Peterborough Editorial: Pride flag inversion is a clear sign of change on the Catholic board

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When local Catholic schools raise the pride flag in June, it will be a Two-Spirit symbol of progress.

Whatever acronym is used to describe non-heterosexual students in Peterborough and area schools — 2SLGBTQ+ is preferred by the Catholic School Board — they will feel more accepted and supported by administrators’ decision on Tuesday to cancel the flag ban.

According to a survey of school boards, nearly 2,000 elementary and high school students likely identify as 2SLGBTQ+ (Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and other affirmative self-identifiers), or will do so as they grow up.

That’s a lot of young people who deserve to feel equal and respected.

The vote is also a sign of overall progress at the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic School Board.

A year ago, administrators voted 4 to 3 not to allow the rainbow flag to fly during Pride Month. On Tuesday, a second attempt went 3-2.

Vote totals do not necessarily define a change in board opinion. Two of the seven directors were not at the meeting. If they support the old hardline stance, the flag’s victory might just be a temporary step towards progressive thinking.

However, this is not the case.

A year ago, then-board chairman David Bernier and trustees Michelle Griepsma, Linda Ainsworth and Emmanuel Pinto rejected trustee Helen McCarthy’s motion to let the flag of pride. Kevin McKenzie and Braden Leal supported McCarthy.

The composition of the board and its leadership structure have since changed.

In October, Griepsma moved on and resigned his seat.

In November, the board chose Loretta Durst from among nine candidates to replace Griepsma. Durst voted in favor of the flag on Tuesday.

Griepsma, a director for 11 years, served as chair from 2013 to 2020. She moved to vice-chair in 2021 and was replaced by Bernier.

Bernier, a 16-year-old administrator, had been president from 2008 to 2010.

Both were adamantly opposed to the Pride Flag initiative.

The next stage of change came in December, when Leal became chairman of the board. A first-time administrator, the 24-year-old came out strongly in favor of the flag motion a year ago and voted on Tuesday. McKenzie, who moved the last flag motion, was named vice-president.

Then a month ago Pinto, another ‘no’, quit for ‘personal reasons’. He has not yet been replaced.

Based on Tuesday’s results, the board now has four progressive directors, including the chairman and vice-chairman. He could and should choose a fifth when Pinto is replaced.

This would further ensure that the council is in tune with the community it represents. Following last year’s vote, 23,000 people signed a petition calling for it to be overturned. The council’s student trustee, who is not eligible to vote, said flying the Pride flag would be a tangible show of support. Director of Education Joan Carragher said the decision aligns with existing equity, diversity and inclusion efforts within schools.

Trustees could also consider the self-preservation factor.

Public funding of faith-based education made sense when mainstream Protestantism and Catholicism were pretty much the only religious games in town.

A single denominational school system is much more difficult to justify as the percentage of Catholic adherents in Ontario declines.

To refuse to keep pace with progressive social change would be wrong on many levels. The local council has just corrected such a mistake and must continue their good work.

CORRECTION: This editorial has been updated to correct the names of directors Linda Ainsworth and Kevin MacKenzie. We apologize for the errors.

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