An Act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.


Dan Harris  NDP

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


Third reading (House), as of June 19, 2015
(This bill did not become law.)


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Holidays Act to make Remembrance Day a legal holiday and give it the same status as Canada Day.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


Nov. 5, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

June 15th, 2017 / 6:05 p.m.
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Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege for me to rise today and debate Bill C-311. It is an honour as a parliamentarian, but also as a veteran and as a former minister of veterans affairs. In many ways, this speech will have elements of my speech in this place in 2014 because this issue keeps coming back to the floor of the House of Commons. Any time we debate remembrance of those who have served our country, it is worthy of debate in this House, probably the most important debate we can have. Therefore, I thank the member for West Nova for bringing this modest contribution. His bill would add a word creating a legal holiday with respect to November 11, and it builds in part on the bill in the last Parliament, Bill C-597, which I spoke to, brought by MP Dan Harris from the New Democratic Party, then member for Scarborough Southwest, who had a slightly more substantive bill with respect to this, which was not successful. He also had provisions with respect to the flag.

However, I can say that several Parliaments have had this debate. Several members have mentioned that really the statutory holiday elements of this are provincial. In 1982, former premier Bill Davis removed the statutory element for Remembrance Day in Ontario. I am an Ontario MP. I certainly know that schools and other organizations make an effort to remember. I served in Nova Scotia when I was in the RCAF, and certainly I saw the large cenotaph gatherings in that province because of the holiday, so it really is at the discretion of the provinces. Several members have mentioned that. I am going to bring a history of the day to our debate today because that is important. I hope some Canadians want to see how our country has evolved our remembrance.

Especially in our 150th year, we really have to thank the people who served and sacrificed for us. In our 150 years, 1.5 million Canadians have served our country throughout our history, so debates about Remembrance Day or Armistice Day are important. I would also like to say that nobody has fought for this issue to come to debate in the House of Commons more than Wilma McNeill from Sarnia. I have met Ms. McNeill, I have seen her letters, and I know her advocacy, so I thank her for that. She has been doing this for over 27 years, trying to have all provinces recognize it as a holiday, and I thank her for that advocacy. I certainly agree that more Canadians need to remember; it is how we remember that is important.

It was in this place in 1919, following the Great War, following the rebirth of this Parliament when the buildings were reconstructed and our Peace Tower was a reminder of the sacrifice of the Great War, that a motion was brought by MP Isaac Pedlow in 1919 to recognize Armistice Day. The Great War ended at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, and November 11 became significant for the peace that was finally secured after the terrible horrors of the Great War. It was just a motion to acknowledge that, in 1919, and it was two years later that an act came before this House for the first time, the Armistice Day Act. It was still called Armistice Day at that time.

What is interesting is that our country's early marking of this remembrance, Armistice Day, was not on November 11 for pretty much the first decade. It was on the first Monday of the week of November 11. Because at that time Thanksgiving was at the discretion of the federal parliament, it was tied together in a holiday alongside Thanksgiving. However, in the years that followed that, a lot of Great War veterans did not like the fact that those holidays, Thanksgiving and the remembrance of Armistice Day, were attached to each other and there was a floating date. Increasingly, veterans, regardless of what day was recognized as the holiday, were gathering at cenotaphs across the country and gathering here in Parliament, and a decade later at the great War Memorial that was built, to recognize November 11 in moments of silence, on the 11th.

It is interesting that in the years after the Great War all of these veterans organizations, Great War empire veterans, finally gathered together into one national organization, the Royal Canadian Legion, in 1925.

I know many members on both sides of the House are members of that very important service organization. I thank all of the Legion members and the service officers for the critical work they do, and I saw that firsthand as veterans affairs minister. They are the front line serving our veterans, and they have been since 1925.

At their founding convention in Winnipeg, the Great War veterans addressed the issue of remembrance, and they did not want the Monday observation of Armistice Day alongside Thanksgiving to be maintained. The Great War veterans spoke and that led to change.

I want to take this opportunity to remind members of the House of the act to incorporate the Royal Canadian Legion. I would also remind the Minister of Veterans Affairs and his parliamentary secretary, who I know is very passionate about her role. She has children serving in uniform, and is very proud of them, and should be.

