Catholic school division apologizes after email about festival’s ‘Rainbow Tent’

SASKATOON — A Catholic school division in Saskatchewan is apologizing for causing hurt after its superintendent sent an email to elementary school principals telling them to keep students away from the Rainbow Tent at a children’s festival. 

Francois Rivard, director of education for Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools, said in a statement the internal email was never intended to promote judgement, hate or exclusion. 

Supt. Tom Hickey wrote in an email that surfaced on social media earlier this week that students shouldn’t go to the Rainbow Tent while attending the Nutrien Children’s Festival of Saskatchewan next month. 

The Rainbow Tent is described as having drag queen story time and inclusive dress-up performances, with the goal of making sure every child feels heard, loved and accepted.

The school division’s email received swift backlash.

OUTSaskatoon, an LGBTQ advocacy group, said it is deeply regrettable to limit children’s experiences.

“OUTSaskatoon recognizes the dilemma that teachers, families and others work through when discussing issues related to identity,” the organization said in a statement Thursday. 

“Those conversations are complex and yet critically important for the well-being of children and youth.”

The school division said development of the human person and interpersonal relationships are topics that must involve families. 

Rivard said people who send their children to Catholic schools have a reasonable expectation that their education is consistent with Catholic teachings and is age appropriate. 

“Therefore, parents and caregivers are best positioned to decide on their children’s participation in this programming within the festival,” Rivard said in the emailed statement on Friday. 

Rivard added the school division welcomes members of the LGBTQ community.

OUTSaskatoon said schools play an important role for LGBTQ students. It said the division should not be a barrier but rather contribute to health and inclusion in the province.

Catholic education in Saskatchewan is publicly funded through provincial and municipal taxes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2023. 

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

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