Multiple Ontario Catholic schools celebrating first Pride Month, some boards not raising Pride flag
Posted June 7, 2022 10:56 am.
Last Updated June 7, 2022 11:15 am.
Students and staff at multiple Catholic school boards across the province raised the Pride flag for the first time ever this June, including Catholic boards in Halton, Hamilton, Peterborough and Thunder Bay.
The move to fly the flag comes after several other Catholic boards voted in favour of raising the Pride flag for the first time last year, while some boards opted out.
Anti-2SLGBTQ+ protesters showed up at eight Catholic boards that were celebrating Pride in 2021.
Vehicles circled outside the headquarters of the Toronto Catholic District School Board in protest of the Pride flags on display last year.
At Halton’s Catholic board, protestors spoke out against what they called, “approved LGBT indoctrination,” though the board voted against flying the Pride flag in 2021.
The vote against flying Pride flags outside of Catholic schools in Halton Region last year, prompted counter-protests and outrage in the community, calling on the board to instead support 2SLGBTQ+ students and fly the flag.
Earlier this year, the Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB) reversed the decision and voted in favour of flying the flag outside of all HCDSB schools for the month of June.
Student trustee for the HCDSB, Gabriela Masri Ahmar, was among the board’s three student trustees who were in favour of the flag being raised outside of Catholic schools during Pride Month.
Masri Ahmar says choosing to raise the flag makes a big impact when supporting 2SLGBTQ+ students.
“Having that flag outside of the school makes students walking to school every single day say, ‘I’m fully supported at this school. I feel safe and welcome at this school for who I am and not for who they want me to be,'” she said.
Masri Ahmar says witnessing the first Pride flag raising at her high school is something she’ll always remember.
“As a student trustee you’re fighting for so much and sometimes it doesn’t feel like a lot, but there was no way we could have done it alone,” she said.
“It was a really monumental moment and I think it’s a core memory for me.”
CityNews reviewed Ontario’s 37 Catholic school boards for June 2022. At least 31 boards had publicly stated or confirmed they were celebrating Pride, with the rest neither showing public acknowledgement or responding in time for publication.
At least five boards say while they are acknowledging Pride within their schools, they will not be flying the Pride flag, citing their district’s flag policy which disallows any flag other than the national, provincial or municipal flag to fly outside their schools.
Some of those boards say staff and students were still welcome to hang Pride flags inside classrooms or in hallways.
St. Clair Catholic District School Board tells CityNews marginalized populations at their schools can request flags be flown, “to align with important periods of recognition, including the 2SLGBTQ+ community.” But they say they have not yet received requests for recognition from any school communities.
Rebecca Hooton of The 519 — a Toronto organization dedicated to 2SLGBTQ+ advocacy — says if some school boards are not able to raise the Pride flag, she hopes those boards are acknowledging Pride in other ways.
“If they’re not able to push for the flag to be raised, my hope is that they will instead put the energy that might have gone into that fight into longer lasting and more profound change,” Hooton said.
She says it’s important for the work of 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion at institutions to not only be happening during the month of June.
“My hope for these school boards now that they’ve had this moment of acknowledgement and shift towards more inclusion is they’ll also look towards September and think about the ways in which they can maintain these spaces for their queer and trans students who are there, have always been there and have graduated from these institutions.”
Ontario Catholic school boards celebrating Pride Month 2022
CityNews reviewed Ontario’s 37 Catholic school boards. As of June 2022, 31 boards had publicly stated or confirmed they were celebrating Pride.
- Algonquin & Lakeshore Catholic District School Board
- Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board
- Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario
- Conseil scolaire de district catholique des Aurores boréales
- Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est
- Conseil scolaire catholique Franco-Nord
- Conseil scolaire catholique de district des Grandes Rivières
- Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board
- Durham Catholic District School Board
- Halton Catholic District School Board (First time raising Pride flag)
- Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board (First time raising Pride flag)
- Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board (Not raising Pride flag)
- Kenora Catholic District School Board
- London District Catholic School Board (Not raising Pride flag)
- MonAvenir Catholic School Board
- Niagara Catholic District School Board
- Nipissing-Parry Sound Catholic District School Board
- Northwest Catholic District School Board
- Ottawa Catholic School Board
- Peterborough, Victoria, Northumberland and Clarington Catholic School Board (First time raising Pride flag)
- Renfrew County Catholic District School Board (Not raising Pride flag)
- Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board
- St Clair Catholic District School Board (Not raising Pride flag)
- Sudbury Catholic District School Board
- Superior North Catholic School Board (First time raising Pride flag)
- Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board
- Toronto Catholic District School Board
- Waterloo Catholic District School Board
- Wellington Catholic District School Board
- Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board (Not raising Pride flag)
- York Catholic District School Board
With files from Lucas Spadafora