This June, Pride flags will officially fly for the first time at Catholic schools in Toronto.
After a marathon meeting Thursday night, a majority of Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) trustees voted in favour of recognizing Pride this year and flying the rainbow flag.
“We recognize that this is an important step required to demonstrate the TCDSB’s ongoing commitment to fostering inclusive environments that are safe and welcoming places for 2SLGBTQ+ students and staff,” the board said in a statement.
At the meeting, all three proposals related to Pride month passed. That means rainbow flags will fly outside all TCDSB schools, as well as the board’s head office, throughout the month of June.
The TCDSB is the largest publicly-funded Catholic school district in the world and encompasses more than 91,000 students at 196 schools.
The decision comes after years of failed proposals and fraught debate over recognizing the annual celebration of LGBTQ2S+ identities. While 11 of the 29 total English-language Catholic school boards in Ontario have recognized June as Pride month, the TCDSB has refused to do so until now.
A motion to recognize June as Pride month failed last year, and during a heated public committee meeting on the topic on Mar. 4, one parent claimed that “gay pride is not compatible with the Catholic faith” and that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”
In January, the board also removed a link to LGBT YouthLine, a resource for LGBTQ2S+ youth, from TCDSB websites, after a former educator claimed its content was akin to pornography. The link was later reinstated following blowback against the board.
One speaker during Thursday’s meeting, Rev. Michael Simoes, described students as “suffering from same-sex attraction,” and mentioned “successful” conversion therapy. Thursday’s vote also marked the return of trustee Mike Del Grande to the TCDSB, who has linked LGBTQ2S+ rights to various sexual and criminal activities in the past. Del Grande took a medical leave of absence in January following backlash to his anti-LGBTQ2S+ comments.
All three motions Thursday passed with a majority of trustee support, though Del Grande and several other trustees voted against them. Following the vote, TCDSB trustee Norm di Pasquale took to Twitter, calling on other Catholic school boards around the world to take the same step.
The TCDSB vote comes in the wake of a decision not to recognize Pride month by the nearby Halton Catholic District School Board. All nine schools in that district flew rainbow flags and shared messages of support for the LGBTQ2S+ community on social media in protest against that board’s decision.