Niagara Catholic District School Board (NCDSB) trustee under fire over comments about the Pride flag says her words are being misrepresented but also said “deeply religious children are also being harmed” amid debate over whether to raise it or not of the flag.
A video posted to YouTube a week ago by Peter Taras, a former Ontario candidate for the People’s Party of Canada, shows the trustee – Natalia Benoit – saying she doesn’t want the school board flying the Pride flag.
Someone behind the camera asks Benoit what happened when she leaves a board meeting, and whether trustees were supposed to vote “not (fly) the Pride or the Trans flag.”
“Well, any flag… Like the Nazi flag, we don’t want that up, do we?” says Benoit in the video.
Nazi fascists in Germany murdered six million Jewish people during the Holocaust in World War II.
The Nazis also imprisoned up to 50,000 LGBTQ people and sent up to 15,000 to concentration camps, according to Holocaust Memorial Day Foundation.
School board director and member of the Niagara Region Anti-Racism Association criticized her comments, saying she compared the Pride flag – a symbol of love – to the Nazi flag – a symbol of hate.
Catholic students also in ‘unsafe environment’: Curator
Benoit declined an interview, but told CBC Hamilton in an email Thursday that she was not comparing the Pride flag to the Nazi flag.
“In answer to a question about which flags should not be flown, my answer does not include the Pride flag,” Benoit wrote.
“There is no comparison of flags. It is a statement that no flags should be raised that would cause conflict and controversy in our schools. Claiming that the comparison only spread lies and provoked a hostile environment.”
Benoit said her comments came after she filed a motion to fly only national, state, school board and Catholic flags.
“My motion is to protect the safety of our schools through a neutrality policy for all students,” she said.
“Inclusivity in a Catholic school board can only truly begin when we uphold the teaching of our faith through Jesus Christ and focus solely on education.”
However, when CBC Hamilton asked Benoit to describe exactly what Jesus Christ said about homosexuality in the Bible, Benoit refused, saying only, “I won’t do it if the scriptures speak for themselves.”
When asked how flying the Pride flag creates an unsafe environment or promotes hatred, Benoit said Catholics should be able to practice their faith “without any confusion.”
“The students with deeply held religious beliefs, they are also the ones experiencing an unsafe environment,” she said.
“The cross is more than enough to let everyone know they are welcome.”
She added that schools should be a place “where children are focused on learning and not a place for intolerance towards children of Catholic faith”.
The alderman condemns the motion of the curator
Benoit said that because of the attention she has received from her comments, she plans to seek legal advice. She also said that people have been angrily calling and writing to her.
“It is our job as administrators to create policies that protect the children from the exact hatred and resentment I am currently experiencing,” said Benoit.
She also addressed comments from a regional councilor.
Benoit did not say which councilor it was about, but regional councilor Laura Ip previously tweeted about Benoit’s motion.
Ip said in a tweet on May 25 that not flying the Pride flag “would send a harmful and, in fact, dangerous message that queer kids are not welcome and don’t belong in the NCDSB community.”