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Opinion, Dave Dale: Belting out the anthem

'As the Maple Leaf was waved to the rhythm of our national anthem, I was flashing back to the recent public social media debate about it being inappropriate for school board meetings'
Canada day liam 1 2016
BayToday file photo

There was a measure of patriotic pride welling up within me as the Canadian junior hockey team beat the United States Wednesday night.

It was a great contest between two celebrated rivals as the ‘good guys’ stormed back from a 2-0 deficit to earn a berth in the World Junior Ice Hockey gold medal game against Czechia.

I’d say it was almost as good as the white-knuckle 4-3 overtime quarterfinal win over Slovakia. Connor Bedard is obviously the biggest star but goalie Thomas Milic is next in line for accolades, especially after stone-walling the Yankee attempts to extend their early lead and then again while trying to rally back.

Never a big fan of our southern neighbours, it’s probably unhealthy to feel so good beating them.

The only thing that would make it even better would be seeing goalie Ben Gaudreau, of Corbeil, in the blue paint providing the heroics but it’s nice to know we have an experienced game-changer as backup. (By the way, for those who wonder how North Bay and area produce such great goalies, I credit the lack of focus on defence lol).

As the Maple Leaf was waved to the rhythm of our national anthem, I was flashing back to the recent public social media debate about it being inappropriate for school board meetings. I also recalled my elementary days in Pittsburgh where from Grade 3 through Grade 6 I was required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and sing the Star Spangled Banner daily.

It made me think of where I stand on the issue and why.

Public schools in Ontario are required to play at least the anthem music at the start of the day, but this issue was raised regarding board meetings where it wasn’t being played. One of the trustees had put forward a motion to start playing the anthem at board meetings but it was voted down after discussion.

At the heart of the dissenting opinion, the Indigenous representatives and board chair Erika Lougheed noted that it wasn’t a welcome addition to the school business proceedings. They said the anthem represents Canada’s use of forced assimilation strategies, including the Residential School system, which is now recognized as genocidal. It serves to perpetuate the colonialism of this land, they said.

I believe the Near North board was right to vote down the motion and not add the anthem to meeting procedures – just like the city of North Bay doesn’t start its business dealings with the anthem.

I’m actually leaning against having the anthem played at the schools either, although some have addressed the reconciliation efforts by blending Indigenous voices into the procedure to broaden its educational opportunity.

I’m also not an enthusiastic supporter of public prayer before meetings or events. Even when it is voluntary and non-denominational, it still mixes religion into governance and education when not everybody is on the same page. That said, I’ve witnessed how Indigenous prayer and smudging before contentious meetings bring out the best in those involved. I’m sure there is also some of that for those who pray to the Christian god.

As stated in previous columns, I’m far from a monarchist and hope to see that dictate of fealty deleted soon, so my views are definitely mixed and not of the majority it seems.

The real issue, though, is exactly how far are we going to go to avoid the sensitivity of minority opinions or groups. It’s a broader conversation that gets very emotional and political, as well as social. I’m leaning toward the position that it’s not helpful in the long run to address every hurt by avoidance instead of using incidences as learning opportunities for all while bolstering resilience and individual esteem-founding mechanism.

Do we really need an anthem played at any event?

Is nationalism necessary?

And should minority views always hold the majority hostage?

I started a conversation with a friend about it and they shut it down at the outset by saying they are not in support of Hockey Canada due to its handling of sexual assault allegations.

Truth be told, I’m not certain where I stand on nationalism these days after seeing how it’s been weaponized by various factions.

But I’ll be full of Canadian pride if our team wins gold tonight and I’ll keep the broadcast playing during the anthem because it feels good. I’m sorry if that offends anyone, I respect that others have a different perspective.

Dave Dale is a veteran journalist and columnist who has covered the North Bay area for more than 30 years. Reader responses meant as Letters to the Editor can be sent to [email protected]. Contact the writer directly, email: [email protected] or check out his website