At its board meeting on Tuesday evening, trustees with the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board voted 3-2 in favour of a motion authorizing the director of education to fly the Pride flag at the board’s facilities during the month of June to “further the promotion of an environment of inclusion, diversity and equity in our community.”
Board chairperson Braden Leal was the tie-breaking vote after trustees Kevin MacKenize and Loretta Dust supported the motion.
Trustees David Bernier and Linda Ainsworth voted against the motion.
Of note, trustee Helen McCarthy was absent from the meeting and there is currently a vacant trustee position following the resignation of Emmanuel Pinot in late March.
Last year, a motion to update the school board’s Display of Flags on Board Property procedure, which included direction to fly flags for “special purposes,” including Pride flags, was defeated 4-3 after Bernier, as then chairperson, cast the deciding vote.
A subsequent online petition garnered more than 23,000 signatures demanding the decision be changed.
The board has 36 schools throughout Peterborough, Peterborough County, the City of Kawartha Lakes, Northumberland County, and Durham Region.
Quoting Pope Francis, Leal said on Tuesday the new motion is an opportunity to “demonstrate full inclusion.”
“Time and time again, Pope Francis’s message is explicit — we must always consider the person,” he said. “The doors of our Catholic schools must be clearly open to all people. We have an opportunity to physically and symbolically demonstrate full inclusion, to welcome each and every member of the 2SLGBTQ+ community by flying the Pride flag during Pride Month.”
As MacKenzie introduced the new motion during Tuesday’s meeting, he said he wanted to “set the same example to my children that Jesus did, and that’s to love all people.”
“I want (students) to feel proud of their school board and their school. I want them to feel proud of themselves,” he said. “I want them to be filled with pride because I can tell you that I am proud of every student in our board. Let them be proud and let’s raise the Pride flag.”
Durst also endorsed the motion.
“The gospel has taught us that Jesus reached out to those who were marginalized in his community — we are challenged to follow his example and demonstrate acceptance of all students so they may feel welcome in their schools,” she said.
“We have heard from our students that this is an important issue for them, and as such, as a trustee, I am listening to their voices so they feel that those that govern their schools are listening and responding to their calls for justice.”
Siobhán Marie, a student trustee, said the Pride flag was a tangible symbol of inclusion. She said the motion sends an important message that all students are welcome in the schools.
“Belongingness is a feeling that all students are entitled to, no matter their gender identity, sexuality, or if they’re still questioning who they are,” she said.
“It is not enough to tell marginalized students that they belong — belongingness is a feeling fuelled by action. Inclusion must be intentional, tangible, and most importantly, measurable. It’s truly important that we are supporting these students through a lens of faith, equity, and diversity.”
Director of education Joan Carragher said raising the Pride flag complements the board’s commitment to equity and to making all students feel included.
“We will continue our commitment every single day to equity, diversity and inclusion in a focused and strategic way so that our students will continue to understand that we are accompanying them in their realization of their own unique story,” she said.
“The raising of the Pride flag will be one more way that we demonstrate this accompaniment.”
“I will now work towards implementation of this passed motion from our Board of Trustees and pray that in doing so, all of our students and staff feel like they belong in our wonderful PVNC Catholic community.”