The international Pro-Life flag is pictured. Photo from Facebook

Pro-life flag won’t fly at Toronto schools

  • April 24, 2024

The International Pro-Life Flag will not fly over Toronto Catholic schools this May.

Toronto Catholic District School Board trustees voted against a motion last night proposed by trustee Michael Del Grande that, like the Pride flag flown on board properties during June, the pro-life flag fly outside all schools and the Catholic Education Centre during the month of May.

Del Grande’s motion was defeated at the April 23 board meeting when only Garry Tanuan supported Del Grande’s motion. The eight other board members in attendance and the two student trustees opposed his proposal.   

Though Del Grande could not muster enough backing from his colleagues, his plan that would have also directed all TCDSB schools to teach an exclusively pro-life curriculum on May 9, the day of the National March for Life, garnered boisterous audience support.

Defying repeated entreaties from chair Nancy Crawford to remain silent, spectators cheered when listening to Del Grande, Tanuan and two guest delegates’ statements supporting the motion. And when Angela Kennedy signalled her intent to vote against the motion early into her prepared remarks, she was drowned out by protests. One male attendee continually uttered, “We answer to Jesus Christ.”

Crawford concurred that “we do answer to Jesus Christ,” but she told the man he must be quiet or he would be escorted from the building by security. Attendees ignored the warning and the objections continued, forcing Crawford to pause the meeting for 10 minutes to calm the situation. 

Upon resuming the proceedings, Crawford appealed to the audience's "sense of kindness, charity and generosity" not to interrupt the meeting again, saying it would lead to the call for security to remove everyone from the gallery. 

The crowd initially complied with this request, remaining silent as Kennedy redid her speech and trustee Maria Rizzo delivered her dissent to the motion.

However, the tension in the room elevated when trustees voted against the motion. Those disappointed by the outcome admonished the board by repeatedly shouting “shame,” and Crawford ordered security to escort all the visitors from the building as “they are not prepared to remain silent.”  

The speeches in favour or against flying the pro-life flag were overshadowed to an extent by the controversy surrounding the audience's conduct. Nevertheless, both sides conveyed passionate arguments.

Del Grande shared what the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the recent Dignitas Infinita declaration released by the Vatican Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith state about the sanctity of life and abortion said. Dignitas Infinita warned that “today, in many people’s consciences, the perception of its gravity has become progressively obscured. The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behaviour and even in law itself is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense, which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake.”

Del Grande said he “could think of no legitimate reason why this motion shouldn’t pass unanimously. We’re a pro-life board, and I expect you will vote in favour of my motion so that TCDSB does its part to vigorously defend the most marginalized and victimized group in this country, namely children in the womb who are killed at a rate of 100,000 annually.”

Tanuan suggested pro-life Canadians would revere the International Pro-Life Flag as a symbol denoting “safety, truth and hope” and would deliver the comparable empowering impact as would an Indigenous child or adult seeing the Every Child Matters flag.

Rizzo, in her response, said the motion shows how “the school board has become a kind of locus of controversy.” She contended that the critical difference between the decision to fly the Pride flag and the pro-life flag motion is the former was “student-driven.”  

Kennedy claimed the motion amounts to “a kind of indoctrination” that is at odds with the Ministry of Education’s expectation “that each student will achieve academically, socially, spiritually and will be the Ontario graduate who will be successful on the global stage.” She also argued that the TCDSB has “well-rounded Catholic graduate expectations, and this motion, if passed, would destroy the meaning behind these expectations and render them meaningless.”

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