Redford decries Remembrance Day opt-out; school board say it’s the law

Friday, November 09, 2012 8:24 AM

EDMONTON – Alberta Premier Alison Redford says she is disappointed at a decision by the Edmonton public school board to let parents pull their children from Remembrance Day services.But school board spokeswoman Jane Sterling says they’re just following the province’s own laws.

The Remembrance Day Act specifies that in the case of a ceremony being held at school, “all pupils shall either attend the ceremony or remain in the school, silent, during the ceremony.”

Sterling says some parents opt their children out for religious reasons because some ceremonies involve prayer.

The children still have to remain in the building and abide by the moment of silence.

But they don’t have to gather with others at the ceremonies, which are typically held in gymnasiums.

Sterling says the request is hardly ever made and usually involves only a handful of students.

Redford, however, called it a decision of the school board’s and said she was not happy with it.

“I met today with three people who are wearing Silver Crosses,” she told reporters. “And I believe that as a Canadian, it is our duty to respect and to honour everyone who has made that sacrifice.”

Sterling was confused by Redford’s reaction.

“It is in the Remembrance Day Act,” she said. “It’s part of the province’s act, so I’m sure we’re not the only school district that respects that.”

Sterling said sometimes the reasons why parents pull their children from the observance are very personal.

“We had a mom last year or the year before ask that her son not be part of it because his dad had just been killed in Afghanistan,” Sterling said. “She really felt strongly that when they do observe Remembrance Day that he is with his family.”

She stressed the Edmonton public school board respects military veterans and the sacrifices they have made.

“It’s a parent’s decision. It’s not a school decision. We would encourage everyone to be a part of it but it’s a parent’s right to choose for their children.”

She noted that children do not have the option to opt out, and that it must be a request made by a parent.

© The Canadian Press, 2012