WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is investigating after a school division was told to remove Pride flags from the same flagpoles as Canadian flags.
According to Brian O’Leary, superintendent of the Seven Oaks School Division, the division received the instructions from Manitoba Education on Monday,
O’Leary said they were told it was out of step with Heritage Canada’s flag protocols, adding that the directive resulted from a complaint to the education minister.
O’Leary said the school division made further inquiries and learned the protocol does not have the force of law or regulation, noting that this means the school division can continue its practice of flying the Pride flag underneath the Canadian flag during Pride Month.
“We will endeavour to respect the protocol where practical and will review situations and make improvements on a site-by-site basis for next year,” he said.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the minister of education said there was no directive from the minister or ministry banning the flying of Pride flags.
“The ministry fully supports the LGBTQ+ visibility community, the celebration of Pride Month and the flying of the flag,” the statement said.
“The manner in which flags may be displayed in Canada is not governed by any legislation, but by established practice.”
The province noted that it recommends that schools follow the federal government’s flag etiquette rules and guidelines whenever possible.
The provincial spokesperson added that the province is investigating how this situation happened.
In a statement, Bernadette Smith, the NDP MLA for Point Douglas and critic for mental health and addictions, said that every child deserves to feel welcomed at school and that parents, educators, and community members work hard to ensure schools are inclusive and safe.
“The PCs are putting that at risk with explicit directives to schools to not fly a Pride flag during Pride Month–that’s unacceptable,” Smith said.
“This is exactly the kind of cabinet control the PC’s Bill 64 espouses, one that hurts kids and makes schools less safe.”
O’Leary said schools in the division have been flying the Pride flag on the same pole as the Canadian flag during Pride Month for at least a decade.
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