Manitoba

New, inclusive Pride flag raised at Winnipeg school

Students at Amber Trails Community School are celebrating Pride month in spite of the pandemic, raising the new inclusive Pride flag at the north Winnipeg school for the first time.

'It's not lost on us that schooling has the power to either reinforce or transform'

Teacher Chantal Shivanna Ramraj speaks to a crown gathered around a new inclusive Pride flag raised at Amber Trails Community School on Tuesday. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Students at Amber Trails Community School are celebrating Pride month in spite of the pandemic, raising a new inclusive Pride flag at the north Winnipeg school for the first time.

"By raising this flag, we are intentionally giving support to those who need it the most and we're acknowledging that there are inequities in our society that are built into our political, economic and social systems," said teacher Chantal Shivanna Ramraj, who oversees the school's gay-straight alliance.

"It's not lost on us that schooling has the power to either reinforce or transform."

Ramraj, a non-binary person of colour, said the GSA typically meets during the noon hour and can draw in as many as 20 students. 

The alliance is "really thinking about how we can give kids the tools to speak up and feel comfortable doing that," she said.

Teacher Chantal Shivanna Ramraj oversees the gay-straight alliance at Amber Trails Community School. (Submitted by Chantal Shivanna Ramraj)

Alexis Micu, a Grade 6 student who is part of the GSA, spoke about what it will mean to her to have the flag raised at the school.

"Adding the trans flag and brown and black stripes to the Pride flag is to represent people of colour and to represent trans people. It needs to be equality for everyone and that isn't happening right now," she said.

"Trans people and people of colour are not treated equally in the world."

The original rainbow Pride flag was created in 1978 with eight colours. It has gone through different iterations since then, with recent updates including black and brown stripes added for people of colour, and then pink, blue and white for trans and non-binary people.

The most common flag now is a simple six-stripe rainbow.

Ramraj said the inclusive flag has been criticized for adding the extra colours.

The new inclusive Pride flag raised at the Amber Trails Community School. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

"Their reasoning is that the rainbow flag is enough, it represents everybody already, but the truth is that trans people and people of colour in our society and in two-spirit LGBTQ-plus communities are not treated equally," she said.

"It's purposeful that we're adding those colours to the flag to say we need to be reminded of these inequities and to celebrate the resilience of these communities in particular."

Grade 4 student Kian Vergara, another member of the school's GSA, spoke briefly but clearly about how he will feel when the flag is raised.

"Happy and proud that people of colour and trans people are safe and included," he said.

Ramraj and the students hope other schools in the Seven Oaks School Division will follow suit.

"For us, thinking of the children means that students know that strong, proud communities exist and there are people who will stand up for your right to exist as you are, and to decide for yourself who you are, and to know what is right for you," she said.

"I know there are so many schools that would love to follow suit, and we will help them find that new flag."

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