Iqaluit parents are OK with O Canada in schools, survey finds

“Why is this even a question?”

The Inuksuk drummers and dancers sing O Canada during the March visit of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Iqaluit. The national anthem is played every morning in two of Iqaluit’s schools, and a survey of parents show the vast majority want this to continue. (Photo by Beth Brown)

By Jane George

A strong majority of Iqaluit parents who responded to a survey support the singing of O Canada within the city’s schools.

The Iqaluit District of Education Authority conducted the survey after it received a letter from one parent who advocated that the national anthem only be played on special occasions.

The survey conducted by the IDEA found that:

• At Aqsarniit, 34 respondents voted yes to keeping O Canada in the school and two voted to have it removed.

• At Nakasuk, 56 out of 72 respondents voted for keeping O Canada in school. There were also comments. Two asked, “why is this even a question?” Another said, “this is Canada, after all,” and two more expressed a desire to see O Canada sung in all three languages, Inuktut, French and English.

• Of the 101 respondents at Inuksuk, 64 voted to keep O Canada in the schools and 37 voted not to have O Canada sung at the school, although it’s not sung there on a regular basis.

• At Joamie, 56 voted to keeping O Canada in the school and two voted to have it removed. Nine said that if it would be struck from being sung daily, that they would like it sung on special occasions.

At Iqaluit’s two schools where the anthem is sung every morning—Joamie Elementary School and Aqsarniit Middle School—students have the choice of standing up to sing or abstain and remain sitting.

O Canada is not regularly sung at Inuksuk or at Nakasuk Elementary School.

Members of the public were invited to come to the IDEA’s meeting on Tuesday, April 8, to participate in the discussion on O Canada, but none showed up.

Of the two Joamie parents who voted against having the anthem sung, one said the anthem should be taught in the context of Canada’s colonial history and that it was “unconscionable” that Inuit children should have to stand up in the name of patriotism when that same patriotism killed so many Indigenous children across the country.

Another said “in the event that the national anthem is still played, I hope that at the very least children are not reprimanded or discouraged from refusing to stand up for the singing or playing the anthem.”

On that last point, the IDEA’s member were agreed.

In a January letter to the IDEA, Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory had advocated that O Canada only be played on special occasions.

Her daughter in Grade 8 had decided to sit through the anthem in the fall “as her way of paying respect to murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.”

“Another teacher besides her room teacher was supervising our daughter when the anthem was played over the intercom. He was not aware of our daughter’s (and other student’s) way of observing the anthem and demanded that they stand up along with all the other students. This upset our daughter very much and she left her class crying,” Williamson Bathory said in her letter to the IDEA.

The incident prompted Williamson Bathory and her husband to ask the IDEA why O Canada is played with no context in schools, where most of the students are Inuit and most of the teachers “have not grown up or lived in the Arctic for very long.”

She also proposed that the IDEA pressure the school system to allow students to have more political discussions.

And she suggested that there are many resources such as the Qikiqtani Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report on the dog slaughters of the 1950s and 1960s that than be incorporated into the school curriculum.

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