Monday, February 16, 2009

Oh Canada, my home and increasingly dumbed down land.

I'm late getting into this discussion, because I tried to ignore it.

By now most have read something about the furor surrounding the singing of O Canada in a small school in New Brunswick. A place called Belleisle Elementary. Most Canadians would never have heard of this small rural area if it weren't for some folks causing a great clamor over the Principal of this school ending the daily singing of O Canada. And so it should have remained relatively unknown, but no... we have this element of Canadians who for some strange reason feel it necessary to focus their efforts based on misinformation and dim witted bias. Perhaps it's because they are so ill informed on matters of consequence, that this motivates them to sound off on inconsequential issues.

From my perspective, I just tried to ignore this assuming it would blow over in a flash. It didn't though, and became a poster issue of sorts in a number of ways. I received an email from the Green Party earlier which outlines the progression of this and I will post it under comments so as not to plug up the main page. Give it read and tell me what you think.

1 comment:

  1. O Canada ? What happened to my Canada ?
    Alison Menard - Fri Feb 13, 2009 Times & Transcript

    Eighteen months ago, administrators at rural Belleisle Elementary School decided to play the national anthem at monthly and special assemblies instead of daily. This is the reality at hundreds of other schools across this province and country, where the anthem is not sung, or it’s sung on special occasions.

    For example, a teacher at our children’s school does not allow any students to sing when the anthem is played. No one has reacted with vehement indignation to this or to other schools that choose other methods to instill patriotism and civic responsibility, as well as pride.

    Principal Eric Millet says his objective was to be more inclusive for elementary schoolchildren of a religious minority who are prohibited from participating in anthems and other such rituals.

    Before readers start railing against immigrants, muslims and atheists, consider the religious minority in question is a minority Christian sect whose members believe that God comes before nation or anything else.

    Consider this principal aimed to foster inclusion, balance the needs of all Belleisle students and avoid some of these primary-age children feeling isolated because of negative reaction to their religious beliefs.

    In the interest of full disclosure and to pre-empt any accusations of a vast Green Party conspiracy, let me state that I was a Green Party candidate in the last federal election, as was Eric Millet. To further set the record straight, I only met Eric briefly twice six months ago and we’ve never discussed this particular issue.

    Further, the Green Party does not have an anti-anthem policy and has nothing to do with this particular civil servant’s decision, which complied with Human Rights legislation and was his to make according to the Education Act.

    I feel compelled to add this disclaimer because, in this case, many conservative writers and politicians, ever loyal to ideology over truth, played fast and furious with the facts.

    The straw-man arguments abounded: the idea was planted and wrongly “alleged” this decision to be a protest against the soldiers in Afghanistan . Millet’s political affiliation was repeatedly mentioned, as if that somehow explained everything for some people. Millett was depicted as offensive, spineless, traitorous and worse. It was negatively implied and never corrected that Millet’s decision was about accommodating immigrants, often a hot button issue on the political right.

    Nowhere was mention made of Millett’s quintessentially Canadian background and evidence of his own sense of civic responsibility and national pride: three years in the Army reserves; overseas work for an international development agency and an international youth organization; Human Rights degree; peace advocate; loved by his students, school and community ...

    Millett grew up in the same multicultural country as me, which compels us to not just tolerate immigrants, religious and other minorities but to accept them, embrace them and include them as they are. Multiculturalism requires us to celebrate our differences.

    Ours is not the American melting pot approach to immigration and fundamental rights that favours assimilation into the larger group.

    Millet’s is a case of political opportunism at its worst: a Conservative Federal Minister and all New Brunswick Conservative MPs, each reading cue card talking points in the House of Commons, incorrectly described this as a “banning of the anthem” and referred to this derisively as “typical behaviour” for Millet, whatever that means.

    New Brunswick’s Education Minister apparently saw an ideal opportunity to score easy political points, quickly stating he would render singing O Canada law, without further investigation of fact, current practice or the varied needs and desires of school communities.

    Strong words and actions breed strong reactions from citizens, who rely on their elected representatives for factual information, responsible guidance and integrity.

    This irresponsible mass-media campaign of misinformation whipped the populace into a frenzy. Parent Susan Boyd, who originally complained of Millet’s decision, also decried to the media the loss of the so-called majority’s rituals, such as the Lord’s Prayer and the “Pledge of Allegiance” (note: Americans offer the Pledge of Allegiance; Canadians don’t have one). Boyd also lamented the need to accommodate minorities at the perceived expense of the majority.

    Another parent apparently threatened to drag Millet to the school parking lot and “beat him senseless”, telling him essentially that a lynch mob of like-minded people would ultimately succeed in running Millet out of town. Others angrily suggested castration or torture at the hands of the Taliban. His administration didn’t support him. Millett’s reputation was wrongly distorted and smeared.

    This principal has suffered threats of violence and great personal and professional losses. Elected representatives have actively participated in crushing this man. These are devastating, starkly evident facts.

    Still, Millet exhibits grace and remarkable strength given the trauma this singling out caused him to experience.

    In the end, can it be said that this episode stimulated patriotic feelings in our children or taught them the importance of spontaneous expression of love for country?

    Rather, have our children not learned instead:

    -the facts don’t matter;

    - don’t bother with mature dialogue;

    - immigrants are not valued and should go home if they can’t adapt. Ditto for religious and other minorities: “we will tolerate you as long as you act like us”, whoever “us” is;

    -the use of threats of violence and death is acceptable;

    -we must crush those with whom we disagree.

    Oh, Canada . Shame on us.