Huntsville OPP are investigating after a video circulated on social media of a Progress Pride flag being removed and burned at a local elementary school.
A police spokesperson said the incident is currently being investigated as a hate crime, though charges are still pending and may be downgraded to ones of mischief or theft — it’s still too early to tell.
“The school principal contacted police,” Huntsville OPP Const. Kate McKay told Global News Wednesday. “We’re unsure as to when the incident actually happened, but it wasn’t reported to police until Thursday evening (June 17).”
Shawn Forth, Muskoka Pride’s spokesperson and secretary, said a community member shared the video with the organization on Tuesday morning.
“I had quite a mixed reaction,” Forth said. “My first was a reaction of being shocked, angry, upset, and I needed time to process it. For some people, it’s just a flag, but for people who identify as LGBTQ2+, it’s a symbol of their identity.”
Officials with the Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) said they’re aware of the incident that occurred at Huntsville Public School and that they’re working with local police to investigate.
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“Of deep concern is the removal and destruction of the Pride flag from the school flag pole,” school board officials said.
“This incident has caused harm in our community. An act of injustice against the two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual plus (2SLGBTQIA+) community is an act of injustice against us all.”
McKay said police have identified all the suspects in the video, adding they’re all between 13 to 15 years old. She said officers haven’t spoken with any of the teens yet, though they’re hoping to either on Wednesday or Thursday.
Forth said Muskoka Pride decided to approach the hateful incident as an opportunity for learning and education.
“We took the perspective of recognizing something happened, and it’s affecting our community members, and more of a call to action for increased awareness, visibility and education,” Forth added.
“Muskoka Pride has been working hard since 2009, holding our annual Pride week, getting flags raised and breaking down some barriers within our community … Things like this remind us that there’s still much work to do.”