, 24 April 1978, P5.
  15. Andrij Kudla Wynnyckyj, "Four Ukrainians vie for city council seats in Toronto "Megacity" race", Ukrainian Weekly, 26 October 1997.
  16. Jack Lakey, "Committee to study cause of crime rate", Toronto Star, 29 May 1991, A2.
  17. "Crime inquiry tallies public worries for report this month", Globe and Mail, 5 October 1991, A8.
  18. Barbara Aarsteinsen, "Toronto still safe, inquiry insists", Toronto Star, 1 November 1991, A1.
  19. Nicolaas van Rijn and Colleen Pollreis, "Toronto: Councillors", Toronto Star, 10 November 1994, E1.
  20. "Trustee denies bribing opponent", Toronto Star, 12 November 1994, A4.
  21. "With reference to Christie Blatchford's article ..." [Al Chumak campaign press release], Canada NewsWire, 11 November 1994, 13:08 report.
  22. Paul Hunter, "Politics of fear in west end as voters fret over crime", Toronto Star, 24 October 1994, A7. A newspaper report from the campaign lists him as fifty-one years old.
  23. Harold Levy, "Switch too late for jailed teen", Toronto Star, 21 January 2004, B5.