A parent who grew up at a Catholic elementary school in Toronto says this year’s Pride celebrations feel like an “afterthought” compared to last year’s fanfare surrounding the raising of the first Pride flag.
She says she is still waiting for a flag-raising ceremony after reaching out ahead of Pride Month to help the school and the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) mark the event.
“Raising the Pride flag meant a lot to me and my family because it was a representation that we all matter,” said Morrison, who has two sons who also attend school.
“It’s very disappointing not to see and celebrate that Pride flag in a way we thought it would be,” Morrison said on Thursday.
According to a memo and emails from the board, at the beginning of the month, students in grades 6-8 were taken to watch the flag-raising of a neighboring school while the school “waited for the delivery of a new Pride -flag”.
Morrison said as she walked past the school on Friday, she saw a Pride flag hoisted.
The TCDSB said in an email that St. John’s own Pride ceremony will still take place on June 16 to “include and house community members and local dignitaries.”
But according to the board’s own motions passed last year, the ceremony comes more than two weeks after all TCDSB schools should have flown the flag.
Knowing the shame she felt growing up just because she had a gay father, she says she’s worried about LGBTQ students missing out on the party that was rightfully theirs.
“Everyone has the right to feel accepted,” she says.
‘It’s not enough to have done it once’
Last year, many Catholic school boards across Ontario broke with tradition and voted for the first time to recognize Pride Month. They have hoisted the rainbow flag in schools and offices for the entire month or the first week, or schools are allowed to hang them inside and arrange their own festivities.
The decision, praised by some for bringing about change in a religion historically unwelcoming to the LGBTQ community, outraged others in the Catholic community.
That’s why that first step was worthy of credit and recognition, says Rebecca Hooton, an education and training specialist with the Toronto advocacy group The 519. But she says that step alone, inappropriately, is insufficient to gain the full support of LGBTQ+ students. to signal.
“It’s not enough to have done it once for the first time,” says Hooton.
“The second time must also be a big deal, and there must have been a change from last year to this year. If we haven’t seen that, that’s where the advocacy has to go.”
Hooton says that while the timing of raising the flag may be trivial to some, it’s important to get it right to show LGBTQ students, staff and parents that they are a priority. She says that even if it’s not Pride month, there still needs to be representation in the form of an inclusive curriculum and programming.
“It’s not so much about the flag. It’s about everything behind it,” she says.
Neighboring Catholic boards also carry Pride flags
In a statement to CBC News, TCDSB said it is proudly celebrating Pride Month “in solidarity with 2SLGBTQ+ students, staff and allies.”
It says Pride ceremonies will continue through June, and that “most” TCDSB schools have held flag ceremonies at the beginning of the month. It didn’t say how much.
Other Catholic school boards in the area have also put up rainbow flags.
A spokesman for the Durham Catholic District School Board said the Pride flag was displayed at DCDSB board offices and all schools on or before June 1.
Meanwhile, the Catholic District School Board of Dufferin-Peel says it is waving the rainbow flag at its headquarters in Mississauga. It says that while it only flies Canadian flags at its schools, it allows schools to hang the flag indoors and organize their own activities, which gives the board resources for staff to manage.
The York Catholic District School Board did not respond to CBC News’ questions.
Morrison says that while she will attend the June 16 ceremony to support her family and the LGBTQ community, she wants to see better communication and planning next year.
“I was very hopeful and very happy when the Pride flag was raised last year,” says Morrison.
“I’m just hopeful that it will be a priority in the future.”