A small group of protesters—five, by the Voice’s count—appeared last Tuesday in front of the Niagara Catholic District School Board headquarters, on Rice Road, to express their opposition to a decision by eight Ontario Catholic school boards to raise rainbow flags in recognition of June as LGBTQ+ Pride month.
A group calling itself Parents as First Educators organized the protest, which was augmented by a handful of additional attendees repeatedly driving their vehicles past the building and blaring their horns.
This in turn prompted passing pro-Pride flag drivers to honk in reply. It was a loud two hours, with the protest set to run between 1 and 3 PM. Security guards were on hand to ensure against trespassing. Asked whether he wished he’d brought earplugs, one guard gestured toward the anti-flag protesters and said that he had “an opinion about these people,” but wasn’t permitted to share it.
In a news release, PAFE President Teresa Pierre said that when sending their children to Catholic school, parents expect them to receive a Catholic education.
“The decision to fly the Pride flag violates that decision of hundreds of thousands of parents across Ontario. Publicly funded Catholic education is dead in Ontario if parents cannot rely on their schools to follow the teachings of the faith and the decisions of the bishops.”
Sign-holding protester and Pelham resident Darryl Nohara agreed.
“You can have spiritual health or [gay] education, but you can’t have both.”
Nohara was on his own, as the other protesters stood several dozen metres north, closer to Quaker Road.
Perhaps with the previous evening’s demise of Toronto’s hockey playoff dreams in mind, Nohara added, “It’s like a Habs fan complaining that he doesn’t fit in on the Leafs’ side.”
His fundamental concern, he said, was “the dignity of the human person. We’ve never taught hate. Our faith and our cross is our sign.”
As a trio of young women walked past, each featuring a variety of rainbow-coloured decorations and symbols, Nohara nodded at them.
“There goes the future of Catholic education,” he said.
Asked to elaborate, Nohara said, “To profess the lifestyle isn’t compatible with Catholic law.”
Matching the five anti-flag protesters were five pro-flag counter-protesters, joined by a sixth, who jumped out of a car that briefly paused for his exit.
Morgan and Peter, of St. Catharines, said they saw news reports of the planned protest and decided to drive down.
“We normally don’t come out for these things, but these kids, they need a voice,” said Morgan.
The three rainbow women turned out to be Brock students—Kendra Pirson, originally from Brantford, and Andrea Ciccone and Ashley Derks, from Port Colborne.
A visitor pointed out that Madonna’s family name was also Ciccone, slightly ironic considering the setting.
“Not many people know that,” said Ciccone.
“I was around in the ‘80s,” said the man, raising his voice against the incessant car horns.
Pirson said she came by because she personally supports the LGBTQ community, “especially now, with the bodies found in British Columbia.”
“I’ve always been a supporter, but more so now because we’re in a moment due to the Indigenous situation, and the two have the Catholic church in common.”
A small SUV heading north on Rice pulled to a stop in the road, and its female driver, who appeared to be in her early 30s, smiled at the rainbow women.
“We love you!” she said, which prompted a return smile from the trio.
“We just don’t love the sin,” the woman added, and drove off, honking.