However, at that founding convention, veterans put themselves together to help one another and to mark remembrance. The next year, Parliament passed another act in 1926 to incorporate the Royal Canadian Legion. I would refer members to section 4, the purposes and objects of the Legion. I would note that no other service club has its mandate from an act of Parliament, but in section 4(f), Remembrance Day and remembrance was actually given to the Legion, and it reads:

(f) to promote and care for memorials to their valour and sacrifice, to provide suitable burial, to keep an annual memorial day...

There are a number of other purposes and objectives that Canadians and parliamentarians should get to know, because long before there was a Veterans Affairs Canada, there was the Royal Canadian Legion. It was empowered by Parliament to help care for our veterans, and to help preserve their service and sacrifice. Therefore, it was actually the Legion that wanted November 11, and not a floating holiday, to be significant in the history of our nation, and to have the moment of silence surrounding the Armistice at the 11th hour.

From the direction of the Great War veterans, the Royal Canadian Legion, there was finally another motion brought to this chamber by the MP for Comox—Alberni. The motion's intention was to fix November 11 as the permanent Armistice Day. The interesting part of that debate was that most members had heard the Legion loud and clear and said, “November 11 it will be”. However, another member from Vancouver Island, the MP for Nanaimo, added to the debate and to the motion, and said the day should no longer be called Armistice Day, because it is not just marking the Armistice agreement, but that it should be marked as Remembrance Day. The member, C.W. Dickie, at the time said, “We wish to remember and perpetuate” the Armistice, and the peace secured at tremendous sacrifice to Canada.

It was interesting that, in those same years, the formation of what we know as Remembrance Day was just being formed by our country. The Peace Tower and the Book of Remembrance was being put in place just above us on most hallowed ground in this building. Each day a page is turned for the thousands of Canadians who fell in service to our country.

The debate that comes before us today is significant. To echo my friend from Barrie who quoted the executive director of the Royal Canadian Legion, we must respect the Legion's opinion with respect to Remembrance Day, because a previous Parliament empowered the Royal Canadian Legion by an act in 1926 to maintain the memorial to our fallen. The motion in 1931 created that on November 11 and called it Remembrance Day. Therefore, I support Bill C-311 today, and we should adhere to what the Legion, the true guardians of this day, want with respect to how the provinces handle it.

I want to thank the member, I want to thank the Legion, I want to thank Wilma McNeill, and all those Canadians who make sure that we live up to the expression “Lest we Forget”.

February 21st, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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Brad White Dominion Secretary, Dominion Command, Royal Canadian Legion

Honourable vice-chair and members of the committee, good afternoon and thank you very much for inviting the Royal Canadian Legion to appear before the committee to speak on Bill C-311, an act to amend the Holidays Act, regarding Remembrance Day.

On behalf of our president David Flannigan and our 275,000 members, I'm expressing my pleasure at being here. As explained, I'm Brad White, the Dominion secretary of the Royal Canadian Legion. For the past 20 years, I have been involved in every major commemorative activity that the Legion has participated in, as well as being the former director of Canada's national Remembrance Day ceremony.

The Legion's position is that November 11 not be a legal or a statutory holiday, and therefore I will be speaking against Bill C-311.

I'd like to give you a little background information. Such positions and other matters of Legion policy result from resolutions passed at a Dominion convention following consultation and debate at all three levels of our organization.

This procedure for enacting change in the Legion starts at the branch level, where any member can propose a change in policy or administrative procedure that could affect the entire organization. Following a review and discussion by all members within the branch, the resolution passes to the provincial command level. At the provincial command level and at their convention the delegates from within that jurisdiction further consider and discuss the proposed resolution. If the delegates concur, the resolution is submitted to the Dominion command at the national level for our national convention, and this is the third and final level of consultation and debate. If passed by the Dominion convention, which is attended by delegates from all branches, all provincial commands in the organization, the resolution becomes an adopted policy or approved procedure within the Royal Canadian Legion.

As you can see, such matters receive thorough consideration and undergo debate throughout all levels of the organization.

The holiday status of Remembrance Day has been debated at numerous Dominion conventions throughout the Legion's history, in fact, 15 times since 1970 and most recently at our 2016 Dominion convention. At this Dominion convention the Legion's position against Remembrance Day being a statutory holiday was reaffirmed. We remain concerned that Canadians, given time off as a legal holiday, may not take the time to remember and that it may simply become a mid-week break or just another part of a long weekend.

The latter situation relates specifically to the discussion of the 1978 Dominion convention, which focused on how government departments of the day treated November 11 as a floating holiday to give their employees a long weekend. This must never be allowed to happen again.

