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MONTREAL, NOVEMBER 23, 2009-     The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) marked Remembrance Day with activities and ceremonies in and around the date of Nov. 11.

John Paul I Junior High School  and Laurier Macdonald High School, both in St. Léonard,  held special Remembrance Day ceremonies on Nov. 10.

At John Paul I, students and staff marked and honoured the 65th anniversary of the Canadian Forces involvement in the Italian Campaign of World War II . The ceremony was put together by and for the students and staff of the school. Students played an active role in the writing the trilingual program.  Three students assisted Spiritual Animator Rocco  Speranza as emcees. They created an interior cenotaph with a seven food wooden sculpture of the country of Italia, with black and white artwork on it. Saverio Biunno and Nevio Marzinotto carried out the work on the cenotaph and played a key role in the ceremony and project.

Canadian and Italian veterans from World War II were present to mark and take part in the ceremony. Federal Minister of Veterans Affairs Greg Thompson, Deputy Minister Susan Tinnings and United States Consul General Lee McClenny were in attendance..
A musical component was an important part of the ceremony. The school
choir sang the national anthems of Canada, Italy and America  In addition the choir performed In Flanders Fields to the delight of the veterans and guests. Formers student Alexandra Barrasso also performed her rendition of In Flanders Field, which she wrote the instrumentalfor as well. Upon the conclusion of the ceremony, Minister Thompson, Principal Liboria D’Amato  and Mr. Speranza presented medals and certificates to veterans. The medal was created specifically for this special occasion.

The school has put into place a one year project with the aim of sensitizing the youth of their duty to remember. The project is entitled The Spirit of Remembering; The 65th  anniversary of The Italian Campaign. Plenty of activities and projects are organized with and for the students through May 2010. The emphasis placed on these activities will be to sensitize the youth to their roots and the strengthening of generations and veterans
relationships. “Over the school year we aim to ensure the active participation of youth
with the organization and animation of the project,” said Mr. Speranza.

Meanwhile, at Laurier Macdonald a series of interviews with war veterans were conducted in the early fall and later screened for students. Towards the end of October students from Laurier Macdonald conducted   sit-down interviews with some Canadian war veterans. Their topics were WWII, the Holocaust, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Afghanistan.  The interviews were presented in the school cafeteria.  Secondary V IBO (International Baccalaureate Organization) students  from LMAC,  with the help of Spiritual Community Animator Vince Lacroce, travelled to Dalkeith, Dante and General Vanier elementary schools for  special Remembrance Day commemorations with the cycle two and three students from these schools. These senior students   created a presentation that described the lives of their family members during World War II and how they fought for their freedom and struggled in an unfamiliar land called  Canada.  These students will be accompanied by three  Canadian War Veterans and three peacekeepers who will share with the students their heartfelt testimonies and memories of their lives during war. 

At LaurenHill Academy in St.  Laurent, English teacher Gail Ewing recited  John McRae’s poem “Flanders Field.” There were visuals of the Canadian men and women who have died in Afghanistan. At one point during the  ceremonies a large crack was heard through the auditorium – a result of computer interference with the sound system! Sergeant Adelman, aged 85, was heard to say, “What are they still shooting at me?” His simple and challenging speech  reminded students to strive for a goal and never give up as did  his humorous anecdote on how to capture the enemy. “Undo their trousers and have them keep them up with their hands!” he stated  “We found a way to win a war. Your enemy can’t fight you with their trousers down!” Over 450 senior students and 600 junior campus students heard, pondered and participated in this year’s memorable Remembrance Day assemblies.

The Grades 5 and 6  students of Bancroft Elementary School in the Plateau were honoured to represent their school at the Black Watch Remembrance Day Parade on  Nov. 11  The students were proud to meet the heroic war veterans, not only from Afghanistan, but from WWII and the Korean War. The children found that watching the soldiers prepare for the march was a moving experience and as they stood in silence, the sounds of the canons firing in the background they felt truly grateful for the freedom and sacrifice these soldiers have given them. Two students proudly deposited a wreath to represent Bancroft School and in appreciation the Black Watch presented Bancroft School with a certificate.  Spiritual Community Animator Gerry Wesphal, organized the program.

