Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut February 15, 2017 - 7:00 am

Nunavut community demands morning prayer be allowed in local schools

But Nunavut government says it never banned the practice in the first place

John Arnalukjuak high school is one of three schools in Arviat. Some local residents are upset because they say the GN recently banned the practice of morning prayer in its schools. The territorial government denies that it issued any ban on prayer. (FILE PHOTO)
John Arnalukjuak high school is one of three schools in Arviat. Some local residents are upset because they say the GN recently banned the practice of morning prayer in its schools. The territorial government denies that it issued any ban on prayer. (FILE PHOTO)
Here's a copy of the petition that some Arviat residents have been circulating. The sponsors of the petition do not want to be named publicly.
Here's a copy of the petition that some Arviat residents have been circulating. The sponsors of the petition do not want to be named publicly.

The Government of Nunavut’s education department said it has never restricted the use of prayer in the territory’s schools, despite claims in Arviat that the practice was recently banned.

Some residents of Arviat are circulating a petition asking the education department to “reinstate traditional morning prayer” in the Kivalliq community’s three schools.

A group of individuals who signed the petition and are sending it around to others say they weren’t consulted before a decision was made to take prayers out of the schools.

“The Lord’s Prayer is the closest prayer that expresses our innermost feelings and needs that we want our children to have as a foundation to learn,” reads the document, which is still making the rounds in the community of about 2,600 people.

“The majority of residents of Arviat practice prayer in all occasions and in all places.”

Signatories of the petition contacted by Nunatsiaq News declined to be interviewed.

But a spokesperson for Nunavut’s education department said it issued no such direction in Arviat or anywhere else in the territory.

“Prayers are something that most of us who have been in Nunavut for some amount of time understand is deeply intertwined in the culture,” said the department’s assistant deputy minister, John MacDonald.

“That’s something we’ve seen in practice for many years.”

To that end, many public government meetings open with prayer, including meetings of Nunavut’s Legislative Assembly and Iqaluit City Council.

The territorial government does not have a policy on prayer in public institutions, nor has the education department ever asked a school to stop the practice of reciting prayer, MacDonald said.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right to freedom of religion. In the case of prayers recited in public institutions such as schools, non-religious or non-Christian Canadians have used the charter to argue that public prayer infringes on their rights.

While the territory’s education department hasn’t intervened on any schools’ prayer practices, MacDonald said the department has issued informal communications to schools in recent years, asking the administration to be sensitive to religious diversity.

“We try to remind people that we have a publicly operated and publicly funded school system and we want to be as welcoming as possible,” he said.

Although the education department has yet to hear from concerned parents in Arviat, MacDonald said the petition may have been launched in response to that communication.

The place of religion within the territory’s schools may also have been raised in discussions over changes to Nunavut’s Education Act, as part of community consultations, he said.

Schools in the territory aren’t permitted to host any devotional or doctrinal studies focused on one religion, although a local district education authority could approve that as an extra curricular activity hosted at the school.

Mary Thompson, chair of the Arviat District Education Authority, said she was aware of the petition, although the issue hasn’t yet been brought forward to the DEA for discussion.

Thompson couldn’t say whether students at any of Arviat’s three schools have been reciting morning prayers.

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(38) Comments:

#1. Posted by Mr. T on February 15, 2017


Absolutely not.

“Thank the Lord?  That sounded like a prayer.  A prayer in a public school!  God has no place within these walls, just like facts don’t have a place within an organized religion”  -  Superintendent Chalmers

“I don’t have an issue with what you do in the church, but I’m going to be up in your face if you’re going to knock on my science classroom and tell me they’ve got to teach what you’re teaching in your Sunday school.  Because that’s when we’re gonna fight.”  -  Neil deGrasse Tyson

#2. Posted by No Way on February 15, 2017

Religion has no place in a learning facility. If you want to pray is school start a religious school like anywhere else in Canada.

Religion is one of the biggest hindrances to education throughout time. Repressing actual fact because it doesn’t jive with your book that says a man on a cloud in the sky did it.

#3. Posted by Uni. on February 15, 2017

If there’s a moment of silence that allows students to pray to whichever Deity they worship, or for atheist children to use as a moment of reflection, I’m personally fine with that.
But if it’s clearly one religion being worshipped then there’s a problem, no matter which religion it is.