We have heard an interpretation of what a legal holiday is and that making Remembrance Day a legal holiday would not designate it as a statutory holiday. The semantics of such interpretations are subjective. One needs only to look at the news media reporting on the progress of previous bills on this matter to see how it is a commonplace position that statutory holiday status is exactly what this bill would achieve.

The perception is further validated by association as the bill would serve to designate Remembrance Day the same as Canada Day and Victoria Day, both of which are legal holidays in the Holidays Act with each also being a statutory holiday. If it is not the intent of this bill to make Remembrance Day a statutory holiday, if designating it as a legal holiday only would not change its current status according to the interpretation provided by the Library of Parliament and reported to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, then why would we propose such a current bill?

Perhaps what is needed is to raise the awareness and understanding of Remembrance Day, which could be achieved through an educational strategy. It is paramount that the significance of Remembrance Day be instilled in our youth and the general population to show their respect for the sacrifices of our fallen. To honour this day, many schools hold assemblies, which they organize within their own commemoration programs. Some teachers take students to collectively participate with their peers in ceremonies at local cenotaphs, thereby strengthening the impact and the significance of the 11th of November.

The Legion works very closely with schools throughout the country to provide an educational component about Remembrance Day in addition to welcoming classes at ceremonies. The Legion's teaching guide is an excellent educational tool which has been viewed or downloaded from our website more than one million times.

The Ontario Federation of Home and School Associations expressed strong support for the Legion's position on Remembrance Day. The association noted in the 1960s that Ontarians did observe Remembrance Day as a school holiday. Children remained at home to play, watch television, and enjoy a day of rest. Few were involved in events recognizing the significance of the day. At that time, veterans' groups, school boards, and other organizations, such as the OFHSA, petitioned to have schools remain open on Remembrance Day so that suitable remembrance services could be held in schools to provide students with a better understanding of the purpose and the tribute paid.

As well, last June, when we made a presentation to this very committee, we had Madam Sonia Gallo, from the York Catholic School Board, appear alongside us at the committee meeting on Bill C-597; and she again supported the Legion's position.

So, too, are we encouraged to hear of organized commemorations taking place in workplaces on November 11. We need to make honouring and remembering an important part of our regular routine on November 11, and not simply provide a day off from school or work.

As an example, take Victoria Day, a legal holiday, and question what observances are being held across the country to honour Queen Victoria who, until last year, was Canada's longest-serving monarch. For most, it simply provides a long weekend in May. We should not let Remembrance Day follow the same fate.

We thank you again for this opportunity for the Legion to express our views, and again our organization opposes Bill C-311.

Thank you, Chair.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

November 2nd, 2016 / 7:05 p.m.
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Edmonton Centre Alberta


Randy Boissonnault LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise in the House this evening to speak about Bill C-311, an act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day), introduced by my hon. colleague the member for West Nova. I deeply respect and admire my colleague's dedication to honouring our country and the brave women and men who have and continue to bravely serve it.

As bright red poppies begin to appear on the lapels of Canadians from coast to coast to coast, let us take a moment to pause and reflect on those we will be honouring on Remembrance Day, Canadians like Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae whose iconic poem, In Flanders Fields, has become an enduring symbol of remembrance and hope, and those like 28 year old Master Corporal Byron Garth Greff, who grew up in my hometown of Morinville and tragically lost his life in Afghanistan in 2011.

Remembrance Day is a time for all Canadians to come together to honour Lieutenant Colonel McCrae, Master Corporal Greff, and the tens of thousands of men and women who have served and continue to serve our country with pride. It is with our deep and heartfelt gratitude that we stand in the House today.

Bill C-311 would amend the Holidays Act, which was adopted in 1970 to consolidate the Dominion Day Act, the Armistice Day Act, and the Victoria Day Act.

Canada Day and Victoria Day are designated as legal holidays, whereas Remembrance Day is a holiday.

Bill C-311 seeks to remedy the situation by designating Remembrance Day as a legal holiday, which would provide consistency with the other two days in the Holidays Act, namely Canada Day and Victoria Day.

Previous bills on this issue, for example Bill C-597, which was debated in the last Parliament, raised questions about whether this change would create a paid holiday across Canada. I want to be clear. That would not be the outcome if the law that institutes legal holidays were amended.

