Sunday, February 15, 2009

Oh Canada or Not

Oh Canada, or Not.

I admit I was upset when I heard that a school principal in New Brunswick had “banned the singing of the national anthem” because of two families who did not want their children singing it. With other Canadians I wondered incredulously, “What kind of people do not want their children to sing the national anthem?” and “Why would a school principal cave in to two families who did not want it rather than consider the majority of people in his school?”

On February 9, 2009, Susan Ormiston interviewed the Principal, Eric Millet, on CBC’s The National. The Principal stated that he had never banned the singing of the National Anthem but rather than having it played over the school’s PA system everyday changed to singing the anthem only at assemblies. By the way, there is no law which says “Oh Canada ’ must be sung at schools.

After the media broadcast the story of a “principal who banned the singing of the national anthem because several families didn’t want their children to sing it”, Eric Millet received over 2,000 e-mails, largely hate mail including some death threats. I wonder what this says about our civilized society? Many people (check out The National’s website comments on the story) assumed, incorrectly, that the families who complained were immigrants. The Canadian parliament ordered the school to re-instate singing the anthem and Eric Millet’s career as a Principal has been ruined. In fact, he wonders if he can ever go back to teaching again. He has obviously been traumatized at the amount and intensity of hate that was directed towards him.

In the interview with Mr. Mallet, Susan Ormiston did not apologize on behalf of the CBC and other media who made the false claim in the first place. Wouldn’t you think news reporters would check with the principal to get his side before releasing the story?

In the end there are some important things we can all learn from this unfortunate incident:

1) Don’t believe everything you read in newspapers or hear on television even if it is the news. Take the media to task if you feel it has not acted in an ethical or truthful manner. And check with Snopes before forwarding "hate-type" items received via internet.

2) Don’t jump to conclusions. Letters to the CBC written by those whose children attend Bellisle School in Springfield , NB. clearly state that the two families who complained about the anthem were not immigrants but were Canadians several generations back. Do some research on “religions’ that don’t allow the singing of national anthems – there aren’t that many.

3) Don't generalize - there are good and bad people in every nationality, every group.

4) Don’t send hate mail to anyone. No one deserves it. If people are guilty of a crime – do what you can in order for justice to be done – but let the criminal justice system take care of the punishment. If you don’t think the criminal justice system is doing its job – write to the MPs involved and tell them so. Fight for justice for all – which means only the guilty are punished and the punishment is appropriate for the crime.

5) Remember what Flower said to Bambi, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

6) And if you claim to be a Christian, remember Jesus’ words, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” (Actually a form of this is also taught by the other major world religions).

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