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PCs rebuke NDP stance on student attending services

By Jordan Maxwell, Portage Daily Graphic

Manitoba Opposition Leader Brian Pallister rebuked the provincial government on Tuesday as there is no requirement for students attend Remembrance Day ceremonies at schools.

Pallister said the move shows a lack of respect for veterans as he pledged to stand by veterans who "bravely stood up for us."

“These are men and women who left family and friends to put themselves in harm’s way.  Many made the ultimate sacrifice.  Asking Manitoba students to spend an hour of their time is a small price to pay for the freedoms too many take for granted,” said Pallister in a statement. 

“It is our duty as citizens to show our respect to those who’ve given us the priceless gifts we enjoy today. Life, liberty and freedom are ours because young men and women were prepared to give up their lives to fight for those principles."

Last week, Premier Greg Selinger said that allowing students to opt out of Remembrance Day services is a matter of religious freedom.

The premier said he believes an overwhelming majority of students and families wish to participate in ceremonies that honour and remember Canada's war veterans every year. But he isn't interested in forcing anyone who doesn't want to be there to attend.

"We have religious freedom in Canada and if there's a very specific reason why people, for religious purposes, don't want their children (to attend), that is an option that they have," Selinger said, noting the province has mandated all schools hold Remembrance Day services on or before Nov. 11. "The overwhelming majority of our students will participate now that we require Remembrance Day services to be part of school activities."

Selinger's comments came a day after an official with the St. James-Assiniboia School Division confirmed a couple students had opted out of Remembrance Day ceremonies in recent years.

Veterans expressed disappointment with that position Thursday. On Friday, federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney joined them in objecting to the opt-out clause.

"I find it offensive," Kenney tweeted. "They don't opt out of the freedoms secured by our war dead."

Alberta Premier Alison Redford expressed disappointment Friday about a similar decision made by an Edmonton school board.

"It is our duty to respect and to honour everyone who has made that sacrifice," Redford told reporters.

Bill Knott, a local resident of Portage la Prairie, also gave his thoughts.

"It has nothing to do with religion at all," he said.  "We are remembering the people who keep us safe and free, and that has nothing to do with religion."

-with files from the QMI Agency





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