#4. Posted by Supernatural on February 15, 2017

The supernatural, and make believe. Don’t forget to tell the children about the big bearded man up there in the sky, that is watching , and can sent them to hell if they don’t behave well. And not only behave well, but behave in such a way as to please that old bearded guy.  Ridiculous that people have this make belief in their life. And for what? It’s not like they are good people because of that make believe stuff. Look at the trouble among the Inuit society today. You think that prayer would at least help. Stop this foolishness. Do Inuit have to embrace that foolishness told to them by the same church people that have caused so much abuse. Wake up.

#5. Posted by dudley do right on February 15, 2017

If a student wishes to say a prayer when he or she sits down to have lunch, they have the right to do it.

#6. Posted by One step forward on February 15, 2017

Wow, such hatred, judgement and entitlement coming from posters 1 to 4.  God bless you in your journey to love and be tolerant of others who are different from you.

#7. Posted by looking up from the bottom on February 15, 2017

isn’t that a little like dicatorship? forcing someone to go along with something someone else believes in? i agree with number 3, a moment to reflect, rather then god, the devil and all the halabaluuuza that go along with it being shoved down your throat.

#8. Posted by looking up from the bottom on February 15, 2017

anyway, religion, being born again christian, anglican’s… this wasn’t inuit tradition…. it was forced on our ancestor’s. a scared tactic… it was business

#9. Posted by concerned on February 15, 2017

“Traditional” is not a term that would seem inappropriate for an adopted European religion that has been practiced between 50 and 100 years by some Inuit.

At that 50 is likely a more accurate estimate as in the early years of colonisation Inuit practiced traditional beliefs in secret alongside this colonial religion.

Although this colonial religion, recently adopted when viewed from the perspective of the grand history of the north, appears to have been successful in eliminating the traditional Inuit belief systems from present day it does not support calling it “traditional”.

Those who have adopted this colonial should feel free to teach their children in their homes and their places of worship prayers.

Schools would do better to educate Inuit children about the traditional Inuit beliefs and practices, not to convert them, but to educate them as to the full history of their people.

#10. Posted by qavvigarjjuk on February 15, 2017

Canadians are a multicultural society and Canadians practice a diversity of beliefs. One religion should not be forced upon everyone in schools.  If you want to practice certain religious beleifs then open schools specifically for those beliefs.  Do not force your beliefs upon others as in public schools.

#11. Posted by No to your imaginary friend on February 15, 2017

It might not have been banned, but it should be. As a society we really need to evolve beyond this.

#12. Posted by Simionie Akavak on February 15, 2017

I suppose, they do not mind, if Judaism, all sects of Christian Churches and along with Islamic prayers be recited at their school too.

#13. Posted by Atheist on February 15, 2017

#12 No, you’ve either missed the point or are willfully ignoring it so you can feel sorry for yourself.

So, which is it?

#6 You are right, there is a lot of angst against Christianity out there. many of us have been abused over the years by the followers of your imaginary friend in the sky.

#14. Posted by Chris on February 15, 2017

What if there is a family who is not Christian but Muslim or Jewish? Would they have to be forced to pray as a Christian? 
What about if a Inuk is working at reclaiming their traditions and beliefs? Would they have to be force to listen at school?

#15. Posted by Lori Cameron on February 15, 2017

My heart breaks to read of all the pain and suffering that is evident here, pain from those who were harmed in the name of God and now blame God.  And that is how evil works-twist the blame that belongs to people who did terrible things in the name of God, God gets the bad reputation, people stop relying on God for help, and chaos reigns.  And the controversy wont stop for prayer in public places; as Believers we must accept that our ways are not universally accepted, and that we cannot force our ways on anyone.  God does not want to force anyone-He is the biggest Believer in free will.  Much prayer is needed to heal the wounds.

#16. Posted by bob on February 15, 2017

I have my own differing views on this subject matter but I can’t get over some peoples mean/belittling and self-righteous comments. It is possible to express your views but to automatically show a lot of anger and intolerance to other people is Trump like behavior.

Why? #4 calls ppl of faith foolish and that their beliefs are ridiculous. Not that these people of faith are fools but I’d sooner hang out with a fool than a person with no respect.

