Thursday, February 26, 2009
Canadian National Anthem Banned
The National Post posted a recent story on the banning of the national anthem from a New Brunswick school
Erik Millett, the principal of Belleisle Elementary School in Springfield removed the anthem citing concerns from a number of parents but without asking for input from the local parent school support committee. The decision went without notice until Susan Boyd, a parent of a Grade 5 student, was surprised when she heard her daughter say that she need to practise the anthem before performing it for a Canada Day celebration last year "because she was not sure if she'd remember the words." The singing of O Canada was removed from the daily opening but was still being sung at monthly assemblies. It became a personal issue for Boyd, whose nephew died in Kandahar in 2007 while serving in the military. For her, the national anthem is a way of honouring him and all Canadian soldiers overseas.
The issue has renewed debate about political correctness in schools as the principal removed the singing of the anthem as a way of accommodating parents who, because of religious reasons, did not want their children taking part in the opening routine.
Millett asked, "Is it right or is it fair for children who are not allowed to sing the anthem to be forced to?" adding, "Different families have different beliefs.... It's not up to me as a school administrator to subject kids to something their parents don't want them exposed to. I have to protect the minority rights as well as the majority rights."
The CBC followed up on this story from a different point of view.
Kelly Cooper, the vice-chair of the Parent School Support Committee, believes that the controversay has caused divisions within the community and has unfairly subjected the school and its principal to hostility. She would rather have her children miss out on the singing of the anthem each day than to have other students feel excluded.
Stated Cooper, "We all have our reasons to sing or not sing the anthem. But for me this is about how do we treat the people who are different in our community. How do we treat the people who disagree with us? Do we respect them, listen to their point of view, or does the majority say, 'We're the majority, too bad for you and we've got rights.' That doesn't make me feel very comfortable."
The principal told CBC News that his decision to stop the daily singing of the anthem was blown out of proportion and that the issue raises the question of what it means to be patriotic.
"There are many ways to demonstrate one's patriotism or one's love for a country," he said. "The anthem is one, flying a flag is another, volunteering in your community is another. I would argue that teachers and staff at my school, caring for children to make sure they don't go hungry or don't go cold or have all they need to learn, that is being patriotic.
"I think really it has nothing to do with the decision that my staff and I arrived at. It has everything to do with one person having a very driven agenda and misrepresenting what the school did in the media and the media reproducing the myth, that mythology to a point that people in this country were whipped into a hysteria."
The school board ordered that the anthem be reinstated and higher levels of government are debating the issue.
As we come to the end of Freedom to Read week, the Pelham Public Library challenges you to take the Banned Book Challenge. This challenge will run from February to June 2009.