Observance of Two Minutes of Silence on Remembrance Day Act

An Act to promote the observance of two minutes of silence on Remembrance Day

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.

Sponsor

Jason Kenney  Canadian Alliance

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of March 14, 2001
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Vimy Ridge Day ActPrivate Members' Business

June 18th, 2002 / 5:55 p.m.
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Sault Ste. Marie Ontario

Liberal

Carmen Provenzano LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, at the outset I would like to acknowledge the efforts of my colleague from Algoma—Manitoulin for bringing this matter before the House and in particular the efforts of his constituent, Robert Manuel, who initiated this entire process.

Over the years, hon. members have debated a wide variety of motions and bills tabled by both government and opposition members, all aimed at raising the commemorative profile of Canada's veterans. Most recently our discussions have been concerned with the funding of maintenance and repairs of local cenotaphs. In that regard, I would draw the attention of the House to Motions Nos. 383 and 384 and the promotion of the observance of two minutes of silence on Remembrance Day, Bill C-297.

If I recall correctly, the debate on these two issues expanded into a broader discussion. How we can best honour the memory of those who served and sacrificed their lives for their nation? How do we preserve and promote their legacy for future generations of Canadians? In many ways, the discussion on this bill is a continuation of that broader debate.

Bill C-409 deals with a very particular day in Canadian military history, April 9, 1917, when the Canadians, fighting as a cohesive unit for the first time in the Great War, fought the enemy at Vimy Ridge and did what no allied force had been able to do. They won, and in so doing affected the outcome of the war and our place on the world stage. In fact, few events in our military history have played such an important role in the development of the Canadian nation as the battle of Vimy Ridge. It was indeed the first time that all four divisions of the Canadian corps fought together, but it would not be the last. Before the war ended, Canadian courage and prowess had won recognition in the Imperial War Cabinet and a seat for Canada at the peace conference at the war's end

Eighty-five years later, it is perhaps time to give this battle a particular significance through the means suggested by Bill C-409, proclaiming April 9 every year as Vimy Ridge Day and lowering to half-mast the Canadian flag on the Peace Tower.

We are pleased to offer our support to the bill.

We would not want to give the impression with the passage of this bill that the sacrifices made on a particular day in history are somehow more worthy than those made in any other campaign in any of the wars we have participated in.

There is also the possibility of setting an unintended precedent. If Vimy Ridge, which is a specific battle in the first world war, is honoured with its own day, can we expect to receive an increased demand for recognition of days to honour battles from other campaigns and other wars? If we do, how will we deal with them?

Despite these cautionary notes, we all acknowledge that there is something quite extraordinary about the action at Vimy, which led to equally extraordinary results for Canada as a nation. The participating battalions reflected the length and breadth of our country from west to east. Brigadier-General Ross would later talk of witnessing the birth of a nation. General Byng described a nation tempered by the fires of that sacrifice.

In dedicating the Vimy Memorial in France in July 1936, King Edward VIII declared “We raise this memorial to Canadian warriors...It marks the scene of feats of arms which history will long remember and Canada can never forget...All the world over there are battlefields, the names of which are written indelibly on the pages of our troubled human story. It is one of the consolations which time brings that the deeds of valour done on those battlefields long survive the quarrels which drove the opposing hosts to conflict. Vimy will be one such name.”

As it was then. As it is now. It is with such sentiments, which still ring true, that we can say the anniversary date of the battle of Vimy Ridge is worthy of its own special recognition, as suggested by the bill.

A second caveat is more technical in nature but important nonetheless. It revolves around the flag lowering part of the bill. It is critical that the protocol we follow in lowering the flag of the Peace Tower of the parliament buildings is no different from the one we use on Remembrance Day. The flag should be flown at half mast from 11 a.m. in the case of Remembrance Day to coincide with the start of the ceremony at the National War Memorial. It should remain so lowered until sunset.

The same provision should apply for a national day of remembrance for Vimy. I am not sure if this should be spelled out in the bill, dealt with by regulation or merely implemented by practice. Whatever the case, I am sure hon. members will agree that the standards for flag lowering for Vimy must not exceed those we use on Remembrance Day.

While these cautionary and common sense thoughts must be borne in mind we in our party are pleased to support Bill C-409. I will close with the words of the Minister of Veterans Affairs at the National War Memorial last April 9 in recognition of the 85th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge. He said:

--we will not much longer have eye-witnesses to tell the tales of what happened at Vimy. The torch of remembrance is now passed to us so that our children, and our children's children are taught the story of how on a cold wet Easter Monday morning, in the second decade of the 20th century, thousands of Canadian soldiers, at great personal sacrifice and loss, won a great victory. Their deeds that day ring down through history. Their photos, now faded and yellow with age, still rest on mantels of family members across the nation. But never faded from our history will be their gallant actions. We must never forget the story of Vimy Ridge or the men who fought there. We shall continue to cherish their values of peace, freedom, tolerance and diversity.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge shall continue to inspire a nation. We will remember them always. Those sentiments say it all. Bill C-409 should be passed by the House.

