More Canadians to mark Nov. 11, but controversy surrounds event
Published Friday, November 9, 2012 8:10AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, November 10, 2012 10:56PM EST
A new poll suggests more Canadians plan to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies this year, results which come during a week when an Alberta school board said ceremonies will be optional for students and the Toronto Transit Commission said buses would no longer carry Remembrance Day messages.
The poll from Ipsos Reid found that 30 per cent of respondents had formal plans to attend a Remembrance Day event on Nov. 11.
In 2008, a similar poll found only 16 per cent planned to attend an event, but the number appears to be steadily rising. In 2010, 22 per cent of those surveyed said they planned to take part.
And those who said they planned to observe two minutes of silence on Remembrance Day also increased, climbing five points from 75 per cent of respondents in 2010, to 80 per cent in 2012.
Anthony Wilson-Smith, president of the Historica-Dominion Institute, said the trend may be due to the fact that Canada has a new generation of veterans who served in Afghanistan. Those veterans join the rapidly diminishing ranks of veterans from the Second World War and Korea, making soldiers' sacrifices more relevant to a younger generation.
"The events of yesterday have a very direct effect today. Our history affects our present and our future," Wilson-Smith told The Canadian Press. "What you see a poll like this reflect really is that . . . no matter what your age in general, you're paying more attention than you were previously."
Remembrance ‘optional’ in Alberta schools
In several Alberta school boards, however, administrators have acknowledged that students have the ability to opt-out of Remembrance Day ceremonies, which have traditionally been mandatory in most schools.
Students who have objections, whether religious or otherwise, will not have to attend.
Edmonton Public Schools as well as boards in Calgary and Red Deer all said students could opt-out of the somber events designed to honour those who have served in Canada's military.
“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.”
The news triggered a negative reaction from many, including Alberta Premier Alison Redford, who said she believes all Canadians have a responsibility to respect what Remembrance Day stands for.
"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."
TTC nixes 'Lest We Forget' messages
Meanwhile in Toronto, there has been a similar backlash against a decision by the TTC to eliminate the "Lest We Forget" message that drivers used to flash on destination signs on the front, side and back of buses. The message would come up between regular flashes displaying the bus route.
TTC spokesman Brad Ross confirmed on Twitter that the messages had been cancelled after the Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit recommended it several years ago, saying too much information made the signs difficult to read for the vision impaired.
The online reaction was quick. Twitter user Derek Thompson replied to Ross's message with the following:
"Your reason for losing the "Lest We Forget" signage on buses is, respectfully, idiotic. You don't see the irony here? "
Toronto talk radio host John Oakley also chimed in: "It's a poor decision judging by the outcry. Advisory committee should reconsider," he tweeted.
Ross said he was only passing on the details of a decision made three years ago by the committee. He later tweeted that, as usual, veterans displaying their ribbons, and a companion, would be permitted to ride the TTC for free on Nov. 11.
TTC vehicles will also stop for two minutes on Nov. 11.
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