Nova Scotia

Veterans blast decision to drop prayer from Remembrance Day ceremony at C.B. school

Legion members in Sydney Mines, N.S., are upset after Jubilee Elementary School told them they couldn't include a prayer in their Remembrance Day ceremony at the school.

Jubilee Elementary School's administrative staff made the decision to make ceremony more inclusive

Mel Birminghan, left, and Clarence Dawe, right, are upset over Jubilee Elementary School's decision to remove a prayer from the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Sydney Mines, N.S., school. (Brent Kelloway/CBC)

Update, Oct. 31, 2019: Since the publication of this story, the prayer has been reinstated at the school's Remembrance Day ceremony. 

Legion members in Sydney Mines, N.S., are upset after Jubilee Elementary School told them they couldn't include a prayer in their Remembrance Day ceremony at the school.

A Prayer for People of Courage is typically read by a Christian minister during ceremonies and is about peace, protecting people serving in the military and remembering those who have fallen in battle.

Clarence Dawe served in the Canadian Forces in the 1960s and is a former president of the Royal Canadian Legion Nova Scotia Nunavut Command. He said by removing the prayer, they're trying to stop a 92-year tradition.

"Our men and women who fought overseas took prayers every day," said Dawe. "Padres, chaplains followed them right into battle. That's what kept them going."

Dawe said Psalm 23 was recited every day and there would be prayers for their fallen comrades.

Rev. Nick Phillips says the school notified him Tuesday he was no longer needed for the ceremony. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

Mel Birminghan served more than five years in the military and is currently the first vice-president of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 8 in Sydney Mines.

He said they intend to use the prayer as a part of their ceremony, even if it means doing it at the end on the sidewalk outside of the school.

"I can understand the no teaching of religion in school, but to dictate to us, The Royal Canadian Legion, and separate us, the veterans, I think that's truly disrespectful," said Birminghan. "I'm sure every Canadian would agree with me."

Rev. Nick Phillips is the padre of the Branch 8 legion.

"The school called me yesterday morning to inform me that I was certainly welcome to attend their service, but there would be no prayers as they've been told they're not allowed," said Phillips.

Jubilee Elementary School is located in Sydney Mines, N.S. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

Officials from the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional Centre of Education said the decision to take the prayer out of Jubilee's ceremony was made by the school's administrative staff to make the ceremony more inclusive.

Jubilee Elementary School officials could not be reached for comment.

With files from Gary Mansfield

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