Susan Boyd was dismayed when her daughter Julia, a grade 5 student at Belleisle Elementary School, told her she needed help with the lyrics to ‘O Canada’, in preparation for a Canada Day celebration, because “we don’t sing it at school anymore.”Mrs. Boyd said, “I was completely shocked. This is a personal thing for me and my family,” in a Telegraph-Journal report, referring to the importance of the national anthem to the Boyd family, who lost a family member in the service of Canada. Boyd’s nephew, Pte. David Greenslade of St. John, was killed in Afghanistan two years ago.
The school eliminated the practice of playing ‘O Canada’ over the PA system in September 2007, after complaints by two families who objected to the morning ritual, according to Belleisle Elementary principal Erik Millett.
Millett said he did not ask the complaining families whether they took issue with the national anthem’s encouragement of patriotism to Canada or if it was the use of the word God in the lyrics.
“Whether it’s for religious or family value reasons, this is a public education system, it’s secular and we’re serving the public,” Millett told the Telegraph-Journal. “Is it right or is it fair for children who are not allowed to sing the anthem to be forced to? It’s not up to me as a school administrator to subject kids to something their parents don’t want them exposed to.”
The singing of the national anthem at Belleisle Elementary is now restricted to monthly assemblies where “students whose parents do not want them to participate could be easily excused,” Millett said.
The issue gained local media attention when Mrs. Boyd’s older daughter Kara, a grade 9 student, wrote a letter to the Telegraph-Journal saying that the national anthem is played every morning at her high school and that not allowing it at her sister’s elementary school could cause confusion among the younger children.
“We are Canadians and I think we should be proud of that. I think the religious issue should be taken out of it,” Kara wrote.
Mrs. Boyd, who said she believes most parents are not aware of the situation in the elementary school, has now taken the issue to the school board and to Conservative MP Greg Thompson.
School Superintendent Zoë Watson said she is aware of the situation and, though neither the school board nor the province has any regulation indicating the requirement of playing the national anthem, Belleisle Elementary is the only one of 26 schools in the School District not singing O Canada every morning.
“In hindsight, this should have been better communicated,” Watson told the Telegraph-Journal. “I don’t want to see this issue be one that is upsetting for the parent community. We are seeking feedback and continuing to have discussions. I’m aware of this situation now. I have become involved and I will continue to stay involved in this discussion.”
Mrs. Boyd said that the accepted tradition of paying tribute to ‘our home and native land’ was essential to the formation of her children.
“Respect for your country is something that should be instilled at a very young age,” she said. “For years, elementary school students have stopped and stood where they were when they heard O Canada, and I’m afraid that will be lost.”
“We have Baptists and Catholics and Pentecostals and Jehovah’s Witnesses and there are many different values and beliefs out there, but we are all Canadians.” Mrs. Boyd concluded.
To express your opinion and concern please contact:
Belleisle Elementary School
1775 Route 124
Springfield, Kings Co., N.B. E5T 2J9
Zoë Watson, Superintendent of Schools
New Brunswick School District 6
70B Hampton Road
Canada E2E 5Y2
Phone: (506) 847-6262
Fax: (506) 847-6211