The Pride flag is set to fly over a number of Ontario Catholic school board properties in June and that has raised the ire of numerous parents. Michael Swan

Catholic school boards mull flying the Pride flag

  • May 18, 2023

Will they or won’t they?

The York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) is among Ontario Catholic school boards that will decide if the rainbow Pride flag will be hung at its central office and at its schools throughout the month of June in support of the LGBT community.

It would run counter to current policy, which, the board explained in a statement to The Catholic Register, states, “The York Catholic District School Board has a longstanding flag policy which states that only Canadian flags are to be flown at YCDSB properties.”

But that could change as “members of the YCDSB community have been involved in an ongoing conversation with staff and the board of trustees about how to best signal its support for 2SLGBTQIA+ students, staff and their family members within the context of a Catholic school board.” 

“The board of trustees is deeply committed to maintaining the Catholicity of the YCDSB and to ensuring the well-being of students and staff. Trustees have listened carefully to wide-ranging perspectives from community members and are reflecting on what they have heard.”

Opposition to raising the rainbow flag associated with Pride activities has drawn a fierce response. Community members opposed to displaying the flag have expressed their convictions at three board meetings starting on Feb. 28. During that gathering, parents decried the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association’s intent to distribute “safe space” stickers adorned with Pride flag colours in classrooms. The parents argued this action promotes gender ideology that clashes with Catholic teaching. York Regional Police was called to the scene to quell the reportedly raucous atmosphere.

Police were summoned again during the April 25 meeting where a student-led petition with more than 1,000 signatures in support of flying the flag was presented. An April 26 press statement from the board said after the first delegation presented its take on the flag debate, “a number of members of the public gallery became disruptive.” Those advocating against the flag were asked to leave but kept demonstrating in the atrium before peacefully disassembling after the arrival of law enforcement.

A former YCDSB student, Myles Vosylius, spoke against the flag at the meeting, stating: “A Pride flag, sticker or any political and sexual ideological symbol cannot heal and bring hope into the lives of the YCDSB students. It will only arouse greater confusion, pain and darkness.”

He added that these symbols “do not accurately represent the love God has for these individuals that identify within the LGBTQ communities.”

Conversely, teacher Paolo De Buono, whose children formerly attended YCDSB institutions, said “the flag would send an important symbol that students ... are welcome and are fully accepted. They need to feel that they are safe.”

The York board is expected to have a decision by its next meeting May 29.

Meanwhile, though no official announcement has yet been made, it’s likely the Pride flag will have a presence in the Halton Catholic District School Board.

Byron Perry, the St. Michael’s Church representative on the Holy Trinity Secondary School council in Oakville, said he agrees fully that “as Catholics we love our LGBT community. We see them as children of God, and we would be the first ones to stand with them against bullying.”

However, Perry rejects Pride flags in Catholic schools for multiple reasons.

“The first is that it confuses the Catholic students. They see an LGBT Pride flag above a Catholic school, they see it as, ‘oh, Catholicism is okay with the LGBT lifestyle,’ and of course it is not. It gives the impression that we can pick and choose what we believe about the Catholic faith — that the faith is somehow in question or in error,” said Perry.

He added devout youth is the group in need of a safe space.

“There are so few places in the world where our Catholic students can feel safe and open to speak their mind on the Catholic faith,” he said. “It is really becoming uncomfortable to be a Catholic in our society. If we take away one of the safe places our kids have left, we’re not going to be in a good place.”

Perry believes that ultimately the flag will fly in June, following in the footsteps of the Toronto, Ottawa and Niagara boards. If it is, Perry said he will resign from the school council in protest.

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