Manitoba students can opt out of Remembrance Day ceremonies

The tomb on The Unknown Soldier is seen at the National War Monument in Ottawa, Nov 9, 2012. (Andre...

The tomb on The Unknown Soldier is seen at the National War Monument in Ottawa, Nov 9, 2012. (Andre Forget/QMI Agency)

Kevin Engstrom, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:59 PM ET

WINNIPEG - Allowing students to opt out of Remembrance Day services is a matter of religious freedom, Premier Greg Selinger says.

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. Officials with other Winnipeg-area school divisions said they couldn't recall any cases under their watch, but they'd likely allow any student to opt out if they objected to attending a school service.

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.

— With files from Joyanne Pursaga


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