Halifax area schools will now be showing their true patriot love for Canada daily.

At their first public meeting of the 2009-10 year, Halifax Regional School Board members voted unanimously last night in favour of a new policy stating the national anthem must be played or sung every day, in every school.

Board staffers developed the policy at the request of the Education Department, a move likely partially sparked by the O Canada controversy started at a New Brunswick elementary school and swept across the country early last year. Principal Erik Millett received hundreds of emails, and even death threats, when news spread he had stopped playing the national anthem every day at his Springfield school based on religious grounds.

Policy co-ordinator Kim Matheson told board members last night during the meeting in Dartmouth most of the municipality’s schools are already playing O Canada daily. “However, it wasn’t all schools.”

The new policy also states students can be exempted from “patriotic exercises where there is a parental/guardian request in writing.” Teachers are required to provide a copy of the official O Canada lyrics to their students, while students are asked to demonstrate “proper etiquette during the playing of the national anthem.”

School board vice-chairman Steve Brine had several questions for staff, including how “proper etiquette” and dignity for students who don’t participate can be ensured at all schools.

Matheson said deciding on “appropriate behaviour during the playing of O Canada” is left to individual schools. But board chairman Irvine Carvery asked staff to have all schools report back on their individual anthem procedures to ensure they’re “being applied consistently across the board.”

District 5 board member David Cameron said the national anthem debate has touched Halifax — he received his first “hate mail” recently from someone who wasn’t impressed with the proposed policy.

“The national anthem is something we should be very proud of,” he said.