And #9? Who are you to define numerically as to what dictates a tradition? 50 years according to you is what makes something traditional. Where does that come from? Tradition is something that people self identify as doing. Good or bad people have embraced this and it is now part of the culture, part of tradition. Who are you to tell them otherwise?

#17. Posted by Give it a rest, please on February 15, 2017

I’m an atheist, pure and simple. Always have been, always will be.

But all this mockery and all these attacks on people who believe in religions is way, way over the top and getting really old and tiresome. They have the right to religious freedom. Show some respect for that right.

So give it up. Give it a rest. We get it already. I got it maybe 40 years ago and I don’t need to hear it constantly from self-important blowhards who think they invented the idea of atheism.

Besides, its actually irrelevant to what this article is about in the first place, which is GN school policies.

#18. Posted by amen on February 15, 2017

Our children are the blessings from God if you believe it or not, so if our child wishes to say a morning prayer in a public place they have a right to do so, under our Canadian Gov’t charter of rights.

Also, if you don’t believe in God, Jesus, Moses, Baal or whom ever. Don’t pray! simple as that!

The majority of citizens of this community has faith in God, so the prayer is a go!

#19. Posted by Go ahead on February 15, 2017

Maybe let the children choose which they would want to do, self reflect, pray or a minute to be thankful rather than labelling it as a prayer? It’s a good idea to start off the day with something positive, if we want healthy children, right? This also gives the chance to show diversity within Canada. Point out concerns, look for solutions and communicate rather than complain.

#20. Posted by GOD'S NOT DEAD! on February 15, 2017

Thank God we live in a country where we can express our thoughts and beliefs without being killed or arrested and tortured. Count our blessings or for some your lucky stars.
Beliefs (avoided using religions) have always influenced how our world has evolved. Many have been killed and tortured for the sake of beliefs. What ever happens I pray will help our children and ourselves find our destinies when they/we die. Books of God(s) have always taught to love and to be patient with one another among other positive traits/character.
Would like to close with something I read before called the “The Wise Fool”. Skeptical Bible commentary and Bible summaries. ” Although they claimed to be wise, they become fools…”

#21. Posted by George on February 15, 2017

The petition organizers are under the impression that this was banned when it wasn’t. It’s a whole lot of time and energy towards a ban that doesn’t exist.
MacDonald is very careful and precise in expressing the views of the Government. The GN does not have a policy against religious activities in schools. People in Arviat are free to express their religion in schools as stated in the Charter BUT only if no other groups or individuals complain. The Charter clearly outlines those rights but the freedom to religion includes the freedom FROM religion. Meaning that people are free to have a morning prayer but as soon as say an atheist, Muslim, Buddist, etc. doesn’t want to be exposed to it and lets that issue be known, then it can’t be done anymore. I don’t know if MacDonald’s point was clear enough, perhaps he could have explained a little clearer but that’s the bulk of the message from him.

#22. Posted by Uni. on February 15, 2017

#6, how exactly am I being hateful, judgmental or entitled?
I said everyone can worship if they wish and if they don’t no one should force them to.

#23. Posted by lets have a look on February 15, 2017

I wonder if someone checked the list of people who signed the petition to see if they actually send their kids to school????? understanding that Arviat has dismal attendance records should that not be the issue of the day??? should the parents who make the effort to get their kids to school, so they have an actual future, sign a petition complaining about the parents who make NO effort to send their kids to school and has sent the whole system in chaos??? lets pray about that!!!!!

#24. Posted by Chris on February 15, 2017

#18 that includes all religions,not just Christianity.
Are you prepared to also include other religions in that school? Under the Charter of Rights you would have to also include other religions.

For the ones pushing for prayers at this school, you have been taught one kind of religion, there are other religions out there and if they are in your community they have that right too for their prayers in school too.

#25. Posted by Eskimo on February 15, 2017

Eskimo: “If I did not know about god and sin, would i go to hell?”
Priest: “No, not if you did not know.”
Eskimo: “Then why did you tell me?”

#26. Posted by North on February 15, 2017

How about take something that really matters like the fact Arviat graduates less students then communities like Rankin and Baker even tho they are bigger.

1000 kids registered and only less than 20 even 15 kids graduate.

50 per cent attendance even in Kindergarten the middle school is around 40 per cent and the high school not unheard of to have three kids in a class.

