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Natalie, the 17-year-old girl who was suspended from Stonewall Collegiate yesterday over a rainbow poppy row, has provided an exclusive statement to The Post Millennial with additional details on the controversial situation.
“It all started when teachers, counsellors, and some students said we should wear the rainbow poppy…” She wrote, stating that she disagreed with the decision to change the traditional red-and-black poppy used to honour Canadian veterans during the Remembrance Day holiday. “I typed up papers on a computer, printed them off, and taped them up in the halls.”
The printed papers contained some quotes from news stories and people on social media Natalie had collected of individuals expressing criticism of the rainbow poppy. Natalie says she was just trying to express her beliefs and opinion on the matter.
“As I was putting them up, teachers were taking them down. I watched as they took them to the office and gave them to the secretary.”
Natalie says she went to class, but was called to the office soon after. There, the Principal and Vice Principal—Jason Calissis and Bryce Baldwin—were waiting, and Natalie alleges they began to yell at her and accuse her of posting “hate speech.”
“They accused me of hate speech and endangering the physical safety of the group of individuals [LGBT students].” Natalie says, “They asked me what I was thinking, and I told them everything … I said I was just voicing my beliefs and morals.”
Natalie says the two male administrators continued to accuse her of “hate speech,” and she became so scared at one point that she was on the verge of tears. “I got to the point of almost crying but I didn’t. I had to be the voice for all those families who were greatly disrespected and offended.”
Natalie is the cousin of former federal MP candidate Cyara Bird, who ran on the Conservative Party ticket in the 2019 general election for the Churchill-Keewatinook Aski riding. Bird, a member of the Little Black River First Nation, tells The Post Millennial that there are World War Two veterans in their family.
Upon trying to record the conversation with the Principal and Vice Principal on her cell phone, Natalie says her phone was confiscated and she was suspended until after Remembrance Day.
“So I asked why? Why am I being suspended and punished for expressing my feelings? And they said everybody is entitled to their own beliefs, opinions, and way of life. So I asked, why am I not?”
Natalie says her parents were notified at the end of the suspension order. Her father confirmed that he witnessed her phone being returned to her after he arrived to pick her up, and also confirmed that she is not allowed to return to school until Tuesday. They stated that the exact reason for suspension was “hate speech,” not a specific refusal to wear the rainbow poppy. Bird noted that Natalie’s father is “very proud” of his daughter.
The Post Millennial attempted to reach out to Stonewall Collegiate for comment, but was told they would not provide comments to media, aggressively advising us to “Google” the number for the Superintendent before hanging up. The Interlake School Board Superintendent did not return calls, but a statement issued on the Board’s twitter read that no staff member “mandated” a student wear a rainbow poppy.
They did not comment on the suspensions, or whether a student was suspended for voicing an opinion which rejected the rainbow poppy as a symbol, as in the case of Natalie.
The Royal Canadian Legion official position is that altering the poppy is a sign of disrespect: “The poppy is the sacred symbol of remembrance and should not be defaced in any way.”