Halton Catholic Schools Vote Against Raising Pride Flag

Written on 05/03/2021
Staff Columnist

After the Halton (Ontario) Catholic District School Board District voted 'no' to raising the Pride flag at schools in June, all of the schools within its board tweeted photos and words of solidarity with the LGBT+ community – CBC Toronto reported.

Burlington student trustee on the board, Kirsten Kelly, told CBC 'the fight for the flag is not over yet.'

After she started a petition in April to have the board agree to have the Pride flag raised at schools in June, it gained over 18,000 signatures.

"There's still a huge momentum going. There's still people in the community sending letters to our board trustees," she told CBC.

Kelly added that Monday's board trustees meeting ran for roughly four hours, ending in a 'no' to raising the flag.

"It's just really frustrating and goes to show that a lot of people don't want to move forward, and they are very set back in their ways in trying to defend the fact the 2SLGBTQ+ community shouldn't be supported by the Catholic community. And it's just full of bigotry and hatred, which is not what the Bible says," she continued.

The idea came after a student delegate, Nicole Hotchkiss, a grade 12 student at a Catholic school in Oakville, brought it up at a board meeting on April 6.

"They mentioned it because the representation of students in Halton Catholic is very invisible, and we weren't being acknowledged," Kelly added.

"They brought it up because many students don't feel safe in their own school environments because of the homophobia and the transphobia from staff and students alike ... Having a Pride flag up would be a symbolic show of support from our Catholic community that shows that we care, we listen, and we acknowledge you."

After voting against raising the Pride flag, the trustees passed a motion requiring the board to provide mandatory training for senior staff on supporting LGBT+ students, put up Safe Space posters, and raise awareness for Pride month – to be completed by the 2021-2022 school year.

Kelly told CBC the measures are 'baby steps' and 'points of progress,' but called the lack of support hurtful.

"The time to act and the time to advocate does not end today and did not end yesterday, and we need to continue to do it until everyone in all marginalized communities feel safe to be who they are," she continued.

A mother of three children at Halton Catholic Schools, Alexandra Power, told CBC the community does not support the board's choice. She's also a physician with a focus on student health.

"The trustees who are opposed to raising the Pride flag are using their own personal compasses to guide the decision and aren't listening to their communities," Power said.

"Our children are asking for this. Our families are asking for this. Our educators are asking for this. And yet the trustees still said no."

She added that the mental health of students is being jeopardized by this decision.

"Where we go from here is we keep on fighting until we have a community that is fully inclusive of everyone of every gender orientation, sexual orientation, religious background. We need inclusivity," she continued.

Power vowed that a Pride flag will be up at every Halton Catholic school one day. "No one should have to go to school, to work, to anywhere, and feel that they can't be 100 percent of who they want to be."

(Image Credit: Halton Catholic School Board)