Note: The follow-up story, including exclusive comment from one of the girls suspended, can be found here.
The 17-year-old cousin of a former Conservative MP hopeful in the 2019 federal election and her friend have been suspended from Stonewall Collegiate for distributing a poster explaining her rejection of the idea of wearing a rainbow poppy.
Cyara Bird of the Little Black River First Nation, who was on the ballot for the Churchill-Keewatinook Aski riding of northern Manitoba this past election, took to Twitter tonight to express her anger after learning her cousin and another student had both been suspended for “hate speech” after rejecting the idea that rainbow poppies should replace the traditional red-and-black ones worn during their school’s Remembrance Day performance.
The young woman, who is half African-Canadian, asked instead to wear the red-and-black poppy traditional to the festivities, finding the rainbow poppy “disrespectful” to the World War 2 veterans in her family. Upon expressing her opinion, she and another student who shared her sentiment were sent to the principal’s office. According to Bird, the girl’s parents were not notified until after the suspension was applied.
Bird also posted a message from her cousin’s father which read that the young woman had attempted to record the school administrators admonishing her using her cellphone, but that they noticed and confiscated her phone in response.
Speaking to The Post Millennial, Bird said her cousin, Natalie, had attempted to record the suspension orders in her voice memos application, wanting to show her parents what was happening. When the principal saw, her cellphone was “snatched away” and she was told there would be “consequences” if she posted about the suspension on social media or went to the press.
Natalie will not be allowed to return to school until after Remembrance Day.
Bird believes the suspension is unjust, and will negatively impact her cousin’s self-esteem.
“At 17, you are growing into yourself, you are learning to speak out against things you think are wrong.” she says, “What kind of message does this send to a young woman? That they are not supposed to speak out against something they disagree with.”
Rainbow poppies were introduced as a concept in 2016 by some LGBT groups in a push they say is to honour LGBT veterans, but it has caused controversy amongst those who say it is unnecessary, with the red poppy honouring all veterans regardless of sexuality.
Bird, whose grandfather is a World War 2 veteran, expressed frustration at the entire ordeal. “The pride we have because of our grandfather fighting in World War 2 is strong. We all wear poppies. [Natalie] was not opposing wearing one—she just did not want to wear one she felt was disrespectful to the veterans.”
The Post Millennial has reached out to Stonewall Collegiate for confirmation but has not heard back by the time of publication.
Update: The Post Millennial attempted to reach out to Stonewall Collegiate Thursday morning 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. On November 8th, Cyara Bird issued a statement on her Twitter addressing the viral fallout from the coverage of her initial tweets, apologizing that her “words were misconstrued.”
Clarification: This article has been updated to clarify that the student was suspended for distributing a poster that detailed her reasons for rejecting the rainbow poppy. The title has also been amended to make it clearer that the two students were suspended for arguing against the idea of wearing rainbow poppies.