An Ontario school board allowed some of its students to be exempt from certain Remembrance Day ceremonies today after their families said they feared for their children's safety, in light of the killings last month of two soldiers on Canadian soil.
"Some schools may have their own school assemblies while others may choose to participate in the ceremonies of their local municipalities such as [at] the Windsor Cenotaph. Please be mindful that some families may be reluctant to have their children attend your location municipality’s ceremonies," a memo to Greater Essex County District School Board principals read in part.
Board spokesman Scott Scantlebury said in an email to CBC News that at least three elementary schools planned to send students to the public ceremony at the Windsor Cenotaph at City Hall Square.
Scantlebury said the memo was sent "in response to concerns being expressed by some families about the safety of their children at public ceremonies, in light of the recent events in Ottawa and Quebec."
He was referring to the killings last month of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was shot outside the National War Memorial, and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, who was run down in a Quebec parking lot.
Last week, Windsor police Chief Al Frederick said security would be heightened for the Windsor Cenotaph event.
Frederick did not go into details about the increased police presence, but he said the department would be more visible than in previous years.
"There will be an enhanced level of police presence that will be visible and we're there to ensure of course the safety of everyone," he said. "We're also there for more vigilance and awareness and we encourage the public to that also, each and every day."
On Sunday, snipers were spotted on roofs near the cenotaph during a smaller memorial event.
Scantlebury said the board receive "a few" concerns from parents.
"Principals were instructed to be considerate of these concerns and provide activities for students at the school in lieu of their participation in a public ceremony at a municipal memorial," Scantlebury wrote.
In lieu of sending students to public events, the board chose to celebrate Canada's diverse military history. It provided principals alternative teaching assignments for the students who were not attending public events.
"Remembrance Day is a wonderful ‘teachable moment’ — and the Canadian War Museum has lots to offer with resources that are reflective of our Canadian nation — and our equally diverse local population," the memo to principals said.
The board did provide inks to the museum, to a story about Lt.-Cmdr. Wafa Dabbagh, who was the first Muslim to wear a hijab in the Canadian Armed Forces, and to Google image searches on aboriginal and African Canadian soldiers.
"The links were there to provide a reflection of the diversity of our armed forces," Scantlebury wrote.
"It is our opportunity to express gratitude to the brave men and women who have served and those now serving in Canada’s armed forces and to contemplate the freedoms they protect," director of education Erin Kelly wrote in a statement on the board's website. "I urge everyone to reflect today on the sacrifice offered by our fellow Canadians in uniform and be grateful for their service."
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