The 20th anniversary of an educational Remembrance Day event is being cancelled at a west Ottawa Catholic high school after the teacher organizing it was told “no tanks or guns” are allowed in the school.
Notre Dame High School history teacher Gene Michaud sent an e-mail to friends last Friday, sadly announcing the end of the Remembrance Day Symposium — shocking many in the military community.
“There’s a huge difference between some kid with a grudge bringing a weapon that’s loaded into a school, and veterans putting on a Remembrance display with non-functioning historical replicas,” said Wayne Mac Culloch, a retired major who spent more than 40 years in the Canadian Forces, including five missions overseas.
“What we’ve got going on here is a warped perspective of no weapons in schools.”
Mac Culloch often speaks at the annual Veterans Week event, which was set for Nov. 10 this year, and says he’s astounded by the new rule.
“We’re not talking tanks — we’re talking a cargo truck, Jeep, things you or I could actually own,” he said.
“If I can drive this thing on a city street, what is the objection of the school board?”
Replicas from museums are usually brought in, “but certainly, there’s nothing that you can operate,” said Mac Culloch.
Grade 11 student Carrington Pilon said he’s “shocked to find out it’s being cancelled because it’s such a great thing that our school does to get everyone involved to remember them. Just being in the same room as them is such an honour,” said Pilon.
Kiara Cullum, 16, first took part in the event four years ago.
“They did have one station where there’s replicas of guns and different things,” said Cullum.
“They had the uniforms that they wore and we were actually allowed to try them on, so it was really cool.”
Cullum said students will be “disappointed” because they love interacting with veterans.
This year’s event would’ve included those who served in Afghanistan.
An Ottawa Catholic School Board spokeswoman downplayed the cancellation, chalking it up to a decision made by an internal committee.
“The committee decided they wanted to change direction of the symposium,” said Lauren Rocque.
“The co-ordinator, he didn’t like the way that it was going, so he resigned.”
Rocque said she doesn’t know the man’s name or when he stepped down.
Michaud tried taking the event to a public school but also got rejected.
“We do not allow weapons in our schools for any reason,” said Ottawa Carleton District School Board spokeswoman Sharlene Hunter.
Ministry of education spokesman Gary Wheeler says schools are obligated to hold Remembrance Day services, but “decisions relating to what type of items are to be brought onto school property fall within the discretion of the school board.”
Mac Culloch isn’t impressed with either board.
“If those in our education system can’t make the distinction, I personally would have to question their professionalism,” he said.
“If we’re going to misrepresent our history, what lessons are we really going to learn?”
OTTAWA CATHOLIC SCHOOL BOARD WEAPONS POLICY:
1. The Board shall not tolerate the use, threat of use, or possession of weapons or replicas thereof by any unauthorized person on its property or in buildings or at Board-sponsored activities. The Board shall not tolerate the presence of weapons or replicas thereof in lockers, schoolbags, handbags, vehicles,or in any other place on its property. The Board adopts the following definitions of weapon:
1. Anything used, designed to be used, or intended for use in causing death or injury to any person;
2. Anything used, designed to be used, or intended for use for the purpose of threatening or intimidating any person;
3. Any knife;
4. Anything that is declared to be a prohibited or restricted weapon by the Criminal Code of Canada (e.g., knives with blades that open automatically by gravity or centrifugal force or by hand pressure applied to a button spring or other device in or attached to the handle of the knife; pepper spray or any noxious substance, tear gas, tazer stun guns, nanchaku, brass knuckles, spiked wristbands, finger rings with sharp or raised projections, etc.);
5. Any barreled weapon from which any shot, bullet, or other projectile can be discharged and that is capable of causing serious bodily injury or death to a person, and includes any frame or receiver of such a barreled weapon and anything that can be adopted for use as a firearm;
6. Any device which can propel a projectile, i.e., slingshot, compound bow, crossbow, paintball gun, etc.;
7. Any explosive device or the materials used for making an explosive device