Ontario Catholic School Board Votes Against Flying Pride Flag at Schools

Ontario Catholic School Board Votes Against Flying Pride Flag at Schools
The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board headquarters in Mississauga, Ont., in a file photo. (JHVEPhoto/Shutterstock)
Chandra Philip
Updated:
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The Toronto-area Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board has voted against flying the pride flag at its schools.

The board voted 6-3 on June 11 against a motion that would have allowed non-government flags to be flown at schools.

Opposing the motion were trustees Paula Dametto-Giovannozzi, Herman Viloria, Luz del Rosario (Chair), Darryl D’Souza, Anisha Thomas, and Thomas Thomas.

Supporting the flying of non-government flags were Brea Corbet, Bruno Iannicca, and Mario Pascucci. Trustees Shawn Xaviour and Stefano Pascucci were absent.

Five delegates made a presentation at the meeting, including representatives of Campaign Life Coalition and Parents as First Educators, calling for the board to vote against flying the pride flag. Afterward, they welcomed the board’s decision.

“The significance of this victory cannot be understated,” said Josie Luetke, Campaign Life Coalition’s director of education and advocacy. “This victory is an incredible testament to the power of both prayer and grassroots lobbying.”

Delegates referred to a 2021 statement from Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins, which said the appropriate symbol of inclusion for Catholics is the cross.

“The cross outside of Catholic schools and any Catholic church, hospital or institution, signals our commitment that all who enter the building are welcomed and loved in their beauty and uniqueness as children of God,” the cardinal said.

“There is a belief among some that unless one embraces secular symbols, one cannot be inclusive or accepting. This is simply not true.”

The 2021 statement said that Catholic educators should stay true to Catholic teaching, even though “there are times when the presentation of Catholic teaching will clash with the views held by many in society, whether these relate to human sexuality, the sanctity of life, issues of social justice or other deeply held beliefs. Those who are faithful to these teachings are often ridiculed, mocked and excluded.”

Another delegate, Gregory Tomchyshyn from CitizenGo, presented a petition with over 15,000 signatures against flying the flag.

Debate

Trustee Brea Corbet, who supported the flying of non-government flags, said that an aggressive smear campaign had been run over the issue.

“Since our vote on June 4 at our bylaw and policies review committee meeting, it has resulted in targeted advocacy, aggressive campaigns, smear campaigns, intended to use intimidation, and threats to influence the decision tonight,” she said.

Ms. Corbet said she had personally received phone calls, emails, and messages on social media from people “who claim to be Catholic” that contained hate speech and discriminatory language.

“It was defamation of character, and reputational harm to the integrity of this board and it has to stop “

Jack Fonseca, Campaign Life Coalition’s director of political operations, said the battle continues, as pride flags are still permitted to be displayed inside the schools.

“Parents and faithful trustees must work even harder to remove ‘Pride’ symbols from inside the classroom,” he said.

The Dufferin-Peel board is not the first Catholic school board in Ontario to ban the flag. In 2023, the York Catholic District School Board voted not to raise the flag for Pride Month.

The decision prompted then-Education Minster Stephen Lecce to issue a memo saying that it was “incumbent on all school boards” to make LGBT students feel supported.

“That includes celebrating Pride in a constructive, positive and meaningful ways [sic] to affirm that 2SLGBTQ+ students know that their educators and staff, school board administrators, and government stand with them,” he said at the time.

Similar to last year, during the Prime Month in June, some parents this year have opted to keep their children home or hold “pray-ins” at school board headquarters.