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Motion asks Toronto school board to reaffirm support for Pride

New motion dovetails with vote targeting nudity at board-sponsored parade

The Toronto District School Board contingent in the 2012 Toronto Pride parade. Credit: Adam Coish

Toronto District School Board trustees have put forward a motion asking the city’s public school board to reaffirm its support for Pride, the same day the board is set to vote on a motion targeting nudity at the Pride parade.

The new motion, put forward by Trustee Maria Rodrigues and endorsed by Trustee Pamela Gough, lists the ways the TDSB has embraced classroom diversity and facilitated gay-straight alliances.

Meanwhile, a packed room is expected for the April 9 board meeting at 7pm, as supporters and detractors of the original motion have rallied for people to attend. The TDSB delayed a motion March 5 that would call for a formal request to enforce public nudity laws at the WorldPride parade in June. 

The board has organized a contingent for the Pride parade since 1996. Trustee Sam Sotiropoulos proposed the motion on the premise that nudity at Pride “raises legal concerns and implications along with questions of age-appropriateness for TDSB students and their families.”

In a blatant riff on the original nudity motion, the new motion notes that “in 2005 Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair marched in the Pride Parade alongside Mayor David Miller where there was no policing of public nudity.”

The motion notes that the Pride parade was conceived in part because of police brutality against LGBT people in New York and Toronto.

“Be it resolved that the Toronto District School Board reaffirm its commitment to supporting Pride Toronto 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,” the motion states.

The new motion is scheduled for a vote immediately after the original motion, which formally requests that nudity laws be enforced.

“Be it resolved that the Chair immediately write a letter to the Mayor and City Council of Toronto asking them to clarify whether or not the public nudity law of Canada will be upheld and enforced at future Pride events in which the TDSB participates,” the original motion reads.

A 2012 Ontario ruling found that nudity at a rally or demonstration can be considered part of personal expression.

Motions rally supporters, detractors

Both motions will likely be voted on late in the evening, as discussions on audits and human resources take precedence. A packed room is expected, with those supporting and opposed to the original motion putting out a call for people to attend.

“When this motion comes down, we need the community there to say, ‘You know what? We’re watching and we oppose this,’” says Suzy Richter, who started a Facebook campaign against the motion.

Richter started the group after seeing that Campaign Life Coalition, a major political group in Canada’s anti-abortion movement, had published an “action alert” asking its followers to protest.

The conservative group asks its supporters to “send in the reinforcements” following “shocking revelations about the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) exposing children to sexual perversion.”

“It is imperative that pro-family voters who live within the jurisdiction of the TDSB attend the public meeting to show Trustee Sotiropolous that there is public support for the motion. This will also serve as an effective way to apply pressure to the other 21 trustees so they vote YES.”

Richter says the rhetoric around the meeting is what upsets her.

“When you use words like decency, family values, child protection, it’s about more than nudity,” she says. “It’s an agenda focusing on and attacking our community.”

Members of Richter’s “Get off my Pride” Facebook group have rallied a handful of people to write letters to trustees, which will be left on their desks at the meeting. According to the group’s event posting, 50 people claim they will attend, with more than 600 invited.

Richter noted that April 9 is International Day of Pink, a movement started in a Nova Scotia high school wherein people wear pink shirts in solidarity with bullied teens. She expects many in attendance to be wearing pink or rainbow armbands.

“I think you have to fight for your rights,” she says. “If you don’t, they can be taken away.”