Regina Public School Board chair apologizes for hurt caused after board voted down Pride motion

Emily Pasiuk/CBC

The chair of the Regina Public School Board has apologized for prematurely bringing forward a now-defeated motion that would make it policy to let schools decide how they celebrate Pride.

The apology came just minutes before a petition, signed by more than 5,000 people, was presented to the board calling for Chair Katherine Gagne's resignation. The previous motion, which was defeated 4-3, would have ensured schools were allowed to choose how to celebrate LGBTQ Pride events.

Following its defeat, many expressed anger at the board and on Tuesday, Gagne acknowledged that anger, apologized and said the board handled the situation poorly.

"We did not handle the situation the way we should have," she said. "We as a board should not have placed the motion on the agenda until such time as some trustees had an opportunity to know, discuss and seek clarification." 

She explained the Regina Public School Board has never faced this type of situation before as trustees did not know the motion was on the table before the board's meeting agenda was made public.

"For that, the board needs to apologize," Gagne said, extending her own personal apology for how the motion was handled.

"I will, as will the board, strive to do better for all of you," she said. "I know the misunderstandings that arose out of this vote, and the misinformation that has circulated, has caused pain and anxiety for our communities." 

LGBTQ community on new committee

The Regina Public School Division will now form a special committee, made up of community stakeholders, including representation from the LGBTQ community, with further details to be released before the end of the school year.

"The board wants to reaffirm the division's commitment to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all students and staff, including those who identify as 2SLGBTQ+," she said.

"The hope, by both the school division and the board of education, that all of the shared values, but especially those of 'I respect' and 'I belong,' continue to be meaningful throughout all schools and offices."

Eric Bell, a spokesman for Queen City for All, started the petition that was presented to the board on Tuesday. Before the meeting, he said Gagne's resignation, an apology and the passing of a similar motion would be good "first steps" in rebuilding the relationships with the city's LGBTQ community. 

During his presentation, Bell seemed pleased that Gagne and the board had offered an apology, but said while the apology is appreciated, "more still needs to be done."  

"I'm happy to see that you recognized that voting down this important motion about inclusion and diversity sends a devastating message, I think, to LGBTQ2S+ students and staff in our public school system," he said. 

However, while addressing the board on Tuesday, it sounded like the apology did not calm the call for resignation, with Bell saying he feels the voting down of the motion has "damaged the reputation of our schools as welcoming, safe and inclusive spaces for all."

"This petition, it's signed by over 5,000 people, Katherine, calling for your resignation," he said. "I hope that you and the rest of the board are able to reflect on that and what it means, and think about what that means for the future of your position in that role." 

To applause, he said one of the simplest things the board can do is bring the motion back, and pass it.

On Tuesday, the Board received the petition from Bell and said it will be discussed in detail on a later agenda.