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

April 25th, 2002 / 1:55 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In the spirit of non-partisan equanimity with which this motion was just dealt, I seek unanimous consent to restore to the order of precedence and deem votable my Bill C-297, an act to promote the observance of two minutes of silence on Remembrance Day, similar in concept to this motion, for which I have sought consent previously. I would ask that if members are prepared to grant consent to the motion which was just agreed to, that in the spirit of fairness--

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

April 24th, 2002 / 6:25 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I did not consent but I would be delighted to grant consent. Let me say that I have twice sought consent to deem votable my private member's bill to promote the observance of two minutes of silence on Remembrance Day, which has been supported by 60,000 petition signatures and every veterans group in the country. If the hon. member opposite would consent to make my bill votable, I would be glad to reciprocate.

Therefore, I seek unanimous consent to restore to the order of precedence and deem votable Bill C-297, an act to promote the observance of two minutes of silence on Remembrance Day.

Observance of Two Minutes of Silence on Remembrance Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 11th, 2002 / 11:45 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all of my hon. colleagues for their interventions. I appreciate their support for this bill in principle.

Let me respond briefly to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs who was the only member to, in a sense, speak against the legislation by suggesting that it was unnecessary.

This bill has been endorsed by The Royal Canadian Legion, by virtually every major veterans organization and by 65,000 Canadians who signed the petition that I tabled in this place. All felt that this would be a worthwhile symbolic gesture for parliament to formally endorse the two minute wave of silence across the country. The parliamentary secretary seems to suggest that the government has this matter well in hand. It does not.

Precisely witness the evidence of a declining recognition of the moment of silence across the country. I referenced the polling data which showed a really quite shockingly deplorable lack of public knowledge about our military history: 65% of young Canadians did not know what D-Day was about; 11% could not name two countries Canada fought against in the first world war; and 69% did not know that Vimy Ridge was an important Canadian victory. That was 69% of young Canadians from 18 to 25. Let us wake up here. Nearly 7 out of 10 young Canadians did not know about the most significant battle in Canadian military history and 67% did not know that November 11 was the end of the great war. Two-thirds of young Canadians did not even know the significance of Remembrance Day.

The parliamentary secretary gave us a speech as though the government had this commemoration of our military history well in hand. It does not.

This is not a partisan point. I am not blaming this government. I am blaming a couple of generations of Canadian leadership that failed to emphasize the centrality to our history of the sacrifices of our war debt. That is why this bill, on behalf of all parliamentarians, if passed will be a formal way to recognize this very important symbol of silence for two minutes on Remembrance Day across the country.

Furthermore, the British parliament had the good sense to adopt this when asked to by the royal legion. The Ontario provincial parliament has done likewise through a private member's bill.

In closing, once again I do appreciate the support in principle. I have heard members of other opposition parties invite me to seek to make this votable. I want to emphasize one more time that this came before the committee which was charged with determining which private members' bills were votable or not. That committee knew that the bill had received more petitions in support of it than any other piece of legislation or motion or policy before this parliament since it convened; 65,000 signatures.

On behalf of those 65,000 Canadians, on behalf of the several hundred thousand members of the Royal Canadian Legion and other veterans organizations who have endorsed this bill and on behalf of the members of all parties who seem to endorse it in principle, I seek leave to obtain unanimous consent to make Bill C-297 votable.

Observance of Two Minutes of Silence on Remembrance Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 11th, 2002 / 11:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Bob Wood Liberal Nipissing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to have the opportunity today to join the debate on Bill C-297, an act to promote the observance of two minutes of silence on Remembrance Day.

I congratulate the hon. member for Calgary Southeast for his efforts to remember the service and sacrifice of our war veterans. As the hon. member has said, he brought an identical piece of legislation forward in 1998. At that time there was general support for its purpose to promote the observance of two minutes of silence.

Since we all agree with the principle, this debate gives us an opportunity to discuss how we can best honour the more than 1.4 million young Canadians who volunteered to serve in our military, and the more than 116,000 Canadians who gave their lives defending our values of peace and freedom.