Students at Carlyle Elementary School in T.M.R.  participated in a march and wore poppies to remember the sacrifices of those who fought for the rights and freedom of  society.   In this year’s annual commemoration, Carlyle had the privilege of taking part in the Black Watch Royal Highland Regiment’s Remembrance Day March.   Carlyle students held a banner, took part in the laying of the wreath and marched down to McGill from the Black Watch. The ceremony took place outside of the McGill campus.  As hundreds of spectators watched, the soldiers marched to the site while Carlyle students and other participants followed.   The spectators watched silently and the soldiers stood motionless as the pipers played their bagpipes.    Then suddenly the sound of a cannon exploded into the air, surprising the crowd. A chosen student stood in line waiting to place the wreath in front of the cross. As Carlyle students waited, they met Mayor, Gerald Tremblay.

In honour of Remembrance Day, James Lyng High School Secondary IV students also had the privilege of marching with the Montreal Black Watch in the parade downtown, as well as watching the ceremony at the McGill University campus. This memorable experience was organized by Spiritual Animator Veronica D’Agata.  “Both staff and students felt so very proud to be Canadian and all will always remember the sacrifices our soldiers have and continue to make every day in order for us to live in peace and freedom,” said Ms. D’Agata.

Elizabeth and Venture Alternative High Schools in Ville Émard  commemorated Remembrance Day with guest speaker Col. B.J. Finestone, a World War II Canadian Armed Forces veteran, who recounted his experience as Battle Captain leading several tank detachments during the war. Col. Finestone’s wisdom taught the students how terrible war can be, and how he will never forget his fallen soldiers. Vezina welcomed Master Corporal André Simard from the Canadian Forces. He gave the students a brief history of the wars, explained the symbolism of the poppy, as well as the importance to why we should stop and remember all the fallen soldiers.   

St-Gabriel Elementary School in Point St. Charles held a Remembrance Day assembly lead by Ms. D’Agata. A few “Spirit Club” members read poetry, reflections, and prayers - all with the important message to be peacemakers in their everyday lives. In addition, special guest speaker Roger Agnessi, president of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 127,  spoke to the students on how they have the power to help bring forth a more peaceful world through their own actions and contributions.

Also a St. Gabriel, the Grades 5 and 6  students had a visit from Corporal Matt Ramsey  of the Black Watch, who has recently returned from duty in Afghanistan. He showed the students pictures and videos from his tour and explained what he learned and how he felt. He then escorted the students to their first Remembrance Day ceremony at McGill University, where they had the opportunity to speak with other veterans.

In light of Remembrance Day, Ms. D’Agata visited classrooms within St.Gabriel and Coronation elementary schools to discuss the virtue of peace – what it is and how to practice it in their everyday lives. As a final activity, each student got to find their inner peace through yoga and meditation. The children found it quite amusing to try to keep their balance during the different yoga positions, and many were relaxed after meditation (much to the delight of their teachers.

At Royal Vale in N.D.G, Col. Finestone talked to students about his role in WWII as an Allied Tank Commander during the Italian Campaign.  His message to students was that the freedom and rights that they enjoy today as young people is due in part to the sacrifice of Veterans.

Marymount Academy in N.D.G. held a  Remembrance Day program via the public address system. It focused on the role of young people who went off to war, not so much older than the students themselves, in defense of freedom and rights for all.  Most inspirational was a dramatic reading and explanation of "In Flanders Fields" done by teacher Chris Phelan and student volunteers.

Students from John Grant High School in Côte Saint-Luc and Programme Mile End Alternative High School had visits to the Montreal Holocaust Museum.  Special emphasis was placed on the hope and survival of the children of the Jewish Ghettos.  Also a special focus placed on the children of Holocaust survivors who, in the name of human and children’s rights, keep the memory alive for future generations.


Michael J. Cohen
Communications and Marketing Specialist
English Montreal School Board
Tel: (514) 483-7200 ext. 7243
Fax: (514) 483-7213