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Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools responds to leaked, internal email

The Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools (GSCS) has apologized for the “deep hurt” caused by a leaked, internal memo — but the school division maintained its stance on attendance at the Rainbow Tent.

The email, written by Tom Hickey, the superintendent of education, says teachers and parent chaperones shouldn’t take students to the Rainbow Tent at the Nutrien Children’s Festival of Saskatchewan.

“… engagement and participation by our students in that particular onsite offering would not be supported … the Rainbow Tent should not be part of their visit,” the email, sent to elementary school principals, reads.

The Rainbow Tent is a new venue for the festival. It features story time, bingo and drag performances.

“I’ve picked five-to-six books that talk strictly about not being a bully — about being a compassionate, responsible person,” Darcie Young, the general manager of the festival, told CTV News.

“There is a bingo, the bingo talks about animals and birds. And then there are some performances by some drag queens and kings.”

Young said the Rainbow Tent is aligned with the festival’s mandate of ensuring every child feels loved, heard, respected and included.

A day after the leaked email circulated online, the school division’s director of education, François Rivard, sent a statement to staff and parents.

“Families who send their children to Catholic schools have a reasonable expectation that the education their children receive is consistent with Catholic teachings and is age-appropriate,” the statement reads.

“We recognize the internal email has been viewed by some as one of judgement, hate and exclusion. That was never the intent, nor does that view represent our division’s beliefs. We acknowledge the deep hurt, and for that, we apologize.”

The union representing support staff at Catholic schools is calling for action.

“We urge the school board to immediately rescind these statements … this type of discrimination has no place in our school system,” Judy Henley, president of CUPE Saskatchewan, wrote in a statement.

Skylar Forsberg, a former Bishop Murray High School student who will perform in the Rainbow Tent, said she was appalled to see Hickey’s email.

“I found it outrageous,” the 19-year-old said.

“The Rainbow Tent is a place of welcome and inclusivity. We’re there to make people feel welcome, and I wish that could happen in a lot of schools.”

Fran Forsberg, Skylar’s mom and a board member of Saskatoon Pride, said the email is divisive and problematic.

“I don’t know of anybody that’s ever been harmed by having a story read to them,” Fran Forsberg said.

“All kids need love and support and acceptance, and that’s not happening obviously in the catholic schools.”

The Nutrien Children’s Festival of Saskatchewan begins June 1 at Saskatoon’s Kinsmen Park. Top Stories

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