In fact, according to constitutional law, legislative measures concerning paid holidays fall under the jurisdiction of Parliament and the provincial and territorial legislatures. Legislative measures concerning provincial and territorial paid holidays are the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces and territories, as set out in subsection 92(13), property and civil rights, and subsection 92(16), matters of merely local or private nature in the province.

Our government supports making Remembrance Day a legal holiday, which would provide consistency with the other holidays in the Holidays Act and demonstrate our respect and support for our veterans and serving women and men.

Last year, I had the opportunity to attend the Remembrance Day celebration at Edmonton city hall with Mayor Iveson, and I later attended the commissionaires' ceremony at the University of Alberta's Universiade Pavilion. It was an immense privilege for me to see veterans, young people, and members of our community come together to pay tribute to our veterans and soldiers. This is at the heart of what it means to be Canadian. I look forward once again to participating next week in Remembrance Day commemorations in my hometown of Edmonton.

In addition to this change, Bill C-311 also proposes two other changes to the Holidays Act. Our government does not support either of these two changes. Proposed subsection 3(2) proposes, “When November 11 is a Saturday or a Sunday, the following Monday is a legal holiday and shall be kept and observed as such throughout Canada under the name of “Remembrance Day”.” These provisions mean that the official name of Remembrance Day could apply to November 12 or 13, should November 11 fall on a weekend. There is a profound reason why we mark Remembrance Day on November 11, and Remembrance Day must remain on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”. As such, we will support the removal of proposed subsection 3(2).

The purpose of the other change proposed in subclause 3(3) is to legislate the half-masting of the national flag of Canada on Remembrance Day. This provision is unnecessary, because this is already a long-standing tradition that is set out in the Rules for Half-masting the National Flag of Canada. Lowering the Canadian flag to half-mast is a moving part of the act of remembrance and an expression of our collective mourning.

In addition to this important symbol, Canada also marks Remembrance Day with community activities that are held across the country and by the national Remembrance Day ceremony that takes place at the National War Memorial here in Ottawa.

This ceremony is broadcast all across the country and is covered in the media from coast to coast to coast. Veterans from all the wars and peacekeeping operations, many dignitaries, the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP, members of the diplomatic corps, and youth representatives all take part in the ceremony.

Thanks to the many ways we express this tradition of remembrance, we will ensure that Canada never forgets.

The Government of Canada reaffirmed our commitment to honouring our veterans at the Remembrance Day ceremony last year. As the Prime Minister said:

We have an obligation to our country’s women and men in uniform, our veterans, and their families. As a government, we will honour this social covenant with the respect and gratitude it deserves.

I call on Canadians to join me in expressing our heartfelt gratitude to all those who have worked and fought so courageously to keep us safe. Today, and every day, we remain committed to ensuring they have nothing less than the care and support of a grateful nation.

As we approach Veterans' Week 2016, which will be observed from coast to coast to coast from November 5 to 11, let us pause to remember and reflect on the ordinary Canadians who became heroes when confronted with extraordinary circumstances, and take time to express our gratitude to those who served our country as well as those who serve in uniform today.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

November 2nd, 2016 / 6:50 p.m.
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John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise on behalf of the great residents of Barrie—Innisfil as the official opposition critic for veterans affairs.

My colleague from West Nova and I have had many discussions over the course of the last several weeks since I assumed this position. I believe he is very sincere in his attempt to raise the relevance and the prominence of Remembrance Day in this country.

That being said, there are some issues with this bill that I will be outlining throughout the course of my speech.

I want to thank the member for Beauport—Limoilou who was the previous opposition critic for veterans affairs for the work he did, and the work he has helped me with in the transition, as well as the member for Durham, the previous minister of veterans affairs. I really appreciate the fact that they have taken me under their wing, and have guided me on many of the issues with respect to veterans.

I am pleased to speak to Bill C-311, which is an act to amend the Holidays Act for Remembrance Day. I commend the hon. member for West Nova for his work on this bill, and recognize his work on behalf of the men and women of our armed forces.

Veterans week is only days away, and the annual poppy campaign by the Royal Canadian Legion is now underway with thousands of veterans and volunteers around this country sitting in grocery stores, community halls, shopping malls, and so many other places.

Last week, I had the pleasure of supporting the Montgomery Legion, located just blocks from Parliament Hill, to kick-off their poppy campaign. Money raised from the sale of poppies stays in the community and supports our vets close to home. That was a very important message that the Montgomery Legion wanted me to bring to the House today.