There is no doubt that our war era veterans are getting older. Those from the first world war would all be centenarians. One day in the not too distant future we may well hear that the last veterans from the great war have passed on and we will have lost forever the firsthand witnesses to that terrible time. Veterans from the second world war are now in their eighties. Many are facing the battles that occupy advancing age. Fifty years ago we were waging battle on the Korean peninsula.

We also pay tribute to our peacekeepers who have served and continue to serve in missions on virtually every continent. Through their experiences and recollections, our veterans tell us about the real cost of war and the price of peace that is often taken for granted. In return, on November 11, they simply ask that we take the time to remember. They are passing the torch of remembrance to younger generations. Canadians are responding to that challenge.

The horrible events of September 11 gave us all a profound appreciation of what was at stake when our veterans fought on foreign soil. With members of our own Canadian forces today serving in the war on terrorism, last year's Remembrance Day ceremonies were even more poignant and powerful.

The Government of Canada is committed to continuing the commemoration of heroic actions of all our veterans, Canadian forces members and peacekeepers. The act of remembrance brings us together as Canadians united by a sense of pride, a feeling of belonging and an ongoing commitment to shared values. We must dedicate our energy, initiative and time to this noble cause. We must sustain the rising interest and welcome good ideas.

Our veterans, as well as the families of those Canadian forces members serving abroad, must have been heartened by the tremendous support of the many thousands of Canadians who took part in last year's Remembrance Day ceremonies. We recall that many branches of the Royal Canadian Legion ran out of poppies during veterans' week. That had never happened before.

As has been pointed out in previous debates the idea of a moment of silence is hardly new. Ever since armistice the notion and the practice of two minutes of silence has been at one time or another part of the remembrance ceremonies for many Commonwealth countries.

Since the mid-1990s Commonwealth countries, including Canada, Australia and Britain, have been encouraging the revival of this unique custom. In 1996 the British took up the Royal British Legion's call to observe a two minute silence on Remembrance Day. Indeed the Royal Canadian Legion has launched a very active campaign for two minutes of silence. In 1999 the Prime Minister promoted the two minutes of silence in his special Remembrance Day message.

We encourage Canadians to observe the two minutes of silence. The very act of citizens stopping what they are doing and pausing for two minutes of silent tribute is a meaningful way for all of us collectively to honour our veterans and to pledge that we will remember their sacrifices long after they have passed on to greater rewards. However just as importantly, for the generations of Canadians who have never known war the two minutes gives us an opportunity to stop and actively think of the sacrifices of those who contributed so much for our beloved Canada throughout the nation's military history.

The suggestions of ways in which the people of Canada could promote the observance of two minutes of silence are worthy of consideration.

Most of all, it is quite practical and do-able. Silence at Remembrance Day services is relatively easy to arrange. However as much as any of us might promote the observance of a two minute period of silence we should be mindful of certain practical concerns. While there are opportunities for moments of silence in our schools and churches it might not be possible for drivers and many others involved in our transportation, health care and other critical sectors to participate.

Some people have advanced the idea that Canadians all pause at the same time for two minutes. We live in a nation with five time zones. That is why the Royal Canadian Legion initiated the two minute wave of silence. The wave begins in Newfoundland and Labrador and subsequently repeats at the same time in each time zone in the other provinces across this great country. We should continue the practice.

As I mentioned, the legion and Veterans Affairs Canada have been actively promoting the two minute cause for quite some time as part of their activities during National Veterans Week. I am not quite sure we need a bill to do what is in our power to do anyway without the sanction of legislation. I trust all hon. members supporting the measure will vigorously promote the two minutes of silence in their constituencies and encourage the participation of their school districts, businesses and labour, city and business councils. There is nothing stopping any of us from encouraging the practice. It takes no act of parliament to encourage people to take time out and show respect for our veterans.

As a starting point we all might want to advance the cause by noting the idea of a two minute silence in our constituency newsletters in September or October. It might help get the ball rolling on our home turfs. We could encourage our constituents to promote the concept in their places of work, play and worship.

As individual members of parliament we should all work with the Royal Canadian Legion and Veterans Affairs Canada and their many partners to promote and encourage Canadians to participate in remembrance activities including the observance of two minutes of silence. I strongly support the sentiment of Bill C-297 regarding the observance of a two minute silence. However we do not need a piece of legislation to do the right thing.

Observance of Two Minutes of Silence on Remembrance Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 11th, 2002 / 11:05 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

moved that Bill C-297, an act to promote the observance of two minutes of silence on Remembrance Day, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, this is the second time I have had the privilege of bringing the bill forward to the House for consideration. I regret that it does not have votable status because it has received more petition signatures in its support than any other legislation by the government or private members in this parliament.

