Principal who cancelled 'O Canada' explains himself
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Friday, January 30, 2009 10:17PM EST
As Conservative MPs called for the national anthem to return to a rural New Brunswick school's morning rituals, the principal of the school says he is taking the matter to a human rights commission.
Principal Erik Millett has been at the centre of controversy since it was learned he ended the daily O Canada ritual at Belleisle Elementary in Upper Belleisle, N.B. because of the complaints of two parents.
In a statement to CTV News Friday, Millett wrote "The only thing I really have to say at this point is that I have contacted the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission and I will be pursuing the question of accommodation around this issue of through the Human Rights Commission and hopefully some clarity will come from the ruling they provide."
Locals have been gathering signatures for a petition to bring back the anthem. Susan Boyd, who had a daughter at the school, has been leading the charge, but now others in the community are gathering behind her.
"I think it's very important we get it back in this school and many others," local resident Ron MacDonald told CTV Atlantic Friday.
New Brunswick Conservative MP Mike Allen raised the issue in the House of Commons Friday.
"This is political correctness run wild," he said. "There's nothing more inclusive than O Canada, it is a song that belongs to each and every Canadian."
Another N.B. Tory MP, Keith Ashfield, echoed those comments in a media scrum later Friday.
"We should celebrate our country and I believe the national anthem is one way we do that," he told reporters. "I don't believe in bans to our national anthem."
New Brunswick Education Minister Kelly Lamrock has said he will do everything in his power to make morning singings of O Canada mandatory.
Principal explains decision
Radio Host Tyler Glen of Star-FM in Brandon, Manitoba spoke to Millett Friday morning.
Millett, who ran as a candidate for the Green Party in the last election, has faced suggestions that his personal views were responsible for the decision. But he says there were two reasons for his decision; parent's complaints and that the anthem disrupted students in the morning.
"It's true that we have students, that for various reasons, are not allowed to sing the national anthem (for) whatever reasons, religion, beliefs, values," he told the radio station.
"The difficulty we were having were that children we having physical reactions to the anthem. They would scrunch up their face, put their fingers in their ears, bend down and get on the floor because they felt they were doing something they weren't allowed to do," he added.
Millett also said that because his school is rural, late buses in the winter meant that students would arrive during the playing of the anthem, which was "chaotic."
But he said that the anthem has not been completely cancelled, and is still played at monthly assemblies.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Dina Bartolacci