What veterans are doing to help support each other continues to be amazing. Legion halls provide a community for our veterans to gather, talk, perhaps talk like they are unable to at home, retelling stories of their experiences.

More importantly, veterans organizations provide support, information, and a way through the maze which sometimes can be difficult when seeking help and assistance. I am fully supportive of honouring the blood and treasure of those who came before us with further distinction. However, I have questions about how that would be integrated into provincial laws.

Canada will be commemorating the 97th Remembrance Day, a day that first started as Armistice Day, in honour of the end of the Great War in 1918. At the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month, we will remember. Veterans, soldiers, families, Canadians, will gather at local cenotaphs, or war memorials, to honour those who have answered the call of peace.

Canada's National War Memorial was officially unveiled by His Majesty, King George VI. In 1939, over 100,000 people attended that event. Originally, the National War Memorial was dedicated to those who fought in World War I. It was not until 1982, when the monument was re-dedicated with the addition of World War II and Korean vets.

In a moving ceremony in 2000, the remains of an anonymous soldier, who previously lay near Vimy Ridge, was placed in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Today, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is where thousands of Canadians leave thank you notes, flowers, and in a moving tribute to the unknown soldier and all soldiers, they leave their poppies on top of the grave.

On Remembrance Day 2014, the monument was once again re-dedicated, when the dates of the South African War and the mission in Afghanistan were added. This year, 77 years later, after it was originally dedicated, Canadians will see a refreshed National War Memorial after months of work on the monument and the grounds it stands on surrounding the great response, the sculpture designed by Vernon March of Farnborough, Kent, England.

About the monument, March wrote, it was “to perpetuate in this bronze group the people of Canada who went Overseas to the Great War, and to represent them, as we of today saw them, as a record for future generations.”

In Bill C-311 the member for West Nova wishes to formally recognize Remembrance Day in Canada. Though each province has selected just how the 11th day of the 11th month is commemorated, Remembrance Day is, in fact, held every year from coast to coast to coast. There is not one province or territory that does not mark this day.

The bill needs further work in committee. I am quite certain the government side will not disagree with that notion. There, in committee, we will be able to hear from stakeholders, including the Royal Canadian Legion, and thoughtfully consider their opinions, as they did on a similar bill, Bill C-597, which was brought to the House in 2014 by MP Dan Harris, who was then the member for Scarborough Southwest.

I am suggesting, as well, that Bill C-311 be heard at the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, a committee on which the sponsor of the bill and I sit. We will be able to ask questions and seek further guidance from not only the Legion but other veterans groups.

By going to committee, we can ask other stakeholders about the impacts of the bill. One group might include labour organizations or federally-regulated companies. These stakeholders will be part of the ripple effect of the bill by making Bill C-311 a legal holiday, and giving it the same standing as other legal holidays, such as Canada Day. Establishing another legal holiday will affect other legislation, specifically the Canada Labour Code, as the member for West Nova has identified.

In doing research on the bill, I inquired with the Library of Parliament and parliamentary counsel on the legal definitions and differences between a legal holiday and a statutory holiday.

Did members know there are none? In fact, the terms, according to the Library of Parliament, are interchangeable. Therefore, when is a holiday a holiday, or even a legal holiday? These are questions that need to be asked and answered in committee. Our veterans and current forces members, who represent our next generation of veterans, deserve that.

As well, the bill proposes to provide a day off when Remembrance Day falls on a Saturday or Sunday. I have always stood with my fellow Barrie residents on November 11, whether the day fell on any day during a work week, Monday to Friday, or if it was a Saturday or Sunday. I do not differentiate between a week day and the weekend, but again, I would like to hear from Canadians, the Royal Canadian Legion, and affected employees on how they feel about this.

The third part of the bill, that was not in Bill C-597, deals with how the flag is flown on Remembrance Day. We all know that the flag is half-mast on many occasions during Remembrance Day. The rules for this, and many other rules regarding the treatment of our flag, are found in the national flag of Canada etiquette and rules for half-masting the national flag of Canada

While the rules are available to be read, it is unclear if these rules are set in legislation. If there is legislation, it needs to be identified. The current rules have served the flag in Canada well, and if there is a need to set in legislation these rules, again, let us debate them in committee.

