Canadian Anti-Hate Network
Shouts and chants of “shame” filled the halls outside a Catholic school board meeting in Aurora, Ontario as tempers flared over a discussion about raising the Pride flag outside of schools.
The York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) meeting was packed on Tuesday night as students, graduates, parents, and other attendees discussed if the flag should fly outside of schools throughout June, Canada’s Pride Month.
Security reportedly ejected individuals and police were called to the event.
While an activist associated with the anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ organizations LifeSiteNews and Campaign Life Coalition was allowed to present, a pro-LGBTQ+ Catholic school teacher was not.
In response, PFLAG York Region, a branch of a much larger international organization providing education and support to parents and families of LGBTQ+ people across the world, has reiterated that the York Catholic School Board may not be a safe place for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
The PFLAG York chapter president, Tristan Coolman, attended the Tuesday meeting and penned an open letter to the board about what he witnessed.
“We have simply had enough,” Coolman wrote. “Last night's meeting was deeply disturbing on a number of levels.”
While his first impressions were positive, concerns were quickly raised as hecklers in the gallery, he says, began shouting “obscenities” at a pair of students who presented in favour of raising the flag.
“These behaviours were shared by many others in attendance.”
He also states that the students’ delegation was sandwiched between a “YCDSB approved presentation” containing discrimination and bigotry towards the queer community.
“Your official designation as an unsafe space for the LGBTQ2IA+ community of York Region will begin on June 1, 2023, if you do not engage in meaningful action to do better,” Coolman wrote. “We remain open to assisting you in any way we can despite the systemic issues which plague your institution.
“We are past the point of allowing space for learning for a group of community leaders who ought to know better. You do know better, now act with the courage we know you are capable of. Queer lives depend on you, or do you simply not care enough?”
One of those to speak out against raising the flag was Myles Vosylius, YCDSB graduate and a video producer for a number of far-right media, including the Campaign Life Coalition. The anti-abortion organization releases a comprehensive list of candidates to vote for during elections – this includes the 2022 school board trustee elections that took place across many provinces.
“Many students suffer greatly their own wounds within,” said Vosylius, “whether that’s divorce, separation, addiction, mental or physical illness, or confusion in personal identity, like gender and sex. A Pride flag, sticker, or any political, sexual or ideological symbol cannot heal and bring hope into the lives of YCDSB students. It will only arouse greater confusion, pain, and darkness.”
He added that symbols like the Pride flag do not accurately represent the love God has for LGBTQ individuals. Each statement was typically punctuated by applause from the crowd.
“The souls of students are in jeopardy from being bombarded with the wrong form of acceptance in the LGBT symbols.”
Vosylius has taken issue with other symbols being displayed by Catholic school boards in the past. When a Twitter account posted an image of a Buddha that allegedly sat in a classroom in a different Ontario Catholic school board, he took umbrage with the display.
“I’d really like to know why, how, when and why you think propping up statues that represent pagan and false religions in a Catholic school should be okay, acceptable, promoted, encouraged,” he wrote in January.
Vosylius was also previously the lead video producer for LifeSiteNews in Barry's Bay and was defeated during a run for school trustee in the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board.
Delegates like Vosylius are required to submit their comments in writing ahead of speaking.
A meeting of the YCDSB in March on another LGBTQ+ issue included delegations the board later said violated its code of conduct, noting that the speakers deviated from their submitted remarks.
One of the individuals who says they had their chance to delegate revoked was YCDSB teacher Paolo De Buono. The YCDSB allegedly rescinded its permission for De Buono to speak after he said his submitted remarks were found to not be in line with Catholic values.
A copy of the four-page delegation De Buono says he submitted to YCDSB was also posted on Twitter. The Canadian Anti-Hate Network has asked YCDSB why De Buono’s delegation was disallowed.
“The York Catholic District School Board is involved in ongoing conversations with a number of stakeholders about whether or not to fly the Progress Pride Flag at their central office in June,” the board said in a statement.
According to the YCDSB, the issues began at the end of the first delegation when “a number of members of the public gallery became disruptive” and were asked to leave the boardroom.
“Many members of the public then remained in the atrium of the Board Office, where the situation required the police to attend to ensure the safety of all members of the public. When the police arrived, many individuals left the Board Office without being asked to do so.”
While the YCDSB website advertised that the meeting would be live streamed on the board’s official YouTube channel, the footage is currently unavailable or unlisted.
“I saw students crying, in fear, in the boardroom, as they heard York Catholic community members shouting angrily from the lobby,” De Buono wrote online. “How can such a simple but important form of recognition, a Pride flag, cause so many in York Region to become so angry?”