Toronto Catholic schools will raise Pride flag next month for first time
TORONTO -- Change is coming to the Toronto Catholic District School Board: the Pride flag will fly at all schools this June.
Student Trustee Keith Baybayon says, "having it fly, I felt more free. To say that I'm more free to be myself. More free to express myself and who I am as a person."
The grade 11 student at Marshall McLuhan Catholic Secondary School identifies as a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community. He says this moment is a symbol of progress.
"It means that it's a solidarity between the board and the students and staff," he says.
The vote came after the LGBTQ2S+ advisory committee made three recommendations; that the TCDSB recognize Pride Month in June, that the Pride flag fly at all schools as well as at the board office.
Last night, all three motions passed.
Trustee Maria Rizzo says reaction to the decision was swift.
"I got messages at one o'clock, two o'clock, three o'clock in the morning," she says. "You would not believe the people who all of a sudden are feeling safer,” she added.
Board Chair Joseph Martino says, "it's a start, its something that has been continuous as you well know and we finally made some headway."
While these motions have passed, the Archdiocese of Toronto says that symbols like the Pride flag flying outside a Catholic school remain polarizing.
Before the board voted, the Archdiocese sent reflections to all trustees acknowledging there is passion on both sides of this issue, it says in part.
"It is painful that the public discussion around how to best promote inclusivity has, in itself, often caused division in the community."
"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."
The reflections note that there are many groups working to advocate for many diverse causes.
"For this reason, many school boards wisely fly only the Canadian flag out of a sense of equity for all."
Keith Baybayon says he does not agree with that logic, "because it's a community that's been under represented and it's a community with voices that we're never head of at the board level," he says.
Baybayon says this is just a beginning of an effort to help foster a more inclusive environment at the school level.