Parent says Toronto Catholic school's Pride celebrations feel like an 'afterthought'

·4 min read
Parent Eloise Morrison is wondering why a year after St. John Catholic School raised the Pride flag for the first time, staff dropped the ball in making sure Pride Month events were organized on time the second time around. (Meg Roberts/CBC - image credit)
Parent Eloise Morrison is wondering why a year after St. John Catholic School raised the Pride flag for the first time, staff dropped the ball in making sure Pride Month events were organized on time the second time around. (Meg Roberts/CBC - image credit)

A parent who grew up at a Toronto Catholic elementary school says Pride celebrations there feel like an "afterthought" this year, compared to last year's fanfare around the first Pride flag raising.

She says she's still waiting for a flag-raising ceremony to take place, after reaching out ahead of Pride Month to help the school and Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) mark the event.

"The raising of the Pride flag meant a great deal to me and my family because it was a representation that all of us matter," said Morrison, who has two sons who also attend the school.

"Not seeing that Pride flag up and celebrating in a way that we thought it would be is very disappointing," Morrison said Thursday.

According to a memo and emails from the board, Grade 6 to 8 students were taken to watch a neighbouring school's flag-raising at the beginning of the month while the school "was awaiting delivery of a new Pride flag."

Morrison said when she passed by the school on Friday, she saw a Pride flag raised.

James Spalding/CBC
James Spalding/CBC

The TCDSB said in an email that St. John's own Pride ceremony will still take place June 16 to "include and accommodate 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 were supposed to have the flag up.

Knowing how much she felt shame growing up for just for having a gay father, she says she worries for LGBTQ students who missed out on the celebration that was rightfully theirs.

"Everyone has a right to feel accepted," she says.

'It's not enough to have done it once'

Last year, many Catholic school boards across Ontario broke tradition and for the first time, voted to recognize Pride Month. They either raised the rainbow flag in schools and main offices for the entire month or the first week, or allowed schools to hang them up inside and arrange their own festivities.

The decision, while praised by some for forwarding change in a religion that historically hasn't been welcoming to the LGBTQ community, angered 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 Toronto advocacy group The 519. But she says that step by itself, done improperly falls short of signaling full support of LGBTQ+ students.

"It's not enough to have done it once for the first time," says Hooton.

"The second time also needs to be a big deal, and there needs to have been change from last year to this year. If we haven't seen that, that's where the advocacy… needs to go."

Hooton says while the flag-raising's timing could be trivial to some, it's important to get it right to show LGBTQ students, staff and parents they're a priority. She says even when it's not Pride month, representation still needs to take place in the form of inclusive curriculum and programming.

"It's not so much about the flag. It's about everything behind it," she says.

Neighbouring Catholic boards also flying Pride flags

In a statement to CBC News, TCDSB says it proudly celebrates Pride month "in solidarity with 2SLGBTQ+ students, staff and allies."

It says Pride ceremonies continue to take place through June, and that "most" TCDSB schools conducted flag-raising ceremonies at the beginning of the month. It didn't specify how many didn't.

Other Catholic school boards nearby have also flown rainbow flags.

A spokesperson for the Durham Catholic District School Board said the Pride flag has been displayed at the DCDSB board offices and all schools on or before Jun. 1.

Meanwhile, Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board says it's flying the rainbow flag at its central office in Mississauga. It says while it only flies Canadian flags at its schools, it's allowing schools to choose to hang the flag indoors and host their own activities, which the board gives resources for staff to arrange.

The York Catholic District School Board didn't respond to CBC News' inquiries.

Morrison says while she'll attend the Jun. 16 ceremony in support of 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 considered to be raised last year," says Morrison.

"I'm just hopeful that it will be a priority going forward."

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