Some families at the Simcoe County District School Board have run their concerns about the preservation of the Canadian flag up the flagpole to area trustees.
During Wednesday’s (May 24) regular school board meeting, Midland/Penetanguishene/Tiny/Tay trustee Robin Talbot raised concerns recently brought to his attention about the board’s current flag policy at its schools.
Schools across the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) are preparing to fly some alternate flags next month on flagpoles typically reserved for the Canadian flag. Specifically, there are two swaps planned across schools within the public board: from June 1 to 9 the Progressive Pride flag will be flown to recognize Pride Month, and from June 19 to 23 the Every Child Matters flag will be flown in recognition of National Indigenous Day.
“I’ve been inundated with emails and telephone calls about this flag issue,” Talbot said at the meeting. “It’s incredible, the reaction I’ve had this month. When the Canadian flag comes down, it sure makes people crazy.”
“It brings so much emotion, like when people have served in the military. They’re not criticizing the other flags and the need for them,” said Talbot. “It doesn’t bother me, but it bothers some people. Some like to see the Canadian flag at all times.”
Director of education John Dance said the board’s flag policy was most recently updated in 2022. Prior to this, Dance said he had received a number of questions in the community about the inconsistency between school policies.
Under the 2022 policy changes, Dance said every school is expected to fly the Canadian flag on their pole by itself, however there is a provision that at the discretion of the director of education that other flags may replace the Canadian flag to recognize certain events.
“The challenge we have is, when we wish to fly (another) flag, the protocol for flying the Canadian flag is that it does not share a pole,” said Dance.
Last year marked the first time the Pride flag was flown at the Simcoe County District School Board’s administration building.
“Some schools may have flown either the Progressive Pride flag or Every Child Matters flag in the past, however, this year the board has standardized the expectations to ensure proper flag protocols are followed across the system,” clarified the board’s manager of communications Sarah Kekewich following the meeting.
“The SCDSB is committed to providing environments that are inclusive and free from discrimination. Raising the Progressive Pride flag in June aligns with Pride Month and is one action we take to demonstrate support and acceptance for members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community,” said Kekewich.
“The Every Child Matters Flag will be raised...to commemorate National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21. In doing so, the SCDSB expresses its dedication to honouring Indigenous history and culture and our commitment to moving forward in the spirit of reconciliation and respect with all First Nation, Métis and Inuit people,” she said.
In an interview following the meeting, Talbot said he had about eight inquiries from families about the flying of the Canadian flag, which is what led to his inquiry at the table.
“All parties were very respectful. It wasn’t against any specific group or flag. The polite opposition was from people who thought the Canadian flag should never be lowered,” said Talbot.
Talbot says he sees the current system of replacing the Canadian flag for a short time to honour specific groups as a good compromise between having the Canadian flag up at all times/not allowing any other flags, and having to shoulder the cost of a second flagpole at all schools to fly two flags at once.
“There would be a prohibitive cost involved. I don’t want to see more expense. It’s a few days...but it seems to be polarizing for people,” he said.