Ontario elementary school pulls out of Remembrance Day ceremony
LONDON, Ont. — Poppies and prayers apparently don’t mix, at least not in Lucan, Ont.
An elementary school in the Middlesex County town is pulling out of its Remembrance Day ceremony, with all signs pointing to prayer as the problem.
Now, some of the students’ parents are vowing to take their children out of school to attend the community event.
Wilberforce public school will hold its own service Monday, skipping the customary community gathering at the local arena.
Principal Lyn Campbell sidestepped questions about the role of prayer in the boycott, but a Catholic priest said prayer is a sticking point.
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Prayers are common at cenotaph ceremonies in Canada, but Campbell wouldn’t directly answer if that’s the issue.
“We’re just focusing on our school community here — this is just an opportunity for us to all be together,” she said.
Last year, she noted, the kindergarten kids stayed behind for their own service while the rest of the kids went to the community service.
Catholic and public schools in Lucan have taken turns holding the Remembrance Day service at the arena for at least 30 years.
When Wilberforce ran it last year, prayers were removed, Rev. Dariusz Lewandowski said.
“It didn’t go well with the rest of the community, so we decided to go back to prayer (this year),” he said.
The prayers are Christian and the decision to pray was made by the town’s Catholic, United and Anglican ministers.
“It’s always been a community event, with people from different denominations coming together, so that’s very unfortunate.”
The return to prayer at the start and end of the service,was a “point of disagreement” with the school, he said.
St. Patrick’s Catholic school is in charge of this year’s service.
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Wilberforce parent Colin Haskett said he’s disappointed by the split.
“I think it’s important that they (children) see that this isn’t just a school thing — this is something that’s bigger than that,” said Haskett, who alerted Wilberforce parents in an open letter.
“Having the opportunity to attend this event all the way through my elementary school education, it has been instilled in me that Remembrance Day is not a holiday and it is not a religious event. It is the day you stop, for a mere 60 minutes, to reflect on those who gave their lives for our freedom,” he wrote in the letter posted on Facebook and shared 411 times.
Haskett said he plans to pull his son out of school to go to the community service.
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