In December I had the honour of tabling some 65,000 petition signatures in support of Bill C-297, a bill that has been endorsed by virtually every major veterans organization in the country, including the Royal Canadian Legion.

The bill formally calls upon Canadians to properly recognize the customary two minutes of silence at 11 o'clock on November 11 as our moment of remembrance.

Many Canadians might say that if this is already a custom why do we need legislation to formalize it. I would argue that the reason I brought forward the legislation was at the behest of organizations such as the Royal Canadian Legion.

Over the past decades Canadians have seen a significant diminishment in our remembrance of the sacrifices of our war dead and a troubling growth in ignorance about our military history which is definitive to what we are as a nation.

What initially provoked me to draft the bill was reviewing public opinion survey results that were conducted by an excellent new organization dedicated to promoting remembrance of Canadian history called The Dominion Institute. In 1998 the institute conducted a survey in which it found, shockingly, that 65% of Canadians could not identify the significance of D-Day and that only 11% could name two countries that Canada fought against in the first world war. This was among younger Canadians aged 18 to 24, Canadians who had presumably graduated from high school and many from college. Sixty-nine per cent of Canada's youth did not know that Vimy Ridge was an important Canadian victory and 67% did not know that November 11 was the end of the great war.

In more recent survey data conducted by the same organization, among the general population only 38% of Canadians could identify the War of 1812 as the military incursion by the United States into Canada, and only 47% could properly identify the event of D-Day in 1944. That is to say that 53% of Canadians in the general population could not identify arguably the most significant day of the most significant war of modern history and Canada's role in it.

This growing ignorance about our history and our sacrifices we see in a diminished recognition of that moment of remembrance.

The two minute moment of silence on Armistice Day began as a custom in South Africa following the first world war when citizens looked for a way to honour the many thousands of South African war dead who sacrificed themselves for the British empire. It was suggested that they stop all commerce, business and activity for a couple of minutes at 11 o'clock, the moment of armistice on Remembrance Day.

That custom quickly spread throughout the empire, the Commonwealth and to Canada where in the 1920s and 1930s the entire nation stopped for two minutes. If we speak to people who remember that custom or read the history, the factories would blow their whistles and the workers would stand at rest for two minutes. The radio broadcasters would broadcast dead air for two minutes. Public spaces would be still and quiet for that moment. This was a custom that was very widely observed until the last two or three decades.

While it is true that many Canadians do gather at cenotaphs in their communities on November 11 to observe the moment of silence, it is equally true that many millions more go about their daily activity without recognizing the sacred moment.

What the bill seeks to do is remind Canadians on behalf of parliament that this is a sacred moment that we must all observe. It is not an idea that I have come to on my own. The bill is modelled on similar legislation that passed the mother parliament at Westminster several years ago and the Ontario legislature in 1996.

There is nothing more important we could do as Canadians than to recognize the sacrifice of our war dead. This is more relevant now than ever. For the first time since Korea Canadian troops are in forward, frontline positions in offensive actions in a real ground war. This calls to mind for our own generation the risks which hundreds of thousands of Canadians took for their country in the last century.

Over 300,000 Canadians served in the first world war and 65,000 of them did not come home. Every small community in this country has at its heart a cenotaph in remembrance of the young men who left those communities in 1914 through 1918 to serve and ultimately die for their country. In the second world war a million Canadians served in a variety of capacities and some 50,000 gave their lives in that war against tyranny.

When we use those numbers, they are so large: 65,000, 50,000, 117,000 Canadian war dead in the last century. They almost inure us to the significance of them. However each single one of those war dead represented a son, a father, a brother, a husband who was lost forever and for whom hundreds of thousands of Canadian families still feel the grief. Of those Canadians some died in the frigid cold of the north Atlantic after having been attacked by U-boats, or in the unimaginable horror of the trenches of the first world war, or in the Canadian air force flying over Europe in the battle of Britain. Thousands of Canadians gave that ultimate sacrifice in so many horrible ways.

This building itself is in some respects a testament to their sacrifice. In the heart of the Peace Tower is the chapel of remembrance where just a moment ago the ceremony of the changing of the book of remembrance was conducted. These are all things that are very much at the heart of our symbols as a nation because we came of age in that first world war. The Peace Tower was constructed as a commemoration of the war dead.

It is encouraging to see some small renewal of the symbols of our national sacrifice such as the entombment of the unknown soldier at the war memorial two years ago. Nevertheless we as a nation are losing our hold on our collective memory about these, the most significant events in our history.

