Catholic schools in Ontario ban rainbows

While most people may see rainbows as a good sign because the rain is ending, some Catholic schools in Ontario have banned visual references to the iconic colourful arch.

Leanne Iskander, 16, tells Xtra that the Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board prevented her group from displaying any rainbows at their information booth during an anti-homophobia event last week.

Iskander is the founder of the unofficial gay-straight alliance at St. Joseph Catholic School in Mississauga.

"We brought signs and posters with rainbows, and we were told we can't put them up," says Iskander to Xtra. "They said rainbows are associated with Pride. There's so many other things that a rainbow could be. It's ridiculous."

But this did not stop the group from showing a rainbow. They baked cupcakes with different colour icing and displayed them on the table so it resembled a rainbow. Better yet, when people bit into the cupcake, there was a rainbow of colours inside.

By selling the cupcakes at 50 cents each, the group raised $200 for charity. However the school would not allow the group to donate the money to the charity of their choice, which was the LGBT Youth Line.

"We were told to donate to Covenant House, a Catholic homeless shelter," says Iskander to Xtra.

Over the years, rainbows have been associated with many different things. The symbol was God's promise to Noah in the Torah, what Nelson Mandela used to describe South Africa and if there are two of them, it can be an insanely popular Internet meme.

Iskander's gay-straight alliance group is unofficial because such groups are not allowed in Catholic schools, even though they exist in public schools. The Board recently began allowing anti-bullying clubs, but Iskander says this is not enough.

She is planning to bring her fight to this summer's Pride parade in Toronto as part of the newly-formed Catholic Students for GSAs (gay-straight alliances). She says her principal doesn't mind the students marching in Pride, they just can't say what school they represent.

"Some people think by now allowing anti-bullying clubs, the issue is over," Iskander says to Xtra. "But it's not."

In the future if the Board listens to the students and allows GSAs, maybe they will also lift the ban on rainbows.

(Reuters photo)