UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect Alberta Premier Alison Redford's response to the incident.
Remembrance Day services will be held in schools across Canada this week, but not all students will be in attendance.
According to Edmonton's CTV news, Edmonton public schools will allow certain students to opt out of the activities planned for their schools.
"Typically it’s a really rare request, but in certain situations there are parents that would prefer their children not to be part of the Remembrance Day ceremony,” said Edmonton Public Schools spokesperson Jane Sterling. She notes these situations include religious beliefs and deaths in the family.
School boards across the country have their own ways of paying respect to the day meant to honour the efforts of Canada's armed forces in our country's wars. This year, the Royal Canadian Legion has created an online teachers' guide that at last count had been downloaded almost a million times.
"We've gone to particular lengths this year for teachers to communicate the message," Royal Canadian Legion director of marketing and membership Scott Ferris told The Huffington Post Canada. "It's to honour Canadian veterans, to honour the sacrifice."
In a response to the controversy, Alberta Premier Alison Redford noted her dismay at the schools' decisions, according to The Canadian Press. "I met today with three people who are wearing Silver Crosses," she told reporters. "And I believe that as a Canadian, it is our duty to respect and to honour everyone who has made that sacrifice."
But schools aren't the only ones coming up against some pushback. This week, upon discovering the CFL has two games scheduled on Remembrance Day — one in Toronto, with the Edmonton Eskimos playing the Toronto Argos at 1 p.m. (11 a.m. MST), and the other in Calgary, with the Saskatchewan Roughriders playing the Calgary Stampeders at 4 p.m. (2 p.m. MST), the Legion questioned the league's motives. But, says Jamie Dykstra, the CFL's director of communications, each game is honouring the date in its own way.
"The game doesn't start at 11, the broadcast does," Dykstra clarifies. "The game kicks off at 11:05 MST, and that's to allow for a proper pre-game ceremony to pay tribute to our veterans. For the past several years, we've partnered with Veterans Affairs Canada, so whether the game is actually on the 11th or around it, we take the opportunity to pay tribute to our veterans. For this game, there will be a moment of silence close to 11 o'clock (12:59 EST), so if viewers in Alberta turn the TV on at 11 MT, they will see the moment of silence."
Dykstra also notes there will be an RCMP officer singing the national anthem, a bugler performing "The Rouse", a Veterans Affair delegate performing the ceremonial coin toss, poppy decals on all players' helmets and a "Remember" logo field template.
As for student participation in ceremonies, while Ferris notes the Legion can't take a position with regards to the individual Edmonton schools' decisions — "we fully respect that" — he points in the direction of "In Flanders Fields," the poem written by Canadian John McCrae that is read at Remembrance Day ceremonies:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
"If people aren't going to respect Remembrance Day," Ferris notes, "it's really a tragedy."
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