I invite all members to join with me, the Royal Canadian Legion, and with all the remaining veterans of past wars in doing everything we can symbolically to rekindle a serious, deep, profound, and lasting national remembrance.

There is no single symbol that can accomplish that. However I suggest that across the country at 11 o'clock on Remembrance Day people should pull to the side of the road and broadcasters should broadcast silence for two minutes on every television and radio station. Places of work should broadcast a moment of remembrance and ask people to stop, be quiet and reflect.

I remember last year I was at my local legion cenotaph at 11 o'clock and a city transit train went careening by just at that moment when veterans and their families were engaged in that moment of silence. If Bill C-297 were to pass we would invite public transit authorities not to insult us but rather to respect that moment of silence by terminating service for a couple of minutes at 11 o'clock.

Can members imagine how significant a symbol that would be, if the whole nation came to a silent moment of reprieve for a couple of minutes? It would be a symbol that would cause each of us to reflect upon the sacrifices made by the 117,000 Canadian war dead and the 1.4 million Canadians who served in wars in the last century. The sacrifices were not just for themselves and their families in their own time but for generations that followed including ourselves.

I was born in 1968. I am of a generation for whom these things are not even memories. That is precisely why the new generation of Canadians must take leadership in promoting a renewal of remembrance. That is what the bill seeks to do.

I remind the House once again that the bill received more support in terms of petition signatures than any other bill. I am distressed with the process for the designation of votable status for private members' bills when 65,000 Canadians indicated their support for a bill through petitions tabled in parliament. The committee delegated with the task of granting votable status to bills determined in its wisdom that those 65,000 Canadians were wrong along with every major veterans organization in the country. I submit there is something wrong with the system.

I hope there is some way we can make the bill votable. It should not be controversial. I commend the veterans affairs department for having co-operated with the Royal Canadian Legion in promoting the two minutes of silence. I see no reason why we could not simply as a matter of consent pass through the House this official recognition which has been adopted by both the British and the Ontario parliaments.

A friend of mine and a western author, Ted Fife, wrote an article in 1995 that stated:

We are not a militant people. We do not seek to extend our borders, or impose our views upon those who live beyond them. But when our ways and freedom are threatened by foes who would enslave us, we rise and fight with fierce and deadly skill, and we have left scars upon our enemies and our names indelible upon the battlefields and battle skies of the world.

We talked about Canada's presence in the international community. There is no presence more poignant, no more lasting than the fact that there are tens of thousands of Canadians buried in 79 countries in cemeteries abroad.

Just before coming to debate the bill I visited the chapel of remembrance. I encourage all members to do so. It is symbolically one of the most significant places in this country. Inscribed in granite are these words from Psalm 139 which I would like to offer in remembrance:

If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

November 6th, 2001 / 10:30 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table petitions bearing the signatures of some 55,000 Canadians, which I believe would be the largest petition presented in this parliament or for several years. The petition includes signatures from all 10 provinces.

The petitioners pray that parliament pass my private member's bill, Bill C-297, which seeks to formally recognize and institutionalize the practice of two minutes of silence on Remembrance Day. This is similar to and is in fact based on a motion passed at both Westminster and the Ontario provincial parliament. I would like to thank the 55,000 Canadians who have spoken on behalf of this important symbolic gesture through this petition.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

June 7th, 2001 / 3:15 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Given the government's newfound enthusiasm for resolutions being introduced in this place through unanimous consent, I should like to seek unanimous consent to put the following motion extracted from my private member's Bill C-297:

Whereas the people of Canada are forever grateful to the many dedicated men and women who bravely and unselfishly gave their lives for Canada in wars and in peacekeeping efforts;

Whereas their extraordinary courage and profound sacrifice must never be forgotten by us or future generations;

And Whereas, as a gesture of its respect for these men and women, the federal government wishes to honour their memory by promoting throughout Canada the observance of two minutes of silence each Remembrance Day,

Now, Therefore the people of Canada are invited to pause and observe two minutes of silence at 11.00 a.m. on each Remembrance Day to honour the men and women who died serving their country in wars and in peacekeeping efforts.

Observance Of Two Minutes Of Silence On Remembrance Day ActRoutine Proceedings

March 14th, 2001 / 3:55 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-297, an act to promote the observance of two minutes of silence on Remembrance Day.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is identical to one I introduced which was debated in the previous parliament. It is based on a similar statute adopted by the parliament of Ontario and the Westminster parliament.

It would formally recognize and invite Canadians to observe two minutes of silence on Remembrance Day. It is the fruit of recommendations from the Royal Canadian Legion and other veteran organizations.

I look forward at some point in this parliament to presenting over 50,000 petition signatures in support of the bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)