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Premier 'disappointed' Remembrance Day ceremonies are optional at some schools
Linda Hoang, CTV Edmonton
Published Thursday, November 8, 2012 4:35PM MST
Last Updated Thursday, November 8, 2012 7:17PM MST
Alberta’s Premier says she’s disappointed that attending formal Remembrance Day ceremonies is optional at some schools in the province.
Premier Alison Redford said on Thursday, that she’s disappointed students can opt out of Remembrance Day ceremonies at school.
"I'm disappointed in that," she said. "I believe that as a Canadian it is our duty to respect and honour everyone who has made that sacrifice. I’m very disappointed in that decision."
She says she believes it is a responsibility of all Canadians to respect what Remembrance Day stands for.
It’s a topic that’s sparked a lot of discussion over the last few days, after Edmonton Public Schools clarified its policy that allows students to opt out of formal Remembrance Day ceremonies, among other activities.
Several other school districts across the province, including Calgary and Red Deer Public Schools, also make it optional to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies.
“It’s always an option for parents,” Jane Sterling with Edmonton Public Schools told CTV News earlier this week.
“Typically it’s a really rare request, but in certain situations there are parents that would prefer their children not to be part of the Remembrance Day ceremony.”
Sterling said students usually don’t take part in the ceremonies for religious reasons.
In a statement on Thursday, Edmonton Public Schools said students not participating in formal ceremonies are “still required to remain in school and be silent during the ceremony” as part of the province’s Remembrance Day Act and the school district’s administrative regulations.
Education Minister Jeff Johnson says it is ultimately up to parents what they want their kids to take part in, however students not participating in formal ceremonies will still be taught about the importance of Remembrance Day.
“We expect that’s going to be taught at the school, whether that kids shows up at the ceremony or not. It’s going to be in the curriculum, it’s going to be in the school, kids are going to learn about that,” Johnson said, after a Remembrance Day service at the legislature on Thursday.
“Their children don’t have to participate in ceremonies at school but whether they participate or not they’re going to be taught about Remembrance Day, they’re going to learn about Remembrance Day, and they’re going to learn about what sacrifices these families and these soldiers have made for them.”
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said she doesn't agree with the policy.
"This is one of the freedoms our veterans fought for," Smith said. "Freedom of religion, of expression, I don't agree with it. I think it's unfortunate."
It’s an issue that’s outraged Larissa Lysons, who comes from a military family.
“I remember being surrounded by military stories, military people and the respect for military and their sacrifices from the time I was born,” Lysons said.
“I was raised knowing about the military and knowing to respect and understand their sacrifices.”
Both of Lysons grandfathers were in the military and her grandmother ran the ladies auxiliary at the legion.
She says Remembrance Day is not a religious holiday and doesn’t understand how people could choose to opt out.
“To me, it’s simply saying thank you. Why as a society would that be wrong? That’s the part I don’t understand,” Lysons said.
“These soldiers fought for you to have freedoms and rights in Canada, no matter who you are.”
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With files from Dez Melenka
People place poppies on the Tomb of the Uknown Soldier following Remembrance Day ceremonies at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010. (Pawel Dwulit / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
A Remembrance Day service takes place in the rotunda of the Alberta legislature on Thursday, Nov. 8.