That action item includes providing resources and professional development support to teachers and school leaders to “combat Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia and transphobia.”
The school board made a formal request to the education minister for “a review and revision of the Ontario curriculum to better incorporate the culture and history of racialized and marginalized students and staff, including: women, people with disabilities, Black and Indigenous People, People of Color, and 2SLGBTQ+ individuals.”
The Halton Catholic District School Board policy on equity and inclusive education, last updated in 2019, stresses both commitment to the Church and commitment to a learning environment that treats individuals with respect regardless of various categories, including “sexual orientation, gender identity, (and) gender expression,” in accord with Ontario’s Human Rights Code.
Its commitments to religious freedom and freedom from discrimination or harassment are to be interpreted in accordance with this code, said the policy. At the same time, the policy notes the denominational rights of Catholic schools.
Nicole Hotchkiss, a twelfth grade student at St. Ignatius of Loyola in Oakville, had backed the measure to fly the Pride Flag
“The entire point of my motion and my original delegation was that people would know that Catholic schools support LGBTQ2+ students and they denied us once again today,” said Hotchkiss.
She told CTV News Toronto that it was unfair to see the controversy as a debate between equal sides and “basically have your rights debated in front of you.”
“You're told that it's through a Catholic lens so you have to sort of view both sides, but one side is telling you that you're not welcome, you're not accepted, you shouldn't have the right to marry who you want, that your identity doesn't exist.”
She said, “the message that I got is that they're afraid.”
The Halton chapter of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, which has 3,000 members, wrote a letter in support of flying the Pride flag. After the school board’s decision, all Catholic high schools in the district made some show of support of the Pride flag, including changing their logos.
Kirsten Kelly, the Burlington student trustee on the board, said the decision against the flag was “frustrating” and shows “ that a lot of people don't want to move forward and they are very set back in their ways in trying to defend the fact the 2SLGBTQ+ community shouldn't be supported by the Catholic community,” adding, “it is just full of bigotry and hatred.”
Kelly is also public affairs coordinator with the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association, CBC News reports.
At times, school board leaders have censored or rejected critics who cite Catholic teaching.
In November, Thomas Cardinal Collins of Toronto rebuked members of the Toronto Catholic District school board for refusing to allow a passage of the Catechism of the Catholic Church pertaining to ministry to people with same-sex attraction to be read during a recent meeting.
“The Catholic faith must guide all who are engaged in Catholic education— including students, teachers, administrators, and trustees— or that education ceases to be Catholic,” Collins said.
The Canadian Community Health Survey for 2015–2016 reported that 1.4% of Canadians over age 15 identified as homosexual and 1.5% identify as bisexual.
Trans Care BC, a transgender-affirming group run by the Province of British Columbia, has claimed that between 1% and 3% of Canadians identify as transgender. Statistics Canada has not previously collected information on such self-identification and is testing responses for the 2021 census, according to a June 2019 report from the Standing Committee on Health of the Canadian House of Commons.
Kevin J. Jones is a senior staff writer with Catholic News Agency. He was a recipient of a 2014 Catholic Relief Services' Egan Journalism Fellowship.