In Canada, there are over 100 days that either have national, provincial, local, or religious commemoration. Nationally, there are only four days that are recognized in each province and territory across Canada on the same day. They are New Year's Day, Canada Day, Labour Day, and Christmas Day. Days we would think are national holidays are, in fact, not national holidays. Thanksgiving, Good Friday, and Victoria Day are examples of days we could all rightly assume were marked across the country, but are not universal.

While I did not serve in the Canadian Armed Forces, I did wear a uniform, the uniform of a firefighter. I understand the pride I felt while wearing that uniform, and I also understand the responsibility that came from wearing it.

In my riding of Barrie—Innisfil, a great many men and women living in my riding serve and have served our country. For 100 years, Base Borden has been instrumental in the training and education of thousands of Canadian and foreign soldiers, and my home of Barrie—Innisfil has a deep connection with our service members and their extended military families.

I was honoured to have been present at the Base Borden Legacy Wall unveiling earlier this year. It is a sacred place that gives a nod to the many who trained at Base Borden and served all over the globe.

The Legacy Wall is a special place, and I am so proud of the work by the Vimy Foundation. Base Borden is a special place. Contained within the Legacy Wall is an urn of soil from the battlefield at Vimy Ridge. It will forever be a proud place of honour.

As I close my remarks on Bill C-311, the bill needs to go to committee, because there is much more work to be done on it.

I will close by honouring the men, women, and service animals who have served our country so dutifully. For some, their struggle overseas pale in comparison to what they face when they return home. We owe our veterans so much, and all of us in the House of Commons need to support, and act to ensure that when our soldiers come home, they can be healthy and active in our Canadian society.

For those who serve, we honour them.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

June 19th, 2015 / 1:10 p.m.
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Willowdale Ontario


Chungsen Leung ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism

Mr. Speaker, as I am one of the last speakers of the 41st Parliament, I extend my thanks to the staff and wish my colleagues, those who are coming back and those who are leaving, Godspeed.

As a proud piper, every Remembrance Day I attend the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 66, to perform in the ceremony for the Gordon Highlanders. It is a tradition I have carried on for about 10 years, since I started to learn to pipe. I must say that it is quite an honour to be part of Remembrance Day.

Today I am honoured to be here to speak about Bill C-597, an act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day). Bill C-597, which seeks to designate Remembrance Day a legal holiday, was introduced by the member for Scarborough Southwest. Its intent is not only to raise the profile of the day and ensure that it receives the same federal recognition as Canada Day and Victoria Day but to make Remembrance Day a paid non-working holiday.

November 11 is a day to remember the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces. They have made great sacrifices for our country and our freedoms. They have also sacrificed for the rights and freedoms of others who are part of our global community but who have not been as fortunate as those of us who call Canada home.

On this day we remember those who have died fighting for us. We remember the sacrifices being made by those who are still with us. We remember the military families who live in uncertainty, never sure whether their loved ones fighting abroad will return home or be present for milestone occasions such as graduations or the birth of a child.

Remembrance Day has a long history in Canada. In 1919, King George V proclaimed November 11 Armistice Day. He declared:

there may be for the brief space of two minutes, a complete suspension of all our normal activities. During that time, except in rare cases where this may be impractical, all work, all sound and all locomotion should cease, so that in perfect stillness the thoughts of every one may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead.

In Canada, at precisely 1100 hours local time, businesses, factories, schools, offices, and traffic come to a halt for two minutes of silence.

We have observed this day, now called Remembrance Day, ever since the end of World War I. In 1970, the Holidays Act was passed to consolidate the Dominion Day Act, the Remembrance Day Act, and the Victoria Day Act. While Canada Day and Victoria Day are called legal holidays, the Holidays Act does not use this language for Remembrance Day.

With the intent of the bill in mind, it is important to note that the word “legal” before “holiday” has no effect on whether the holiday is a paid non-working holiday. A legal holiday and a holiday have exactly the same status.

We all respect the constitutional authority of the provincial and territorial governments to choose whether their residents have a day off from work and school on Remembrance Day. November 11 is a paid holiday for employees under federal jurisdiction, including those who work in banks or in the federal public service. However, it is up to the provincial and territorial governments to decide whether it will be a paid holiday for workers under their jurisdiction.

One reason for making Remembrance Day a paid non-working day is to give it a status equal to Victoria Day and Canada Day. Another reason—

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

June 19th, 2015 / 1:05 p.m.
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St. Catharines Ontario


Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to stand in the House on our last sitting day of this session and speak to Bill C-597, an act to amend the Holidays Act, which was introduced by the member for Scarborough Southwest.

