Nova Scotia

Santa given heave-ho-ho-ho from Cape Breton school during work-to-rule

A group of volunteer firefighters, including one dressed as Santa Claus, was asked to leave an elementary school in Scotchtown Monday because they were told they were violating work-to-rule job action by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union.

Fire department volunteer dressed as Santa asked to leave after visiting a few classes Monday

The Scotchtown Fire Department has been bringing Santa to the school for longer than any current firefighters can remember. (Shutterstock/RTimages)

The Christmas spirit took a hit in one Cape Breton elementary school Monday when Santa Claus and a group of volunteer firefighters were told to leave because their annual visit violated work-to-rule job action.

Raymond Eksal, chief of the Scotchtown Fire Department, said the department has been visiting Greenfield Elementary with "Santa" the week before Christmas every year for more than half a century. 

"I don't understand it," said Eksal. "We weren't putting any requirements on the teachers."

Asked to leave after 20 minutes

Eksal said volunteers did not have an appointment when they showed up at the school Monday around 9 a.m.

"We never had to ask for an official appointment to show up with Santa Claus, so we didn't bother," said Eksal. "We showed up at the school as we always do." 

Santa and the fire department volunteers were invited in and began handing out candy canes and chatting with students.

After about 20 minutes, Eksal said the school's principal asked them to leave because the visit was violating the terms of work-to-rule job action the NSTU began Dec. 5. 

'Unfortunate' incident

Eksal said he was "very disappointed" in the decision. 

"We don't take sides," Eksal said. "We understand that they have negotiations, they have reasons for what they're doing but it's just a shame that the kids are the ones that have to suffer."

The president of the local NSTU, Sally Capstick, called the incident "unfortunate." She said under work-to-rule, guest speakers — even Santa Claus — aren't allowed.

"We just teach," explained Capstick. "So that eliminates things like parties and visits from Santa, it eliminates people going in to read, it eliminates a whole lot of those other things."

Capstick said if they allowed one school to have visits from Santa they would have to allow them all to have special visits.

"This is unbelievably difficult when you've got teachers calling you up and crying because this is putting them in a situation that they don't want to be in," said Capstick. "But that's the lines that were drawn."

Eksal said he hopes the fire department will continue the tradition next year.

About the Author

Stephanie vanKampen

Videojournalist

Stephanie vanKampen is a videojournalist with the CBC News in Prince Edward Island. Send story ideas to stephanie.vankampen @cbc.ca

With files from Mainstreet

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