The Niagara Catholic District School Board (NCDSB) trustee under fire for comments about the Pride flag says her words are being misrepresented, but also said “deeply religious children are also being harmed” amid debates about whether to raise 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 didn’t want the school board to fly the Pride flag.
Someone behind the camera asks Benoit what happened as she leaves a board meeting, and whether trustees were supposed to vote on “not [flying] the Pride or the Trans flag.”
“Well, any flag at all… Like the Nazi flag, we don’t want that up either, right?” Benoit says in the video.
Nazi fascists in Germany murdered six million Jewish people during the Holocaust in the Second World War.
The Nazis also jailed up to 50,000 LGBTQ people and sent up to 15,000 to concentration camps, according to Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.
The school board’s director and a member of the Niagara Region Anti-Racism Association criticized her comments, saying she compared the Pride flag — a symbol of love — with the Nazi flag — a symbol of hate.
Catholic students in ‘unsafe environment too’: Trustee
Benoit declined an interview but told CBC Hamilton in an email on Thursday she wasn’t comparing the Pride flag to the Nazi flag.
“In response to a question about what 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 flown which would cause conflict and controversy in our schools. Alleging the comparison was only spreading lies provoking a hostile environment.”
Benoit said her comments came after she presented a motion to only fly national, provincial, school board and Catholic flags.
“My motion intends to protect the safety of our schools through a neutrality policy for all students,” she said.
“Inclusivity in a Catholic school board will only truly begin when we uphold the teachings of our faith through Jesus Christ and focus only on education.”
However, when CBC Hamilton asked Benoit to describe exactly what Jesus Christ said in the bible about homosexuality, Benoit refused, saying only “I will not when sacred scripture speaks for itself.”
Asked about how flying the Pride flag creates an unsafe environment or promotes hate, Benoit said Catholics should be allowed to practice their faith “without any confusion.”
“The students that hold deeply held religious beliefs, they are the ones who experience an unsafe environment too,” she said.
“The cross is more than enough to let everyone know they are welcomed.”
She added schools should be a place “where children are focused on learning and not a place for intolerance toward children of Catholic faith.”
Regional councillor condemns trustee’s motion
Benoit said due to the attention she’s received from her comments, she intends to seek legal advice. She also said people have called and wrote to her in anger.
“It is our job as trustees to create policies which shield the children from the exact hate and rancor I am currently facing,” Benoit said.
She also took issue with comments from a regional councillor.
Benoit didn’t specify which councillor, but regional councillor Laura Ip previously tweeted about Benoit’s motion.
Ip said in a tweet on May 25 not flying the Pride flag would “send a harmful and, in fact, dangerous message that queer kids are not welcome and do not belong in the NCDSB community.”