I want to congratulate him on his ability, from a House perspective, to get the bill this far through the House of Commons. I know that it is never easy. I believe we have had 40 private members' bills receive support from the House during this term, and getting to third reading is no small feat. I congratulate him on that.

The Holidays Act was created in 1970 to consolidate the Dominion Day Act, the Remembrance Day Act and the Victoria Day Act. Although all three days were designated as holidays within that specific act, Remembrance Day was not designated as a legal holiday.

Initially known as Armistice Day, and still known by that name in Newfoundland and Labrador, Remembrance Day was created by King George V to commemorate the armistice that ended the first world war on Monday, November 11, 1918, at 11 a.m.

The first Armistice Day in Canada was observed in 1919, and is still observed every year as Remembrance Day. It was a day on which we remember the men and women who have served and continue to serve our country so that we may live in peace and freedom.

For most of us, Remembrance Day is not only an occasion to remember those who gave their lives and those who continue to fight for our country. It is also a day to be grateful for the sacrifices, bravery and selflessness of our soldiers, and the country we have today. Remembrance Day is an opportunity to give thanks to those who fought, and still fight, for our freedoms and rights. We must never forget this.

That is why our government has been working hard to provide veterans and their families with the care and support they need. In fact, since forming government, we have invested over $5 billion in funding toward programs and services for Canada's veterans that provide them with the support they need and deserve. Our government will continue to leave no stone unturned as we continue to find innovative new ways to build on the supports available to veterans and to their families.

I would like to address Bill C-597 specifically. There needs to be some clarification, as the member for Scarborough Southwest has been misleading Canadians somewhat about his bill. The purpose of the bill is to make November 11 a legal holiday. However, as my colleague opposite said on numerous occasions, “I believe that it is time to make November 11, Remembrance Day, a national statutory holiday”. He said that on November 3, 2014.

I listened to my colleague's speech just before mine and he iterated on a number of occasions that the purpose of the bill was to make Remembrance Day a legal holiday, not a statutory holiday. I find it somewhat ironic that the reason the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River had to say that was because the purpose of his rationale and building up of his argument in his speech was based on comments that were made by the very mover of the bill, not by anyone in any of the other parties in the House and certainly not by anyone who sat at committee after the second reading vote and during our hearings on the legislation.

Currently, on the member for Scarborough Southwest's website, which I have mentioned a number of times to him both in committee and in the House, there is a statement which says:

Having November 11th made into a statutory holiday will allow every Canadian an opportunity to attend their local Remembrance Day ceremonies and participate in this important day.

That was never taken down. We have had this conversation over a period of many weeks. It makes it clear that the member for Scarborough Southwest believes that his bill would, in fact, make Remembrance Day a statutory holiday.

There are numerous problems with that statement. First, witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs made it very clear that they did not support making November 11 a statutory holiday.

In fact, at committee, Mr. Bradley K. White, dominion secretary, Dominion Command, Royal Canadian Legion, said:

We remain concerned that if given the time off as a legal holiday Canadians may not take the time to remember, that it may simply become a mid-week break or just part of another long weekend.

Mr. Bradley also said:

It is the Legion's position that November 11 not be a legal or statutory holiday.

This testimony makes it clear that the Royal Canadian Legion does not support Bill C-597 from the member for Scarborough Southwest.

Furthermore, to back up Mr. Bradley's argument, Ms. Sonia Gallo, who is a communications manager at York Catholic District School Board, said during her testimony:

The York Catholic District School Board...does not endorse Member of Parliament [for Scarborough Southwest's] private [member's] bill to make November 11, Remembrance Day, a statutory holiday.

Second, the member opposite knows full well that even if Bill C-597 were to receive royal assent, it would be up to the provinces to decide what days are statutory holidays. This means that his piece of legislation would have, in essence, no effect.

This is important to note because as stated above, the member has been misleading Canadians in saying on June 15:

This Friday, let us end the 41st Parliament on a high note and elevate Remembrance Day to the same status as Canada Day and Victoria Day by passing Bill C-597....

The bill would not give Remembrance Day the same status as Canada Day or Victoria Day. Should the bill pass and make Remembrance Day a legal holiday, it is the provinces that have the final word of what holiday is statutory or not.

According to the Constitution Act, legislation relating to provincial non-working holidays is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces. Therefore, for Remembrance Day to become a non-working holiday for all Canadians, legislation would have to be adopted by provincial legislatures and most of them already have done this.

