Toronto among Ontario Catholic school boards raising Pride flag for first time

The Toronto Catholic District School Board is among a number of Catholic boards in the province marking Pride Month this year by raising the Pride flag outside schools for the first time ever.

Today officially marks the start of Pride Month and in a statement released today, the TCDSB said the decision to fly the Pride flag affirms the board's commitment to "inclusion, dignity and respect for all."

"Flying the Pride Flag increases our awareness of the dignity of each human person and our care for all who may be marginalized," the statement read.

"Much like our Catholic principles of respect, inclusion, fairness, equity, and social justice, each colour of the Pride flag carries a significant meaning, and we encourage all to take the time this Pride Month to learn more about how these values align."

The move by the school board follows a recommendation from a panel made up of parents, staff and trustees to fly the Pride flag outside all schools.

Speaking with CP24 Tuesday afternoon, TDSB Trustee Norm Di Pasquale said it is “a historical day.”

“This is a monumental decision,” Di Pasquale said. “And I'm hearing from students that attended our board 25 or 50 years ago even who are just so happy to see themselves seen and recognized, and that's just alumni. I mean current students and staff have been reaching out and they're just thrilled to be seen, supported and then you know allies are also extremely pleased with this decision.”

He said the move demonstrates a commitment to “supporting and protecting our most marginalized and vulnerable students” and added that it is precedent-setting.

“I have to say I'm thrilled to hear other boards debating this based on what Toronto Catholic did in deciding to fly the Pride flag at all of our schools,” Di Pasquale said. “It's just an honour to see this sort of spreading across all the Catholic school boards in Ontario.

He pointed out that the Toronto Catholic District School Board is the largest Catholic school board in the world.

“Our decision really sends sort of waves and ripples across all of the Catholic school boards across the world even,” Di Pasquale said.

The TCDSB joins a handful of other Catholic boards in Ontario who are taking the historic step to fly the Pride flag this month, including the Niagara Catholic District School Board.

Trustees voted to raise the flag from June 1 to June 6.

“Niagara Catholic has many students, staff and their families who identify as 2SLGBTQ+,” Board Chair Larry Huibers said in a written statement released last week.

“It is not enough to simply tell students and staff who identify as gay, transgender and non-binary that they are loved and supported. Flying the Pride flag is the most universally accepted, visible show of support for all who identify as 2SLGBTQ+, and I am extremely proud of the Board of Trustees for supporting the motion to fly the Pride flag during Pride Week in June."

At the Ottawa Catholic School Board this year, the Pride flag has been raised at the board office for the first time in the school board's history.

In a tweet, school board trustee Spencer Warren said trustees voted in favour of flying the Pride flag at each OCSB school by 2022.

Not every Catholic board in the GTA decided to join in Pride flag raising this year.

The Halton Catholic District School Board chose not to vote on a motion to fly the Pride Flag at all HCDSB schools this June, though the group did eventually introduce a Rainbow Day (June 1) and Pride Awareness Day (June 14).

In a statement released Tuesday, the group Halton Parent Allies, which is fighting to raise the Pride flag at all Halton schools, said parents across the region took photos of their kids wearing rainbow gear outside of their schools today in place of the flag raisings they had hoped to have.

The group said they also plan to gather outside the HCDSB office in Burlington this evening “to show our support and let our HCDSB 2SLGBTQ+ students, staff and families know that we see them and they are welcome.”