Days after a school superintendent ordered the national anthem back into Belleisle Elementary, a member of the local parents committee in the southern New Brunswick town is criticizing the decision for damaging the school's welcoming atmosphere.
Kelly Cooper, the vice-chair of the Parent School Support Committee at Belleisle Elementary, said the anthem controversy that erupted last week subjected the school and its principal to unfair hostility and created an "us-against-them" mentality in the community.
"We all have our reasons to sing or not sing the anthem. But for me this is about how do we treat the people who are different in our community," Cooper said.
"How do we treat the people who disagree with us? Do we respect them, listen to their point of view, or does the majority say, 'We're the majority, too bad for you and we've got rights.' That doesn't make me feel very comfortable."
Cooper said the welcoming environment at Belleisle Elementary has been damaged because of the anthem debate.That is the kind of Canada a lot of us want, where the Kelly Coopers of the world prevail, not those who want to enshrine anthem playing into law in order to claim some patriotic mantle. The Conservative MPs who injected a national political lens on this situation have won. Congratulations.
She said she would rather her two daughters miss out on the daily singing of O Canada than have other students feel excluded for a length of time each day.
The Belleisle Creek mother said the divisions created by the debate have altered the close-knit atmosphere in the rural school.
"Two weeks ago that's what we had, a school where parents felt like a community. It was a warm place," she said. "Now we have division, but we have the anthem every day. And I hope the people who wanted the anthem every day feel that it's worth it." (emphasis added)