The Ottawa Catholic School Board is on the defensive following Notre Dame High School’s controversial decision to cancel its annual Remembrance Day Symposium citing a “no tanks or guns” policy.
A press release was issued Thursday, a few days after the Sun first reported the symposium’s 20th anniversary is being axed.
The OCSB “realizes the tremendous sacrifice of our military and veterans in the past and the commitment of today’s soldier to the service of our country,” spokeswoman Mardi de Kemp said in a statement.
“Like all our schools, Notre Dame High School has, and will continue to have, a Remembrance Day Ceremony.”
But the symposium — which history teacher and veteran Gene Michaud has been putting on for 19 years — was given the boot by an internal committee.
Historical replicas of weapons and military vehicles are often used as learning tools at the event.
The OCSB statement goes on to say “veterans and their displays including replica weaponry are often welcomed at our schools” — yet Michaud was told those weapons aren’t allowed on school property.
The board did not respond to the Sun’s request for comment Friday regarding this contradiction.
Retired Maj. Wayne Mac Culloch says veterans aren’t happy to be linked with the weapons policy.
“It’s demeaning to veterans to think we would ever put Canadian youth at risk,” he said.
At the symposium, soldiers, veterans and students take part in presentations, plays, and other hands-on activities.
Mac Culloch says the symposium was held Nov. 10 so that “when the children went to the ceremony they had something fresh in their heads to remember.”
A ceremony, he said, is no substitution.
“I’m still wondering just what experiences the kids are supposed to remember? Certainly, the huge losers are the students at Notre Dame,” said Mac Culloch.
“In Ottawa, we’re doing everything we can — in one school — to distance students from veterans.”
Retired Maj. Dr. Michael Pilon, who served in the Canadian Forces Dental Services for 23 years, says the symposium is important.
“I think Mr. Michaud has been slapped in the face,” said Pilon.
“Nobody’s glorifying war. I think it’s insulting to the veterans.”
Pilon is the Ottawa man who snapped the infamous photos of Canada Day revellers urinating on the National War Memorial in 2006, which eventually led to the government posting sentries at the tomb of the unknown soldier.