Pride flag is raised at Waterloo Catholic District School Board

The Pride flag was raised alongside the Canadian flag at the Catholic board office Tuesday morning in a short ceremony. Both flags were lowered to half mast as the ceremony wrapped up.

“I think it’s acceptance, validation," said parent Wendy Ashby.

Pride flag at Waterloo Catholic District School Board

1 year ago
Duration 1:40
The Pride flag was raised outside the Waterloo Catholic District School Board office June 1, and lowered to half-mast as the ceremony concluded.

The Pride flag has been raised at the Waterloo Catholic District School Board in honour of Pride month. 

The flag was raised alongside the Canadian flag at the board office on Weber Street Tuesday morning in a short ceremony. Both flags were lowered to half-mast as the ceremony wrapped up in memory of 215 Indigenous children whose remains were found at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. 

The Pride flag will fly all month outside all 48 schools within the Catholic board and outside the board headquarters and maintenance facility. 

Loretta Notten is director of education with the Waterloo Catholic District School Board. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

Loretta Notten, director of education for the Catholic board, said it was "a journey" for the board to arrive at this day. 

"We believe that what happens today is we say to our community what we've known to be true for some time in our schools," said Notten. 

"That schools are places of inclusion, places of respect, and places where staff, students and parents are valued regardless of how they come to us because we are all wonderfully made in God's eyes."

The Catholic board has been criticized in recent years for its decisions around the Pride flag. At first the board declined to fly it, then, last year, selected a flag in honour of Pride month that was not the traditional rainbow Pride flag. The board ultimately decided not to use it

Two Catholic board trustees have resigned over the decision to raise the Pride flag: Kevin Dupuis and Greg Reitzel. 

Dupuis told CBC he prefers the board fly an "all-inclusive flag" rather than a special Pride flag.

"There is no-one on the board that doesn't want to make every single one of our students welcome.  Every single board member voted last year including myself for an all-inclusive flag," he said in an email.

"This year we never got the chance to vote.  It was just implemented."

"There's always been a culture of respect in the boardroom, so I have to honour the decision that they have elected to make at this time," Notten told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo. 

'Acceptance, validation'

Parent Wendy Ashby attended the flag-raising ceremony in support of LGBTQ students. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

Parent Wendy Ashby, 55, attended the ceremony Tuesday in support of LGBTQ students. She said flying the flag is a meaningful show of support. 

"I think it's acceptance, validation and I think it alleviates some of the fear they have," said Ashby, whose children are students within the board and have LGBTQ friends.

Ashby, whose mother is Metis and whose father is from Ireland, said she also hopes to see the board incorporate more LGBTQ and Indigenous content in the curriculum going forward. 

Notten told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo the board is working to "strengthen [its] equity agenda" going forward. 

In a statement, the LGBTQ organization Spectrum Waterloo said it is grateful to the Catholic board for choosing to fly the Pride flag. 

"This is an important statement of solidarity and support for their LGBTQ2+ students, educators, and staff. and a strong step forward towards building a truly inclusive community," the statement said. 

Pride flags will fly at schools in several Ontario regions this year including Ottawa, Durham, Niagara, Toronto and Wellington. 

Some will fly the Pride flag for the entire month, while others will do so just for the first week.

The Thunder Bay District Catholic School Board and the Conseil scolaire de district catholique des Aurores boréales began the trend, first flying the Pride flag outside their main office buildings in 2019. 

The Pride flag was raised outside the WCDSB headquarters Tuesday morning. Both the Pride flag and Canadian flag were lowered to half-mast after the ceremony concluded. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

with files from Ellen Mauro