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Saskatoon Catholic schools committed to safety, inclusion: board chair | #schoolsaftey

The board has faced protests over a leaked email directing principals to keep students away from LGBTQ+-friendly programming at a children’s festival.

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Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools board chair Diane Boyko says the school division continues to engage with its community partners after a leaked email led to public questioning of policies toward LGBTQ+ and Two-Spirit youth.

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“We’re moving forward with the relationships that we have, the partnerships that we have, learning to understand each other a bit better and ensuring that we’re moving forward in the right direction,” Boyko said after the public portion of the board’s June meeting.

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Boyko said some examples of partner organizations include the Saskatoon Tribal Council, Central Urban Metis Federation, Inc. and Reconciliation Saskatoon, all groups she described as “integral” to efforts to ensure Saskatoon’s Catholic schools make students and staff “feel safe and welcome.”

The board heard a delegation on Monday from Oskayak High School’s Kitotiminawak Council, presenting a letter expressing concerns about the division’s commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous communities in light of a leaked email circulated in May from superintendent Tom Hickey, directing Catholic school principals to ensure teachers and parent chaperones didn’t take elementary students attending the Nutrien Children’s Festival in Saskatoon to the event’s Rainbow Tent.

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The delegation called Two-Spirited people “inseparable” from First Nations culture and suggested that singling out the Rainbow Tent for exclusion represented a “denial of Indigenous queer children,” while calling on the school board to honour commitments to the Calls to Action from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Boyko said the board would discuss the delegation’s letter further and deliver a formal response in coming days. The delegation also invited senior division leaders to attend a pipe ceremony later this month; Boyko committed to having “good representation” at the event.

Hickey earlier this month addressed dozens of people who rallied outside the school division’s office in downtown Saskatoon, and delivered an apology for “all the hurt” the leaked email had caused while committing to continued learning opportunities for staff and school officials.

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Director of education Francois Rivard also responded with a statement that apologized for any hurt feelings over the directive to avoid the Rainbow Tent, while pointing out families of children attending Catholic schools have “a reasonable expectation that the education their children receive is consistent with Catholic teachings.”

Boyko on Monday said the relationship between the board and the school division’s administration remains strong and that there is “good conversation” happening on ongoing work to foster “the understanding that our community knows that they are well-loved.”

She said the division remains committed to “continue to love and find space and welcome every student and staff member who chooses to come to our schools.”

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