Rainbows Banned at Ontario Catholic Schools

That’s how much Ontario Catholic leaders hate fun: they banned images of rainbows in their schools because they are associated with — excuse me as I choke back vomit — gayness.

First, some students wanted to form a Gay-Straight Alliance. President of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association, Nancy Kirby, said “It won’t be a gay-straight alliance. When I look at a gay-straight alliance, I see an activist group. We are answering the students’ request for support and assistance, not for activism. Students don’t want to become activists…”

Halton Catholic District School Board Chair Alice Anne LeMay said the board “doesn’t allow Nazi groups either. Gay-straight alliances are banned because they are not within the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Then students at St Joseph Catholic Secondary School decided to name their club Rainbow Alliance instead. But their principal Frances Jacques said that was “too LGBT-sounding.” She instead mandated the name “Open Arms”, which completely obscures the purpose and actual membership of the group.

One student, Leanne Iskander, has tried to start some sort of LGBT group at that school, and already has 40 members. Of the Open Arms name, she said, “There’s no point having the support there if students don’t know it’s there, so the name is important.”

She reports that members of the group have been victims of homophobic bullying. Her group tried to set up an information booth.

She reports: “We brought signs and posters with rainbows, and we were told that we can’t put them up. They said rainbows are associated with Pride. There’s so many other things that a rainbow could be. It’s ridiculous.”

Since rainbows couldn’t be displayed openly and proudly, the students baked rainbows into the cupcakes by dying the batter in a rainbow of colours.

Leanne Iskander and Taechun Menns

Leanne Iskander and Taechun Menns setting up the rainbow cupcakes at St Joe's Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga. (Meagan Smith of St Joe's)

You can find some of Iskander’s own words about her experiences at the Torontoist.

Show your support and keep up-to-date on the students’ struggle by joining the St. Joes Gay-Straight Alliance Facebook group.

H/t to Autostraddle.

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One thought on “Rainbows Banned at Ontario Catholic Schools

  1. I remember the shitstorm that erupted when some Muslim groups wanted to establish civil religious courts in Ontario, as other religious groups had done. The province responded by withdrawing recognition of *all* religious courts.

    I know the separate Catholic education system is guaranteed in law, and why that guarantee was made in the first place, but I think this is an issue where I can comfortably say times have changed, Catholicism is no longer treated as a reason to engage in widespread discrimination, and it’s time to end the separate system.

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