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Niagara Catholic school board says trustee breached code of conduct after she compared Pride flag to Nazi flag

Niagara Catholic District School Board trustee Natalia Benoit faced criticism after a video surfaced in May 2023 appearing to show her compare the Pride flag to the Nazi flag.  (Peter Taras/YouTube and CBC - image credit)
Niagara Catholic District School Board trustee Natalia Benoit faced criticism after a video surfaced in May 2023 appearing to show her compare the Pride flag to the Nazi flag. (Peter Taras/YouTube and CBC - image credit)

The Niagara Catholic District School Board (NCDSB) has found the trustee who compared the Pride flag to the Nazi flag violated the board's code of conduct.

As a result, the trustee, Natalia Benoit, has been censured, relieved of her duties and barred from attending all meetings until June 30, the board said in a media release this week.

She will still receive her $10,470 trustee honorarium, the board confirmed to CBC Hamilton.

Benoit, who has denied making a direct comparison of the flags, has at least 14 days to appeal, the board said.

CBC Hamilton contacted Benoit but didn't immediately hear back from her. She has been on leave from her role since September.

"While I am sorry that we had to go through this process, I believe we made the correct decision," Chair Danny Di Lorenzo said in the media release.

Video showed trustee making comparison

A video posted to YouTube in May 2023 by Peter Taras, a former Ontario candidate for the People's Party of Canada, showed Benoit saying she didn't want the school board to fly the Pride flag.

Someone behind the camera asked Benoit what happened as she leaves a board meeting, and whether trustees were supposed to vote on "not [flying] the Pride or the Trans flag."

"Well, any flag at all... Like the Nazi flag, we don't want that up either, right?" Benoit said in the video.

Nazi fascists in Germany murdered six million Jewish people during the Holocaust in the Second World War. The Nazis also jailed up to 50,000 LGBTQ people and sent up to 15,000 to concentration camps, according to Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

The school board's director and a member of the Niagara Region Anti-Racism Association criticized Benoit's comments, saying she compared the Pride flag — a symbol of love — with the Nazi flag — a symbol of hate.

A complaint from Trustee Paul Turner spurred the board to have lawfirm Parker Sim LLP do an independent investigation and it found Benoit breached the code of conduct.

Trustees voted in support of the report, the sanction and to "disassociate itself from any actions or statements previously made by Trustee Benoit." Trustee Joe Bruzzese was the only one to vote against the findings in the report and abstained from voting to dissociate the board from Benoit's past actions and comments.

Trustee previously denied making comparison

Benoit previously said in an email to CBC she wasn't comparing the Pride flag to the Nazi flag.

"In response to a question about what flags should not be flown, my answer does not include the Pride flag," Benoit wrote.

"There is no comparison of flags. It is a statement that no flags should be flown which would cause conflict and controversy in our schools. Alleging the comparison was only spreading lies provoking a hostile environment."

Benoit said her comments came after she presented a motion to only fly national, provincial, school board and Catholic flags.

"My motion intends to protect the safety of our schools through a neutrality policy for all students," she said.

"Inclusivity in a Catholic school board will only truly begin when we uphold the teachings of our faith through Jesus Christ and focus only on education."

However, when CBC Hamilton asked Benoit to describe exactly what Jesus Christ said in the bible about homosexuality, Benoit refused, saying only "I will not when sacred scripture speaks for itself."

Asked about how flying the Pride flag creates an unsafe environment or promotes hate, Benoit said Catholics should be allowed to practice their faith "without any confusion."

"The students that hold deeply held religious beliefs, they are the ones who experience an unsafe environment too," she said.

"The cross is more than enough to let everyone know they are welcomed."

She added schools should be a place "where children are focused on learning and not a place for intolerance toward children of Catholic faith."