Halton District Catholic School Board denies request to fly Pride flag in June
TORONTO -- The Pride flag will not fly outside Catholic schools in Halton Region in June.
Student Nicole Hotchkiss says, "the message that I got is that they're afraid.”
Hotchkiss is a Grade 12 student at St. Ignatius of Loyola in Oakville. Earlier this month they put forward a motion to fly the flag at all schools for Pride Month in June and to put safe space posters in every class.
Last night, the Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB) debated and amended the motion -- removing the request to fly the flag and putting one poster in each school.
"The entire point of my motion and my original delegation was that people would know that Catholic schools support LGBTQ2+ students and they denied us once again today," says Hotchkiss.
Hannah Minty is an alumnus of St. Ignatius of Loyola who had been pushing for this motion. She said she was shocked by last night’s decision.
"With this many people watching this motion and how this is going down it really is embarrassing to say that I come from the Halton Catholic District School Board,” she told CTV News Toronto.
The decision comes after the Halton chapter of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) sent a letter on behalf of their 3,000 members, “In support of the motion to fly the Pride flag in June.”
They add, “the flag does not just represent the students, it also represents the staff and all members of the HCDSB community. It unites us against hate.”
Also, the Halton District School Board -- which will fly the Pride flag in June -- said in a statement, “displaying and/or flying the rainbow flag symbolizes that our schools are safe, respectful and welcoming environments.”
Meanwhile, the chair of the HCDSB says many spoke out against flying the flag.
Patrick Murphy says, "the reality is, we received probably a thousand emails. There is polarization on this subject."
Murphy would not say if he is in favour of flying the flag, only that more education is needed.
"The (flag) means something specific on one hand. It means something very different in the other. So we have to make sure that we go through the right steps to make sure we develop a shared understanding of what that flag means within our community."
This issue hasn't just caught local attention. A petition started in favour of flying the Pride flag now has over 17,000 signatures and some big name support.
The petition was signed by Deborah Devine, mother of Dan Levy, asking the school board to fly the flag and it was sent out by Levy himself through his Instagram.
Nicole Hotchkiss says that it is not fair to see this as a debate between two equal sides.
"Basically have your rights debated in front of you," she said.
“You're told that it's through a Catholic lens so you have to sort of view both sides, but one side is telling you that you're not welcome, you're not accepted, you shouldn't have the right to marry who you want, that your identity doesn't exist.