Iqaluit parents surveyed about their support for singing O Canada in schools

District education authority has received some complaints, but “we don’t know how big of an issue it is”

Aqsarniit Middle School students put their hands over their hearts during a mock oath of citizenship ceremony in 2017. (File photo)

By Sarah Rogers

Iqaluit’s District Education Authority is looking at what role the national anthem should have in the city’s schools.

O Canada is played each morning in most of Iqaluit’s schools—a decision made by each of those schools—and on special occasions in others.

But following questions from parents about the value of hearing the song every day, the DEA has sent a survey home to Iqaluit parents to gauge their support.

The discussion stemmed from an incident last fall, when an Aqsarniit Middle School student refused to stand for the national anthem.

That prompted what DEA chair Doug Workman calls a “polite and respectful” discussion about what, if any, obligation students have to stand for the anthem.

Then, in early 2019, the DEA received an email from a parent, questioning the value of having children listen to the anthem every day, without much context.

The DEA then decided to put the question out to parents in the form of a survey, asking them if and how they’d like to see the anthem used in schools.

“As a board, we don’t know how big of an issue it is,” Workman. “There was no political motivation; we just wanted to test the waters.”

O Canada, written in 1880, is an ode to a settled nation: “our native land” and “true North strong and free.”

It was originally written in French, translated into English in 1906 and has more recently been translated into Inuktitut.

Iqaluit parent Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory said she’s had a number of discussions with her 13-year-old daughter, who has been learning about colonialism in Canada and asking questions about its impact on Inuit.

“Taking my children’s cue, I wrote to the IDEA asking them why the anthem was played every day without any context in every classroom in elementary and middle school, filled with Inuit children that are coming to deep political astuteness,” she said.

Williamson Bathory wants the community to reflect on the need and motivation schools have to play the anthem for students.

As an artist, she sees a real value in singing together as a group—though the anthem isn’t the right choice.

“We live in Nunavut, that has thousands of pisiit written by amazing Inuit,” Williamson Bathory said. “I dream of all Nunavummiut children graduating high school with a whole repertoire of pisiit to draw on for cultural pride.”

The results of the DEA’s survey won’t necessarily inform the creation of a new DEA policy, however; Workman said it is more of a chance to encourage discussion.

The DEA will host its next board meeting on April 8 at the Inuksuk school library. Workman encourages parents who would like to weigh in on the issue to attend, or parents can send their feedback directly to

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(24) Comments:

  1. Posted by Billy bob on

    As Inuit, should we stand for an anthem that celebrates our country that has committed so many wrongs to our people? There is a level of compliance required to stand and fall in line while the song plays and I’m leaning towards no. This needs further discussion both at the youth level and at the adult. We need to inform our kids of Indigenous history, colonialism, and the continued fight for equality. But there is a fine line of awareness and activism vs. the ethics of using kids as pawn or puppets for a cause they don’t fully grasp. Kids are impressionable and are easily led to thoughts or conclusions that are not their own. Yes we’ve been continually marginalized but the “deep political astuteness” of children is not as deep as we think and has more passion/feelings than true understanding when seen through the rose colored glasses of all parents. If they sit in protest on their own, great but there are principles for how we guide our kids behavior. A 5 year old made to hold up a sign protesting pollution is an example of a pawn. As the kids get older it gets a little more convoluted so we have a responsibility to not manipulate our causes through these types of expression.

  2. Posted by Northern Guy on

    Canada implemented the residential school system, the 60s scoop, the many forced relocations, the CD Howe (and probably many other negative decisions that have marginalized and negatively affected Inuit). However Canada also signed the Nunavut Agreement that created Nunavut and it provides over $1.2billion annually to the Government of Nunavut to ensure that Nunavummiut have access to health care, education and a myriad of other services and supports. Without the proper context, using children to proffer what is a clearly political message regarding disaffection is no better than reducing those children to the status of pawns or puppets.

  3. Posted by pity on

    This is a worthy topic but I’m concerned with how children are being used as pawns in this whole discussion. The adults could have handled this reasonably but they decided to make a big show of it and risked turning this into a big circus.

  4. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    Nunavut is part of Canada and all of its funding comes from Canadian government. In the last 20-30 years a lot of step have been taken to right the wrongs of the past including apologies, programs, infrastructure, financially…… you don’t see that happening in other countries. We should all be proud that our country has stepped up to admit the wrongs of the past and is addressing them. Showing a little bit of pride in our country by sining the national anthem is something we should all be proud to do. God knows no one whines about it at hockey games.

    Here’s a question for you…. the Dept of Education doesn’t allow the Lord’s Prayer in schools but the sitting of the Legislature, public meetings, Hamlet meetings , DEA meetings etc…. inevitably start with a prayer. Go figure out that one.

  5. Posted by harold (iqaluit) on

    as a youngin the old school mastir would force my classmates and i to sing yankey doodel with our right hand placed upon our hearts . looking back it seems a little foolesh but i look at me today . i am a modil citizin and i am capable of singing many songs . i have made peace with that rottin old school mastir and am available to voluntear my time to sing yankee doodel at any events or partees in town . please call between 6 and 7 i am in the local telephone directoree under h .

