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Keep premier out of York Pride parade, advocacy group says

PFlag York Region recommends move after Ford's comments regarding 'indoctrination' in schools
2022 06 18 pride doug ford
Premier Doug Ford has marched with the local Ontario Conservatives in the York Pride Festival parade in Newmarket in recent years.

PFlag York Region is calling for Premier Doug Ford and his government to be barred from marching in the York Pride parade after his comments regarding pronouns in schools.

The LGBTQIA+ advocacy organization said Ford has lost the right to march in the parade after what he said at Ford Fest in Kitchener Sept. 8. The premier waded into a debate around parents necessarily getting informed when their children seek to change pronouns in schools and said that "it's not up to the teachers. It's not up to the school boards to indoctrinate our kids." 

PFlag York Region president Tristan Coolman said this echoes campaigns of misinformation against the LGBTQIA+ community seen in the United States and has made a formal recommendation to York Pride not to invite the government's representatives back to the parade held annually in Newmarket.

“We unequivocally condemn the words of the premier in the strongest of terms. It is becoming increasingly difficult to discern whether the position of the Ford government is coming from a place fuelled by discrimination or ignorance,” Coolman said in a news release. “Regardless of its source, this dangerous language will give parents and the public the wrong impression of how queer students are being supported in many school boards across the province.”

Both Ford and Minister of Education Stephen Lecce have waded into this discussion, arguing that schools should inform parents when their kids seek to change pronouns. Both Saskatchewan and New Brunswick have put in place policies requiring schools to get parental permission for children under 16 to use different names or pronouns in schools. 

However, advocates have pushed back and said it is not always safe to inform households of students using different pronouns, given not all families will be accepting.

“It is clear Premier Ford and his government, at best, lack an understanding of the harm their words can do to queer youth who live in unsafe households,” Coolman said. “They are clearly uninterested in holding these parents and caregivers responsible in fear of losing their political support. It’s clear, they feel no shame.”

In response to PFlag’s statement, the premier’s office said the premier believes parents must be involved in what is happening in their children’s lives, but the government is not exploring any legislative changes.

“There are well-established protocols to ensure the safety of children. We’re confident in the existing protocols,” the statement said. “We expect school boards to be transparent with parents and respect their right to know about life-changing decisions while always ensuring the safety of the child.”

The statement did not directly address PFlag’s comments or attempts to prevent the Ford government from marching in the York Pride parade. 

York Pride director Jacob Gal said the organization would not comment on the matter or Pflag’s proposal until their team has an opportunity to meet next week.

Ford has marched in the parade in Newmarket since 2019, after Toronto Pride barred uniformed police officers from marching in its parade.

It is not the first time PFlag has questioned Ford’s presence. In June, after this year’s York Pride parade, PFlag York Region also released a statement challenging the government to do better on LGBTQIA+ issues and said their record does not deserve the honour of marching. 

Coolman said the latest Ford statement is just one example of how the government is not supporting the LGBTQIA+ community.  

“The government has cut funding to critical service providers in York Region. They have rolled back supports for gender-affirming care. They refuse to pass the Gender-Affirming Health Care Advisory Committee Act,” Coolman said.” Last weekend was just the latest in a series."