At Beurling Academy in Verdun, a group of students meet weekly to discuss LGBTQ2 history, engage in activities, and build friendships.
They’re part of an organization called LGBTQ Rainbow Umbrella that was founded at Beurling three years ago.
“Basically, we just talk about everything that has to do with LGBT youth, and we talk about how to find solutions to problems and educate people on us,” said Zoe Gauthier, a Grade 11 student at Beurling who takes part in the group.
“It’s just to kind of teach youth what the LGBT community is, and who we are as people,” said Dylan Vincelette, who works as a facilitator for LGBTQ Rainbow Umbrella.
Before the group was founded, many LGBTQ2 students at Beurling felt alone.
“Getting educated on the community when you’re LGBT, especially in a school surrounded by people who are mostly straight or who don’t want to talk about that topic due to controversy, it’s hard to get educated by yourself,” explained Gauthier.
“For me, it’s brought me family,” said Kamryn Doherty-Macnicoll, another Grade 11 student who takes part in the group.
Now the LGBTQ2 students fear they may soon be alone again.
“It’s really scary, and we don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Gauthier.
Enrolment at Beurling is declining, and the Lester B. Pearson School Board may transfer high school students to Lasalle Community Comprehensive High School (LCCHS) in 2020.
Rainbow Umbrella says the last time they tried to expand to LCCHS, things didn’t work out.
“They were just apprehensive about having us in the building with the group in general,” said Vincelette.
“They have not been open to opening a Rainbow Room,” said Doherty-MacNicoll.
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Now, Rainbow Umbrella members worry for the younger students in the group.
“Now that we’re finally here talking about these problems, bringing them up, more people are coming to us for help,” said Gauthier.
“With our program not being offered at LCCHS, I’m highly concerned about the kids in this program,” said LGBTQ Rainbow Umbrella founder Natalie Miron.
The Lester B. Pearson School Board, meanwhile, told Global News that LCCHS disputes claims by members of Rainbow Umbrella that the school was resistant to the group in the past. LCCHS says they will maintain an open mind as major school change moves forward.
The school board will decide on the fate of Beurling and other schools this December. The students hope when that happens, their group still has a home.