  6. Posted by Uarajaa on

    We live in Canada, born in Canada, and now a parent using their child to question if the Canadian anthem should be sung in school?? Nunavut is in Canada!!
    Prayer was already removed which is still used in many many meetings and events, and now a survey being sent out (from the school(s) ) about removing our Canadian anthem?
    so if this follows through, our kids throughout Nunavut might have to start singing pisiit instead of our Canadian anthem?
    Lost the prayer, losing a whole bunch of teachers, now the Canadian anthem. Uarajaa

    • Posted by Good on

      Prayer has no place in school. I’m glad it’s finally been removed.

  7. Posted by Doug Workman’s plan for election is the real reason on

    It seems interesting that Doug Workman is, as always, doing everything in his power to get in the news. From manufacturing outrage to sowing issues between Inuit and non-Inuit, it is pretty clear his goals.
    Notice how you rarely heard from Doug until the IDEA and City Council elections are coming up. It is pretty clear what he is hoping to do here and we all see it.
    I think Canada needs to further acknowledge its past with the Inuit, but at the same time not only is Canada helping take away some of its damage it is introducing Indigenous reconciliation on all levels of Education. This is a long journey to showing respect toward Inuit, but it is a step.
    His point is for us to all hate Canada and using this a direct way to do that. I hope no one elects Doug for the upcoming campaigns he will run on and he can stop exploiting Inuit for his own benefit and actually do something to help them. hunger, food, shelter, etc. are important issues he could use his “leadership” towards.

  8. Posted by Canadian Inuk or Inuk Canadian on

    In 1966 when I was in grade 1 and our teacher took us to RCMP station and we joined hands in a circle around the flag pole with the Canadian flag and we sang O Canada so to this day I can stand up and sing O Canada any where in Canada when its required.
    As Inuks we were already here before the white man came and got us so called civilized but I’m proud to be a Inuk living in Canada.
    I would have no problem having my kids singing O Canada in their classroom.

  9. Posted by Thoreau on

    Brainwashing children in either religion or nationalism truly sickens me. Neither prayers nor national anthems should have a place in the daily rituals of the school day. If you decide to force it, I encourage all students to continue to protest until this absurd practice is abandoned.

  10. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    There was a time when people believed in something and took pride in their country. I guess this is what being a “Millennial” means. Forget the backs you walked on to get to this point as a country, don’t really give a shit about anyone or anything, no work ethic, protest about drivel, believe in nothing. everything is vanilla and white milk, ……….this is how culture disappears …..then you don’t know what the hell you are anymore because you never stood for anything that mattered.

    • Posted by iThink on

      Crystal, I respect your comments immensely, you are thoughtful and well informed. I disagree with you on this issue though. Cultural change is normal. Personally, I celebrate the change that moves us away from rote nationalism (though, not for it’s own sake, ipso facto). We don’t need these daily rituals to imbue meaning or loyalty to ‘Canada’ which, as with all nation states is a social construct, artificial and animated only within minds of citizens. I agree with your previous comment that Canada has, at least, tried to reckon with its past, let’s hope it continues to do so. I expect it will. I would prefer loyalty to this country be grounded in these facts than in the subtle, and for some people more obvious, brainwashing that comes from the recitation of a nationalist hymn.

      • Posted by Crystal Clarity on

        Rote nationalism is something I generally associate with places like China, Japan, Korea, USA, Nazi Germany etc…. if anything I think Canadians are pretty low key displaying their nationalism. I bet that if we stopped playing the National anthem at hockey games and other sporting events lie the olympics for example people would be outraged. As for prayer the Supreme court already ruled in 2015 that prayer was not to be allowed at public meetings, schools, government sittings etc….. maybe they will weigh in on the national anthem too.

  11. Posted by Let them choose on

    Why not let the kids decide if they want to sign the anthem? I understand people are attached to it. But it is even more understandable that some don’t recognized themselves in the anthem. Listen to the lyrics. We never had to sign it in the province i come from and I would feel really weird if my kids would be forced to sign it. There seem to be nothing in the history or lyrics of the anthem that includes indigenous or Inuit.. Good for you for having such integrity at your age and standing up for what you think is right!

  12. Posted by Post-nationalism on

    Let me ask you a question? I know we Western people seem to think that everything we say and do and think is best for society and therefore everyone should adopt our ways and new ideas , but how has that worked out. You seek to end nationalism, yet let me ask you a question, how many people from other countries think the same way. I know Haitians, filipino’s, Indians, etc. take great pride in their country, yet are still Canadian. If we are so enlightened why does your non-nationalistic state of being exist only in Western constructs.
    The reason is the sense of hope, community, togetherness sand love for one’s people and shared heritage is a major foundation of who people are. Yes Canada has done some bad things, but we are also a nation of UN Peacekeepers, we had an underground railroad, we fought against white ethno-nationalism in the Nazis, etc. and unlike most countries such as Japan with comfort women, etc. we are acknowledging and trying to fight our wrongs.
    Inuit are a proud nationalist people for Nunavut, are they idiots who haven’t been enlightened in the new Western modality of post-nationalist, if not why aren’t they? Why is only the West post-nationalist and are we even right in that? We have a great multicultural respectful nation well-respected by other countries, why is that worth nothing?
    At every Olympics you see people from all countries praise their flag and anthem and I promise you schools play their anthem. So the question is are Western people the only enlightened people as post-nationalist or are we missing something in our practices and can we learn from other cultures and races and also be proud of our country?
    None of these are rhetorical questions and I would appreciate your thoughts. Am I right or am I wrong? I’m very open on all levels to thoughts.

