Last night was supposed to see a vote on whether the Halton Catholic School Board would raise the PRIDE flag at their schools. The motion put forward by Trustee Brenda Agnew based on a delegation by HCDSB student Nicole Hotchkiss, was front and centre on the agenda. Five delegations were scheduled to speak. Included in the agenda package for the night were over 200 letters from ratepayers addressing the policy. To say the least, a lot of attention was going to be paid to the board meeting tonight.

If you want a play by play, I live tweeted it for my podcast The 905er. You can see it here:

The @HCDSB board meeting to decide if the #PRIDE flag will be waved at board schools is beginning. You can watch here:— The 905er (@the_905er) April 20, 2021

The board spent their entire scheduled time questioning the delegates who presented. Three in favour, two opposed to the motion. During this proceeding a few things became apparent to me. Namely that this is a motion this board desperately does not want to debate. Save for three trustees, Brenda Agnew, Nancy Guzzo and Janet O’Hearn Czarnota. The remaining trustees remained either silent or picked apart delegate presentations to find some middling ground to stand on.

Particularly Trustees Vince Iantomassi and Peter DeRosa passionately questioned delegates to justify a middle road. To find some compromise that would allow them to leave the meeting without having to take a stance. Trustee Iantomassi was eager to justify the hate the sin, love the sinner call to action. Trustee DeRosa eager to find a position where he didn’t upset someone, and particularly enthusiastic about an idea to make up their own flag instead of flying the symbol of the LGBTQ+ community.

After spending two hours contentiously going back and forth between themselves and delegations, the allotted time for the meeting expired. Under board rules, the board can extend the meeting with a two thirds vote for a half hour. Able to continue extending the meeting every half hour for quite some time. It is something that the HCDSB has done in the past. However not last night.

Upon hearing emotional testimony from parents and former students, some of whom were brought to tears, the time came to put up or shut up. Trustees Tim O’Brien, Vince Iantomassi, Helena Karabela, and Peter DeRosa chose to call it quits. A bigger display of cowardice I am not sure I have ever seen. It is clear that these Trustees are opposed to flying the PRIDE flag at HCDSB schools.

The eyes of the province were on the board last night. Eager to see what decision would be made. Where would these leaders of Catholic education stand? In our episode of The 905er this week, our guest Deirdre Pike said she was praying for the HCDSB to make the right decision. Well apparently the Holy Spirit didn’t hear her prayer, because this board chose the cowards way out and slunk out the side door.

There is no grey area here. No middle compromise ground. We are talking about the basic dignity of human beings. On that front there can be no compromise. If you are a human being—whether you are racialized, male, female, transgender, gay or lesbian—you have worth. You have value. Last night was a test to see where the HCDSB would stand on that issue. Do they agree with that statement? Or not? It’s a simple yes or no question. If you need to debate it, then the answer is already known. If LGBTQ people’s values are debatable in your mind, then the value and contribution they have for your community is not inherently equal to yours or others like you. Last night’s decision would’ve forced the HCDSB trustees to state unequivocally where they stand on this matter.

Instead, they chose the cowards way out. This frustrates me as a graduate of the Halton Catholic School Board. I was taught that the Holy Spirit would give me courage to make the right decisions in life. If the trustees who govern the board can’t uphold this tenet, then they are the height of hypocrisy. Perhaps the HCDSB ought to stand for Hypocritical Cowardly Denominational School Board?

This morning I woke up to Twitter comments from the thread I wrote, denouncing the Catholic school system. Calling for it’s outright abolition. The thing is as a Catholic school graduate, and as a parent of a child in the same system, I’m starting to side with them.


  1. Thanks Ed! Your reaction certainly seems to be shared by the vast majority of parents and teachers we have heard from.

  2. This was a shameful, cowardly display of 18th century values and subversion of the will of the majority by a small group (Tim O’Brien, Vince Iantomassi, Helena Karabela, and Peter DeRosa) of trustees who succeeded in hijacking two meetings of this board and denying the sensibilities of the majority students as well as the the Catholic population of Halton. Iantomassi in particular, who seems aggrieved that he is not running the show. His constant procedural questions, talking over the chair, disrespect for due process and his partnership with Tim O’Brien, who continuously worked to subvert the process (imagine proposing an amendment that removes the entire content of a motion and replaces it with “postpone this indefinitely”!) were a shameful display by old white guys (yes, that includes Helena Karabela, who outdid even the oldest old white guys) attempting to preserve outdated and irrelevant conservative views. If they were the “good Catholics” they would like everyone to believe they are, they would listen to the Pope, and align themselves with his thinking. After all, if you’re Catholic, his utterances are infallible, are they not? Tim O’Brien’s “contributions” are particularly egregious, delivered as they are with a slinky, slimy, obsequious nod to Iantomassi. I’m Catholic too–and these four in particular, made me angry and sad at the same time. Forcing myself to watch this “debate” made be bilious. I want to commend Brenda Agnew, Nancy Guzzo and Janet O’Hearn Czarnota for their courage and strength in making this issue to the public and revealing the impossibly antiquated perspectives of some of their board colleagues. It’s been a sad thing to watch, and a sadder message still, to the children in these Catholic schools.

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