What really matters the prayer or your child’s education. Arviat is stuck in the past and will continue to be until they put the classroom first and supporting their teachers. Rather than worrying about doing the Lord’s Prayer smh

#27. Posted by Good News! on February 15, 2017

Prayer in school and how to respond to this kind of petition is a difficult question, with all the Charter implications, etc.

But I don’t think it needs to be in the case of Christians. 

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, and very clearly, that you shouldn’t make a big show of praying. On the contrary, you should do it in private. I’d say having all the children in a school reciting a prayer at the same time as an organized activity is making a big show of it. It’s the opposite of private.

So why is this so hard? Do Christians seriously debate this when Jesus was so clear?

Don’t believe me? Check the good book.

#28. Posted by Jim Beaner on February 15, 2017

The DEA in Nunavut communities are the authority under the Education Act and they make policies at the community level for the schools in their jurisdiction. If the GN and Minister had made such a ban it would have been widely publicized as a policy for all schools in Nunavut, not just for Arviat. It is highly improbable that the Minister and Dept of Education are out there making these types of one off decisions for each community. The DEA has the authority in any event to change or remove or make policy that the majority of parents want for the school. Go talk with your DEA they are their to help you.

While you seem to have plenty of time and energy on your hands, maybe think about using that time and energy in a more constructive manner for your community and your school and the students, maybe put on a program or after school activity that will help give the students a better outlook on life and their future.

#29. Posted by dudley do right on February 15, 2017

There already is plenty of praying in school, how many have prayed before a test to God, hoping to do well? you all have. I rest my case.

#30. Posted by Inu on February 15, 2017

NO! This will only be used to belittle and abuse young kids , it will only make things worst for the kids here in my area . You see I’m in Nunavut , it’s like 50/50 here only because that 50/ part is orinigally from here and other /50 are from other parts of this land because of that , that /50 is never given a chance to do anything on anything I mean anything. And they are always looked at as evil people because they know little about bible but never given a chance to learn it . Religion is always used to belittle people , eg. one time I heard Inuit teacher telling her student that god is watching them and they are going to hell if they don’t listen . It’s redicilous!

#31. Posted by Crystal Clarity on February 15, 2017

The Supreme Court already ruled on this issue. It is unconstitutional for public institutions to allow any type of religious prayers because public institutions must remain neutral under the constitution including public schools, Town/Hamlet Councils, Legislative Assembly, Public Meetings etc…. The department of education has retained told some schools to cease saying the Lord’s Prayer but the Legislative Assembly, Hamlet Councils etc… seem to do as they please. But what they are doing is unconstitutional.

#32. Posted by That Guy on February 15, 2017

Why not bring back the residential schools? Same thing really.

#33. Posted by That Guy on February 15, 2017

At least with the residential schools, you will also have an impact on the housing crisis Nunavut is facing today.

#34. Posted by Eskimo 3.14 on February 16, 2017

Bless your heart Arviat, you deserve everything coming to you.

#35. Posted by Inuk Atheist on February 16, 2017

Christianity is not Inuit way of thinking…those who worship a Jewish God are mistaken. Did any of our ancestors live in Jerusalem? Or Bethlehem? I’m sure all these people couldn’t even point out Jerusalem on a map. It’s THEIR religion and it was FORCED onto us by Missionaires. And look at you Inuit, forcing it onto your kids. Talk about colonizing their minds with non-sense! It makes me sick when you see soo many Inuit named Jonas, John, Rachel, Lazarus. Were these the names of our Ancestors? Nope! They had beautiful, very powerful names, but they hardly don’t exist anymore because Christian religion has completly taken over people’s minds. Let’s get back to our old ways, let’s speak Inuktitut and give our Inuit kids Inuit names. Is that too hard to understand?

#36. Posted by European Canadian Atheist on February 16, 2017

I agree wholeheartedly with you #35

I can also testify that the same process of mental colonization (or, mental slavery) also took place across Europe, mostly with the spread of the Roman Empire post-Constantine. Our ancestors also held shamanistic, pagan beliefs. These were eradicated by the church, often by the use of violence.

It saddens me to see the same thing happening today to Inuit.

#37. Posted by monty sling on February 16, 2017

34 see the beginning of charter of rights…

#38. Posted by Nietzsche on February 17, 2017

If God didn’t exist it would be necessary to invent him.

If God isn’t dead, it would be necessary to kill him.

Amen to that.

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