    • Posted by iThink on

      I’ll write more later, but for now I want to say that the way you’ve framed this question is strange, and problematic. Offering the choice between enlightened Westerner and Idiot Inuk is not accurate or helpful, nor does it represent that complexity of the issue. Why put it this way?

    • Posted by iThink on

      Offering criticism over singing an anthem before class does not make one a post nationalist, it only means one is not comfortable with certain forms of nationalism and how it is inculcated into our youth. On another note, if you observe the world is moving in a ‘post-nationalist’ direction that does not make you an advocate, only an observer; so your opinions on the subject are descriptive not normative or prescriptive (in other words, no one is telling anyone what to do or how to live, only describing what IS happening).

      Do you see global politics moving away from a model where power is predominantly located in the hands of states and played out in the relationships between individual states? If your paying attention, the answer would seem pretty clear. Global trading blocks, global treaties, multi state defense pacts, the globalization and inter-connectivity of trade and commerce all point toward a trend away from the primacy of the state in determining its own affairs. At the same time nationalism today is on the rise. It has become reactionary, as it most often is, to the insecurity nations feel over their loss of agency and ability to assert sovereignty over their lands, economies and even their politics. Brexit is a good example where people felt powerless to stem the tide of immigration which, from their perspective, posed an existential crisis in terms of their own identity.

      During the cold war the world power was split between two main sources in the east and west. Since then until today we’ve been living in a uni-polar world with the US as the predominant power, but that seems it may be coming to an end also. Where it will lead is a mystery, but I am sure it will be a major upheaval. Expect eruptions of violence, and we’ve already seen some.

  13. Posted by Joe on

    God Save the Queen….is our national anthem.

    God…is to whom most Nunavutmuit pray to.

    Both should be in our daily lives….especially in the 21st century.

    Thank the dear Lord that our legislators understand this.

    Enough of this other hipocracy.

    • Posted by Crystal Clarity on

      God Save the Queen is the British National Anthem and the Royal Anthem of the Commonwealth countries. In Canada it is sung when a member of the Royal Family is present. O Canada is our National Anthem

  14. Posted by Proud Parent on

    My kid RUNS to the front of the assembly to sing ‘O Canada’. As a parent I couldn’t be prouder.

  15. Posted by iThink not on

    IThink, I find it hilarious the straw man fallacy you create and then deride. It’s a familiar tactic among your ilk. Either that or please show some reading comprehension, as you have literally twisted my words 180 degrees to completley 100% misrepresent my point.

    I said and I will quote this, so you can’t misrepresent me again
    “…let me ask you a question, how many people from other countries think the same way. I know Haitians, filipino’s, Indians, etc. take great pride in their country, yet are still Canadian. If we are so enlightened why does your non-nationalistic state of being exist only in Western constructs. The reason is the sense of hope, community, togetherness sand love for one’s people and shared heritage is a major foundation of who people are.”

    “Inuit are a proud nationalist people for Nunavut, are they idiots who haven’t been enlightened in the new Western modality of post-nationalist, if not why aren’t they? Why is only the West post-nationalist and are we even right in that?” These were clearly meant for you to re-think your ideas on post-nationalism because it refutes every major-non-European country which is still nationalistic. Either you are right and every non_European country is wrong or perhaps you should open up your eyes to reality outside your elitist Westernized view.

    You deride nationalism, where I say all proud people celebrate their country and culture.
    I state you think of yourself as the Enlightened Westerner and deride all Inuit. You say nationalism is bad, yet is Nationalism not the heart of Nunavut, the proud nation.

    You say Globalism is ever-increasing, and in some ways it is on an international trade level, but let’s look at the world. Macron, Merkel and Trudeau, these are your elitist hypocritical Globalist leaders. macron gives tax cuts to the rich and punsihes the poor. Trudeau is a fake feminist who punishes morality and punishes women/Indigenous people for speaking truth to power. Merkel buys oil from Russia and Saudi Arabia and expands trade with China who re-educates Muslims to be non-Muslim. They all trade with China, Russia and Saudi Arabia despite decrying human rights abuses. They have an unfair immigrant system which give immigrants false hopes by giving them points on education and experience, while the country punishes them by making it meaningless. Have any of these globalists who are more “enlightened” fixed this?

    Good luck on your human rights abusing Globalist society, maybe that’s why their were WTO protests, Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky and Kalle Lasn through Adbusters wrote against it, because they knew all it did was create a post-colonialist society of exploitation of the poor for the benefit of Corporations. You would make the Koch brothers and their ilk very proud.

    • Posted by Paranoid Android on

      Dude, you forgot to explain where the Illuminati fits into this? How about the Masons? So many questions.

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