I can remain silent on this issue no longer. Those of you who live in Canada have probably seen this news, for you others, here’s the story. Basically, about a year ago, the principal of a small school here in New Brunswick was asked by a couple of parents if they could stop playing O Canada in the classrooms first thing every morning. It seems that, for religious reasons, their children were uncomfortable with it. So the principal complied, and reserved the playing of the national anthem to school assemblies and the like.
Then, last month, some other parents found out about this, and all hell broke loose. The principal started getting hate mail, radio call-in shows were swamped, letters were written to editors, and finally the provincial minister of education stepped in and drafted legislation that the tune must be played every morning in all NB schools.
I’m not even going to bother sharing my opinion of which side is right, mostly because neither is. Those who think they are being patriotic are actually betraying the basic principles upon which our country is founded: tolerance and freedom. And those who think we should bow to the religious beliefs of a tiny minority of the school population should be asking themselves, “What kind of religion says it’s wrong to listen to a song?”
The patriots should chill, and ensure that students are taught the sacrifices of those who have fought and died to protect us and how fortunate we are to live here – taught in lessons rather than having to endure a scratchy PA version of the same song every day for 12 years. And the people who think the principal did right have to think about where the line should be drawn: what if a student’s religion requires them to flagellate themselves every day at noon? Or slaughter a lamb?
All this is actually leading to a marketing lesson: I have observed that on many hotly debated issues like this one – another perfect example is Québec sovereignty – 90% of the population couldn’t care less. But it’s the 5% pro and 5% anti that go at it tooth and nail, and it’s THEIR voices that get heard and amplified. So if you want YOUR message to get spread, you need to engage the zealots, not the masses.