Vancouver father hopes to end mindfulness sessions at elementary school

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WATCH: The ‘Mindfulness” program at Elsie Roy Elementary School has students stop what they are doing a couple of times a day and practise some quiet meditation. But as Ted Chernecki reports, one father wants to see the program stopped – Oct 4, 2016

A Vancouver man has launched a campaign to have mindfulness sessions eliminated from his child’s school.

Ray Chwartkowski wants other parents to know what’s going on at Elsie Roy Elementary and an increasing number of other schools that offer daily mindfulness sessions for young students.

“I think there’s components to the mindfulness program that involve Buddhist meditation and guided meditation so in that regard, legislated mindfulness is actually legislated meditation,” he said. “And legislated meditation is not lawful in Canada.”

Other parents at the school think he should just take a deep breath and relax.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about mindfulness, the latest wellness trend

“I don’t look at it as Buddhism or religious at all,” one parent said. “I think it’s just being mindful.”

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The VSB did send a letter suggesting the program is purely secular and does not involve meditation. But there is a poster inside the school encouraging kids to take an after-school class that involves “yoga, dance and meditation.”

Mindfulness techniques have grown in popularity in recent years and have been adopted by the U.S. Marines, pro athletes and Silicon Valley tech firms.

It has also popped up in schools. A school in Montreal has taught mindfulness as a means to help kids focus.

“It helps develop a greater sense of self-awareness, so you’re going to be jumping less from one crisis to another and one distraction,” Dr. Joe Flanders, a Montreal psychologist, said. “It helps us make better decisions about how to take care of ourselves.”

READ MORE: Young Minds: Stress, anxiety plaguing Canadian youth

Advocates say the physical benefits of mindfulness are proven by a growing body of science. Studies indicate mindfulness practice reduces stress as well as the symptoms of certain diseases and conditions.

Chwartkowski said the ends don’t justify the means.

“Positive effects could be found with all sorts of things,” he said. “The school could introduce blood platelet replacement therapy or B-12 shots or even hypnosis. But none of those things, as it stands right now, are ethical or moral to have legislated in Canadian public schools.”

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– With files from Ted Chernecki, Gloria Henriquez and The Associated Press

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