Catholic School Board Reverses Decision, Votes to Fly Rainbow Flags During Pride

Catholic schools in one Ontario school district will finally raise rainbow flags this Pride month after a long and contentious debate among the members of the Catholic school district’s board.  

CHCH News reported: “During a marathon school board meeting that lasted well into the night…, the motion passed 5 to 3 in favour of flying the flag outside of all HCDSB [Halton Catholic District School Board] schools and the Catholic Education Centre for the month of June.”

The decision is a reversal of last year’s decision not to fly the flag, which resulted in many community members protesting the board’s action. The issue of whether or not to fly the Pride flag outside Halton’s Catholic schools has been under debate since April 2021, when a twelfth-grade student proposed the idea. 

Bondings 2.0 previously reported that Nic Hotchkiss, who identifies as non-binary and was a student at St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Secondary School, began the campaign for Pride flags as part of a class assignment. Hotchkiss said that they “didn’t feel seen as a queer student” and thought that the flags could signal inclusion of the LGBTQ community.

When Hotchkiss began to call for the Pride flags, many members of the community supported the effort, drawing on the Catholic value of social justice to advocate for fellow queer students.

The latest decision did not come without controversy. As CHCH News reported, “The topic has been a contentious issue within the Catholic community. Some members have raised concerns that flying the flag would go against traditional Catholic values while others say it supports the religion’s key values of love and acceptance.”

Queer graduates of the Halton Catholic school district, including Hotchkiss, also weighed in at the meeting to speak about their experiences as students. Many shared that seeing a symbol of LGBTQ Pride as high schoolers could have helped them see that they did not have to be ashamed of who they were. 

“I know for a fact that if I had seen that flag flying while I was still at school, it would’ve given me a lot more confidence to be more authentic to who I was and possibly not be so ashamed or afraid of questioning who I was,” Hotchkiss said.

A group of 3,000 Halton Catholic teachers also spoke in favor of flying the Pride flag. “We stand with them as allies in support of human rights and our Catholic values of inclusivity,” a representative of the teachers told the board.

CHCH News reported that after the motion passed, the school district’s Director of Education, Pat Daly, tweeted, “We are committed to nurturing safe and inclusive learning environments, where every student and every member of the community is welcomed, valued, and respected.”

This Catholic school board’s change of heart and its new commitment to visibly celebrate Pride month is encouraging. This step towards creating a more welcoming environment in Catholic schools will help young LGBTQ people feel more assured of their belonging in the church, as well as God’s love for them exactly as they are.

Grace Doerfler (she/her), New Ways Ministry, February 9, 2022

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