Hamilton Catholic school board urged to reverse decision to not fly Pride flag

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Published May 31, 2021 at 1:01 pm

The Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board (HWCDSB) is being urged to reconsider its decision to not fly the rainbow flag during Pride Month.

The Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion (HCCI), in a letter addressed to HWCDSB trustees, called on the board to reverse their decision in a sign of solidarity with 2SLGBTQIA+ communities.

“The board’s decision not to raise the flag excludes, marginalizes, and dehumanizes parents, children, and residents of Hamilton that belong to 2SLGBTQIA+ communities,” the letter said.

“If the board is truly committed to anti-oppression and anti-racism, you will refrain from continuing policies known to go against the human rights code. Flying the pride flag is an act of solidarity with 2SLGBTQIA+ communities that want their rights and responsibilities upheld in your schools and in Hamilton.”

The decision comes after several Ontario Catholic school boards have voted to fly the Pride flag in a show of solidarity. Boards in Ottawa, Toronto and right next door in the Niagara Region are among those who will raise the flag.

The Halton Catholic school board after intense debate and public outcry voted to not fly the flag.

HWCDSB chair Pat Daly told CBC in an interview Sunday (May 30) that the board had decided against raising the flag, just a couple of days after the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) announced that all schools and administrative buildings would, for the first time, fly Pride flags throughout June.

“By raising the flag, HWDSB schools can symbolize their solidarity with the Two Spirit and LGBTQIA+ communities, while highlighting the important work to be done on human rights, equity, and inclusion,” the HWDSB said in a press release issued Friday (May 28).

“The raising of Pride Flags at all schools is one way to demonstrate our ongoing commitment to the work that will ensure that our Two Spirit and LGBTQIA+ students, families, and staff, feel safer, supported, accepted, and affirmed in their diverse and distinct identities.”

A statement released by Daly following the flag decision reiterates the board’s stance of ‘each belongs.’

“Today, the HWCDSB remains as committed as ever to the principles and practices of equity, inclusion and diversity and to the building of Catholic Christian Community in our administrative buildings and schools,” the statement said.

“Bullying or rejection on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, appearance, race, religion, economic status, ability or any other reason, is not and will never be tolerated in our Catholic schools and board buildings.”

The statement does not outright address the issue of the Pride flag but does refer to comments made earlier in May  by the archdiocese of Toronto that noted: “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 in their beauty and uniqueness as children of God.”

HCCI noted, however, that recent studies have found that in Hamilton in particular, 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals ‘cannot find supportive communities in their faith of choice and often suffer spiritual loss related to their gender identity or sexual orientation.’

“Our experience with the Hamilton Wentworth Catholic School Board (HWCDSB) has not shown a clear understanding of issues around anti-oppression and anti-racism,” HCCI said.

“By choosing not to raise the flag, you are continuing to exclude, stigmatize, and violate the rights of 2SLGBTQIA+ communities and making schools unsafe.”

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