Art en Rick Boon “We kwamen Frankrijk binnen op D-day en trokken helemaal hierheen. Na de oorlog waren we in Zwolle en toen gingen we hier naar Sneek, waar we moesten wachten om te worden gerepatrieerd. Ik koos ervoor om te blijven. In Canada had ik al hockey gespeeld en hier kwam ik in het regimentsteam en de Brigade Allstars. Ik weet nog dat we eens in Amsterdam speelden voor fondsenwerving. Ik had geen haast, op 20 juni 1946 ging ik pas naar Canada.” Arthur Boon is zowaar een celebrity geworden in Canada nadat in 2015 zijn opkomende trip naar Leeuwarden media-breed de aandacht trok. Art wilde samen met zijn zoon Rick, geschiedenisleraar in Stratford, Ontario, de reis naar Leeuwarden maken. Rick heeft zijn vader, die als veteraan op veel scholen spreekt, vaker begeleid. Maar in 2015 leek er een kink in de kabel te komen. Rick mocht geen onbetaald verlof nemen vanwege strakke verlofregels. Canadase zangeres en tevens honorary colonel van de Canadese Luchtmacht Loreena McKennitt hoorde hiervan en probeerde de school op andere gedachten te brengen, tevergeefs. Er werd een petitie gestart welke door maar liefst 17.000 Canadezen ondertekend werden. Een minister keurde de bureaucratische opstelling van de school af. Pas vrijdagochtend, een paar uur voor vertrek, kwam er toestemming. Onbetaald verlof staat de school niet toe, maar de leraar is de hele week niet ingeroosterd.

Art Boon fought on the beaches at Normandy on D-Day and kept fighting through to the end of the Second World War. Seven decades later, a prominent citizen is taking up his cause.

Boon is a 90-year-old veteran. He was invited to the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Holland celebrations in May by the Dutch government.

Boon hadn't planned to go to Holland this year, he attended the D-Day ceremonies in France last year and thought maybe that would be his last time in Europe. His wife is ailing and it's a taxing trip. But when he got the invitation, which includes a companion, he regarded it as a privilege and agreed to attend.

The trip has since hit a hurdle. His son Rick, a history teacher, requested an unpaid leave to accompany his father but his request was declined by the Avon Maitland District School Board.

Since hearing of Boon's dilemma from another resident of Stratford, internationally renowned musician Loreena McKennitt has stepped in to advocate on his behalf.

She's urging citizens to support Boon by signing an online petition or by stopping in at the upper level of 21 Market Place or by writing a letter to superintendent of education Jodie Baker and e-mailing it to .

“As a citizen I have grown to appreciate the sentiment democracy does not thrive as a spectator sport,” she said.

“There's a call to action. What I'm hearing from people is that they share my disappointment.”

McKennitt's position as an Honorary Colonel with the Royal Canadian Airforce gives her a unique perspective but she's advocating on Boon's behalf as a citizen, she stressed.

Boon is scheduled to leave for Holland on May 1. Time is of the essence.

Because of the advanced age of Second World War veterans, it's unlikely there will ever be another event of this kind, she noted.

Back in 1984 there were 85 Perth vets who travelled back to the Netherlands. This time it's likely Boon will be the only one.

In a letter to the school board, McKennitt implored Baker to relent and allow Rick Boon the time to travel with his father.

“In these last years of these veterans' lives, I believe it is our duty as Canadians to do everything we can to honour them, not unlike the way the Dutch government is seeking to do today. It is the very least we must do. If not, it is to our great shame.”

She added the suggestion Boon should take someone else isn't sufficient.

“It is important for us to recognize that Mr. Art Boon's family will also have lived the war with him, even long after it was fought, and this too is a personal cost of which most citizens are seldom aware.”

As of Tuesday, McKennitt had not received a response.

The school board issued a statement to The Beacon Herald through communications manager Steve Howe.

“The Avon Maitland District School Board is proud of its support of Mr. Art Boon and other Canadian War veterans as they represent our country and we will continue to support them whenever possible.

We cannot discuss the circumstances however of an individual employee.”

Students at Stratford schools will know Art Boon well. He makes himself available to go into classrooms to talk about the war and its consequences. He also spends time with students after Remembrance Day assemblies.

Northwestern Secondary School teacher Christine Ritsma has worked closely with Boon on a symbolic Remembrance Day service in September at Avondale Cemetery.

Boon and his son Rick are also instrumental in organizing the official Remembrance Day service in Stratford every year.

And it is that generosity of time and spirit McKennitt hopes will be honoured and acknowledged along with his sacrifices and commitment to his country and community.