After the controversy over the raising of the Pride flag at one school board this week, one Toronto Catholic elementary school says its own decision to raise the flag underscores the importance of inclusion and acceptance.
St. Denis Catholic School, part of Toronto Catholic District School Board — the largest Catholic school board in the country — raised the Pride flag and unveiled a permanent art installation Wednesday.
Anthony Pauk, principal of St. Denis Catholic School, said the celebration is one of the largest events of the year at the school.
"This is an opportunity for us to showcase how Catholicity and love come together," Pauk said.
"And as I tell the kids, it is one and the same. The kids all know that every single one of them is loved, every single one of them is included, and we celebrate that through fun."
The event, which involved students, staff and families, was held two days after the York Catholic District School board decided not to fly the Pride flag at its main education centre in June.
As part of the event, the school had a morning assembly, ice cream trucks with rainbow sprinkles and a DJ.
'We're here to make everyone feel included'
Every student at the school drew what Pride meant to them on a piece of paper and the school used software to put it all together in a Pride flag that will be unveiled on a pillar.
"We're here to make everyone feel included," Pauk said.
David Toto, a parent, said he is proud that the TCDSB has proclaimed June as Pride Month in solidarity with the 2SLGBTQ+ community.
"We're not the typical Catholic family but we love that we feel loved here," Toto said.
On its website, the TCDSB says: "As proclaimed across our province, country and around the world, the recognition of Pride Month and the ascent of the Pride flag across the TCDSB affirms a shared commitment to building and maintaining supportive environments founded on Catholic principles of inclusion, dignity and respect for all."
Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce said this week he is urging all school boards to fly the Pride flag at their schools in June.
Still, Lecce said he wouldn't force the YCDSB to fly the flag by issuing a mandate.
"I've expressed my disappointment in the decision. I've been clear and consistent for the last several weeks, and frankly, years. I think Pride is something that brings us together as a society," Lecce said in part.
At a board meeting on Monday night, YCDSB trustees defeated a motion to fly the flag with a vote of six to four.
The decision came after advocates and critics clashed for months over the issue.