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”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org