'It finally means inclusion': Waterloo's Catholic school board raises Pride flag for first time

The Waterloo Catholic District School Board raised a Pride flag for the first time on Tuesday morning.

There was a flag-raising ceremony at the school board's education centre to kick off Pride Month. Flags will also fly at all schools across the region.

Director of Education Loretta Notten said it was a historic moment for the board, adding she hopes the flag will be a sign of inclusion and respect for everyone.

"It's been a journey to get to this day, but I know for many of our staff, students and even parents and grandparents in our community that this is a very impactful day that means a great deal to them," she said.

And just like the @WCDSBNewswire raises the Pride flag for the first time ever ��️‍��@WCDSB_nottenl says this is a historic moment for the board and hopes it will be a sign of inclusion and respect for all. #PrideMonth2021 #pride

We’ll have more on @CTVKitchener at noon pic.twitter.com/8m4L5DO4Y5

— Tegan Versolatto (@TeganVersolatto) June 1, 2021

Watching the flags raise for the first time hit close to come for some former students.

"It finally means inclusion, it means bringing everybody together. No one is treated any differently than the other," said former student Joe Gowing. "It shows that everybody should be included. There should be no reason that someone has to hide who they are."

"Being part of the LGBTQ+ community, I feel so welcome. I feel like everything is coming together and I've been waiting for this moment for a very long time," said Elizabeth Quinto, another former student. "As a Catholic myself, we believe in love, inclusion and acceptance and this is in line with Jesus's teaching."

The WCDSB announced the decision to fly Pride flags at a trustee meeting in April.

Along the journey to Tuesday's flag raising, the board had attempted to design their own version of a flag last year, which was met with backlash.

"I think we learned from the community involved that it was extremely important for them to see the actual rainbow flag flying at our schools," Notten said.

But the decision to fly Pride flags was met with some opposition. Trustee Kevin Dupuis resigned Monday, saying the choice to fly the Pride flag contributed to his decision.

Trustee Greg Reitzel also resigned Monday, although the reason for his decision wasn't disclosed. Reitzel had been opposed to flying the Pride flag in the past.

Meanwhile, the Waterloo Region District School Board said it will delay raising the Pride flag for 215 hours to honour the 215 Indigenous children found buried at a residential school in Kamloops, B.C. In a tweet, officials said they will raise flags on June 10.

June is #PrideMonth. It's a time to celebrate diversity, while reflecting on the ongoing work of acceptance. We are committed to creating inclusive learning spaces where 2SLGBTQIA+ students and staff rights are protected and identities valued. #WRDSBpride https://t.co/hrphQmGVXP

— Waterloo Region DSB (@wrdsb) June 1, 2021

The WCDSB flags are currently flying at half-mast in honour of the children.