Cape Breton school reverses decision to ban veterans' prayer
SYDNEY MINES, N.S. -- A controversial decision not to allow a veterans' prayer during a school Remembrance Day ceremony in Cape Breton has been reversed.
While some believe a public backlash led to the change of heart, others say it was all a misunderstanding.
Some veterans are still emotional about having to fight again for what they feel is right.
It was a move that brought tears to the eyes of some of those who have served.
"I think an apology should be done to all veterans," said veteran Clarence Dawe. "They were the ones that were slighted."
Members of the Branch 8 Legion in Sydney Mines, N.S., were told there wouldn't be a prayer during next week's Remembrance Day service at Jubilee Elementary.
It was apparently an effort to make the ceremony more inclusive, but veterans say they felt excluded, and that a prayer for peace has been tradition for more than 90 years.
One Jubilee parent, who served in Afghanistan, says he had a hard time explaining it all to his five-year-old son.
"He just wanted to know why I was crying," said Leo Seguin. "And I said, 'Dad had a lot of close friends, and some people are making decisions that daddy can't change.'"
Thursday morning, there was a phone call to the legion to inform the veterans that there had been a change of heart and the prayer will now be allowed.
"She apologized," said Elizabeth Simpson, service office for the Legion. "I had mentioned to her, 'You're apologizing to the wrong person. You should be apologizing to the veterans.'"
Veteran Mel Birmingham remembered his fellow comrades overseas.
"They said their prayers," he said. "Some of them would carry their prayer beads."
In a statement to CTV News, the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional Centre for Education says "it was mutually agreed that a non-denominational prayer of peace will be read during the program. In this way, the ceremony will appropriately and respectfully honour our veterans and provide a culturally respectful ceremony for all students and staff."
"Cape Bretoners stick up for Cape Bretoners, but they also stick up for veterans, and they don't forget," Birmingham said.
The centre for education adds that determinations like this one are made by individual schools.
"We deeply and sincerely regret any anxiety caused from our earlier decision," a spokesperson said. "It was never our intent, and we are sorry."
The Remembrance Day ceremony and the prayer will go ahead on Wednesday.
"I'll be as proud as I ever was," said Clarence Dawe. "It's been a part of our service all these years."
Legion members say had the decision not been reversed so quickly, they were planning on holding their prayer on the sidewalk outside of the school and that members from other branches planned to join them.
The centre for education says it doesn't have a policy to govern situations like this.