A recent decision by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has ruled on behalf of a school board after it denied a member of the public from giving a presentation arguing against the flying of pride flags at Ontario schools. 

On May 21, 2019, applicant Ann Gillies requested to deliver an oral presentation before the Bluewater District School Board on the issue but was denied the request and told to submit her presentation as an email instead, citing human rights legislation. 

“Transgender children don’t exist – this term was brought into being by a coalition of pressure groups and political activities. It is NOT a scientific or medical term,” a copy of Gillies presentation submitted to the court reads. 

“We have a moral obligation to open transgender doctrine to critical scrutiny. We stand in solidarity with biology, human design, physical reality, health and moralism. As parents and concerned citizens we politely ask that you do not support the harmful transgender ideology by allowing the LGBT flag flown at our schools in June.”

Gillies then pursued a judicial review of the school board’s decision, claiming that her right to freedom of expression was impacted. 

On May 1, 2023, the Superior Court found that the board acted appropriately and dismissed Gillies application, ordering her to pay the board $5,000 in costs.

In its ruling, the Superior Court claimed it was “only necessary to imagine a trans student in attendance” of such a presentation.  

“To understand the rationale for the Board’s decision, it is only necessary to imagine a trans student in attendance in the audience at the Board meeting where the applicant was making the presentation, and hearing it publicly declared that they do not, in fact, exist, but are instead the construct of a ‘harmful transgender ideology’,” wrote the Superior Court. 

“With regard to the balancing exercise, the respondent highlights its duties to promote an inclusive school climate for pupils of any sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, and to provide an environment free of discrimination and harassment. Transgender individuals are one of the most disadvantaged groups in society, frequently facing threats to their very existence.”

Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) lawyer Marty Moore told True North that the organization was disappointed with the ruling and hopes to press the matter of freedom of expression in an upcoming case involving the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB).

“We were disappointed by the ruling in this case, in which the Court dismissed the application from the bench.  We believe that freedom of expression is a crucial part of democratic governance and look forward to advancing this central principle before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on the Burjoski and Ramsay matters being heard the week of June 5, 2023,” Moore told True North in an emailed statement.

The WRDSB is currently embroiled in several legal challenges after being accused of silencing trustee Mike Ramsay and former teacher Carolyn Burjoski during a public school board meeting after they expressed dissenting views.

The case has already attracted interest from other school boards in the region seeking a way to stamp out presentations from the public on gender ideology issues. 

On May 15, the Durham District School Board cited the case as an example to justify a “legal framework for vetting of public presentations and questions.” 

“The very recent decision of the Ontario Divisional Court in Gillies v. Bluewater District School Board, 2023 ONSC 1625, considered a substantially similar issue,” wrote the DDSB’s general counsel Patrick Cotter. 

“The reasoning and conclusions in Bluewater decision confirm the Board’s authority to vet questions in a manner that balances charter rights with the Board’s obligations and commitments.” 
Gillies’ opposition to the pride flag flying at public schools is not the only such instance in recent memory. An April meeting at the York Catholic District School Board erupted with angry parents after the board decided to raise a pride flag.

In a subsequent comment given to True North after the article was published, the York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) said that the YCDSB has not made a decision to fly the Pride Flag in June.

“We have a long-standing policy that says only the Canadians flag is flown at YCDSB properties and some community members have asked us to change that policy so the Pride Flag could be flown in June, but no decision has been made either way at this time,” said the YCDSB’s communications senior manager Mark Brosens in an emailed statement.