Trustees nix proposal to let Catholic schools fly Pride flag

Trustees for the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board voted against a motion that would have allowed alternative flags, including the Pride flag, to be raised outside schools and other board buildings. (Eduardo Lima/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Trustees for the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board have voted against a motion that would have allowed schools to fly alternative flags, including Pride flags, outside schools and other board buildings.

At a special board meeting Tuesday night, trustee Brea Corbet proposed a motion to allow schools to fly other flags in "support of particular observances," saying the board has a responsibility of making sure schools are welcoming, safe and inclusive spaces.

This is particularly important for the 2SLGBTQ+ community, she said, because it's experiencing "increasing levels" of bullying, harassment and mental health concerns.

"We must reflect on whether we, as a Catholic school board, are doing enough to combat discrimination, homophobia, intolerance, and hate," she said.

"All are welcome in our Catholic schools. That does not mean only some."

The policy change, which was recommended to the board by its bylaw and policies review committee last week, failed to get a majority vote Tuesday night.

Representatives of advocacy groups Parents as First Educators, Campaign Life Coalition and CitizenGO signed up to delegate and convince trustees not to allow the change and celebrated the outcome of the vote.

Josie Luetke, the director of education and advocacy for Campaign Life Coalition, said she was "ecstatic," saying the result was a "long shot" based off the committee's decision.

"We were there, you know, hoping that we would change minds," said Luetke.

She said the matter was not about "hatred against any group." In a video posted to X, formerly Twitter, the coalition showed a crowd of people outside of the board's meeting, cheering after the motion failed.

"We saw the flying of the Pride flag as not being consistent with the teachings of the Catholic faith," Luetke said.

Trustees voted to amend their flag policy to clarify that only the Canadian flag, the Ontario flag and flags associated with the current liturgical season of the Catholic Church are to be flown outside the board's schools and facilities.

However, the board confirmed to CBC Toronto that other flags, such as the Pride flag, are allowed to be displayed inside schools and facilities during "the particular observance period."

Luetke said the coalition will likely work toward getting Pride symbols inside schools and board properties taken down in the future.

Student, 2SLGBTQ+ advocate disappointed

The vote follows similar bans on the Pride flag in other Canadian Catholic school boards, such as York Region's last year.

Tristan Coolman, the president of PFlag York Region, said it was "incredibly disappointing," calling it the latest example of a Catholic school board acting "in a way that is unsupportive to their students and their staff."

"We experienced something very similar," he said.

Over the past year, he said the 2SLGBTQ+ community has seen a movement from the "far right" to organize against motions that celebrate equity and inclusiveness, particularly toward the queer community.

That's something the community can "learn from," he said.

"Decades ago ... our community was so well-organized and went to the streets to protest," he said. "We need to reorganize as a community today, and to have that same type of energy."

Student trustee Nathan Nguyen was in favour of flying the Pride flag. He implored trustees to think of the message they're sending to the board's LGBTQ+ community.

"How can we tell our 2SLGBTQ brothers and sisters that we support them by not flying their symbol? A symbol that signifies that we accept them for who they are," said Nguyen.

"This school is to serve our students, and I can tell you right now, our students don't feel safe at school."