TORONTO - Trustees will gather to vote again on whether to fly the Pride flag at Halton’s Catholic schools this June. The matter will re-surface for discussion (January 18) at the Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB) meeting. The issue of hoisting the Pride flag outside Catholic schools has been a controversial topic throughout Catholic schools in Ontario. The HCDSB is not exempt from such debate.
Last April, HCDSB trustees made several amendments to a motion titled “Supporting our Diverse School Community”. The motion included mandatory training for staff and teachers with focus on “the Catholic Social Teaching on loving and accompanying students who identify as 2SLGBTQ+, denominational rights and rights of students and staff under the Ontario Human Rights Code”.
The original motion also included a requirement that the Pride flag fly at all Catholic school within the Board during the month of June 2021. That item was removed from the final motion which ultimately passed in a vote of 7-2.
The Board Chair would not confirm whether the item was up for discussion. In an email response, he said, “it would be premature and inappropriate…to comment on this matter”. However, it is included in Tuesday’s agenda posted on the Board’s website.
Part of that agenda includes a motion called “Strengthening Community Relationships”. The motion, put forward by Burlington Trustee, Brenda Agnew, calls for updates on 2SLGBTQ+ training initiatives. It also included a request that “the Director of Education direct Halton Catholic District School Board staff to purchase all necessary elements to fly the Pride flag and to fly the flag for the month of June, every June, beginning in 2022 at all [HCDSC] schools and the Catholic Education Centre”.
Evidently it is a divisive issue between those in support of and those against the motion to fly the Pride flag at Catholic schools in Halton. Those in support of flying the flag view it as a symbol of acceptance, diversity and unity. Those who oppose the motion maintain that the Canadian flag is the ultimate symbol of inclusivity, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity. It is a symbol that unites and welcomes everyone equally.
Catholic ratepayers expressed concern as to why the issue is up for discussion again after demonstrating last year that the majority of ratepayers do not support flying the Pride flag at HCDSB schools. In correspondence letters sent into the Board ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, some go so far as to remind trustees of their role, duties and responsibilities.
In one letter, a retired HCDSB teacher and ratepayer reminds trustees that they are responsible to “advocate for and uphold Catholic teaching on faith and morals and to ensure that Catholic education and the religious dimension upon which our schools are founded are maintained as first priorities”.
Constituents expect their elected trustees to protect, preserve and promote Catholic education. Otherwise, there is no distinction between the Catholic Board, and that of the public.
P. Pajdo is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter