Sam Sotiropoulos, Toronto school board trustee

Sam Sotiropoulos, Toronto school board trustee

As Toronto’s public school board defeated a motion asking to bar nudity at the city’s June 29 World Pride parade, a Catholic school board in Ontario voiced its opposition to the participation of Catholic teachers in the march.

Without a debate, in a 16-6 vote on April 9, the Toronto District School Board rejected a motion by trustee Sam Sotiropoulos (Ward 20) requesting that the TDSB write a letter to Toronto’s mayor and city council asking “whether or not the public nudity law of Canada will be upheld and enforced at future Pride events in which the TDSB participates.”

Instead, on the same day, the board passed a motion by Maria Rodrigues in support of the event “by encouraging staff and students to continue to celebrate the history, courage and diversity of Toronto’s LGBTTIQQ2SA communities including a recognition that Pride is both a celebration and a political event that has greatly added to the richness of the city of Toronto.”

Rodrigues said at the meeting that she had gone many times to the parade with her two daughters “and they are just fine.” Trustee Sheila Cary-Meagher said she did not understand the controversy about nudity – people should “avert your eyes” if they are uncomfortable looking at “dangly bits.”

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation had complained about Sotiropoulos’ motion and some of his remarks on social media to the TDSB chair. In an email to staff, the board’s education director, Donna Quan, justified public nudity at the parade: “It started as a liberation protest that rejects shame, bias and judgments for people celebrating themselves for who they are.” Sotiropoulos told the Toronto Star that Pride is “such a wonderful event” and that he supported flying the rainbow flag at city hall during the Sochi Olympics, but he does not want public nudity laws to be broken.

Meanwhile, at an April 29 meeting, the York Catholic District School Board passed a motion by trustee Cathy Ferlisi and seconded by trustee Teresa Ciaravella that a letter be written to OECTA asking that teachers do not participate in the World Pride Parade “as members of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association.” It was voted for by all trustees present except for Carol Cotton.

The YCDSB is the first Ontario Catholic school board to protest against OECTA’s decision to attend the event. The statement explains that participation in the parade is against the role of Catholic teachers – to give young people “a vision of human life, marriage, family, and sexuality grounded in Catholic values.”

Teresa Pierre, president of Parents as First Educators, said in a press release that PAFE supports the board’s statement. “We hope many more boards will speak out as the York Board did here tonight,” she said. “Thousands of Ontarians have told us OECTA’s move is demoralizing for them as Catholic parents, teachers, and clergy. We need the union to realize taking a Catholic teachers’ delegation to the Pride Parade goes too far. It’s a violation of the teachers’ contractual obligations to be true to Catholic teachings.”