Remembrance Day is currently a paid non-working holiday in all provinces and territories, except in Ontario and Quebec. At the federal level, Remembrance Day is a paid non-working holiday for public servants and those working in federally regulated institutions.

This being said, whether Remembrance Day becomes a paid non-working holiday throughout the country or not, we must all remember its significance.

We must remember the reason the day was created in the first place. We must continue to honour it, to be proud of our veterans, of our history and the wonderful country in which we live. We are thankful to those who were and are still willing to fight for it.

We must continue to educate our youth and future generations about the importance of our military history and its place within this world. We must teach them to recognize and appreciate the breadth of the sacrifices of the men and women who put their lives on the line for us, whether they did that previously or whether they do that today, or whether they do that in the future on behalf of this country.

Lest we forget.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

June 19th, 2015 / 12:55 p.m.
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John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on Bill C-597, on the last day of the 41st Parliament. This bill would amend the Holidays Act to make Remembrance Day a legal holiday. That is an important distinction. People watching and listening to this debate might be a little confused with the words “legal” and “statutory”. It is not calling for a statutory holiday. A statutory holiday would be a holiday like Canada Day, a day off that celebrates Canada right across the country. That is not what this bill is asking for.

It is simply asking for a one-word change to section 3 of the Holidays Act. I will read that section with the change in it. After this bill passes, section 3 would read as follows:

November 11, being the day in the year 1918 on which the Great War was triumphantly concluded by an armistice, is a [legal] holiday and shall be kept and observed as such throughout Canada under the name of “Remembrance Day”.

It would simply add one word, “legal”. Again, I have to emphasize that we are not talking about a statutory holiday; we are talking about a legal holiday. I will say a few more words about that in a moment.

Remembrance Day is important, and this change is important. There are four reasons why I think this change is important and I will go through each of them. The first is to commemorate and honour our fallen soldiers and veterans on a national level. Remembrance Day is celebrated and talked about in many different ways across the country, and there is no real unanimity. As we know, every year the number of veterans from past wars diminishes, and I think it is time that we show our support on a national level. Modern and wartime veterans are to be thanked for preserving the democracy that we live in and thrive in today.

I can only go by the experience in my own riding of Thunder Bay—Rainy River of what happens on Remembrance Day now. It is interesting to note that with the one-word change, things would likely not change in my riding.

In 1970, Thunder Bay became the city it is today from two separate cities. My riding encompasses the south side of Thunder Bay, which is the old Fort William. In Fort William Gardens every Remembrance Day, without any exaggeration, there are 3,000 to 4,000 people. The complete ice surface, which then is a cement surface, is covered with veterans, presenters, wreath layers, honoured guests, and so on. It is a wonderful celebration of what Remembrance Day means to so many people in Thunder Bay.

On the other side of town, in Port Arthur, there is also a celebration on Remembrance Day, which happens at exactly the same time. However, what is interesting is what happens in the rest of my riding on that day. I attended the Atikokan ceremony last year. I have to pick and choose each year and rotate where I am at 11 o'clock on Remembrance Day. I was in Atikokan last year, where there was a wonderful event put on by the legion. I should also mention that in Thunder Bay the legions are terrific, both on the day before Remembrance Day and the day of, in terms of how they treat everyone who attends to be part of Remembrance Day with them.

In the far west of my riding, at 11 o'clock, Fort Frances has its Remembrance Day ceremony. That is supported and organized by the legion. As one goes down Highway 11 to the end of my riding in Rainy River, the Remembrance Day ceremonies are staggered so that when I am in the west end for a ceremony, I can actually get to Fort Frances, Emo, Stratton, all the way to Rainy River without any problem to be part of the Remembrance Day ceremonies.

When I am in Thunder Bay, I attend the 11 o'clock ceremony. That is eastern time, do not forget. We gain an hour going to the west end of my riding because it is central time. I then hop in my car and drive all the way to the other end of my riding, 500 kilometres, to be at the legion supper in Rainy River. I know that many other MPs do the same sort of thing when they have large ridings.

The point of my talking about that is to emphasize that under this bill what happens now for schoolchildren attending and everybody else making time to be part of the various ceremonies right cross my riding. It would not really change under the bill because we are not talking about a statutory holiday; we are talking about a legal holiday.

A legal holiday would help to provide an equal opportunity for everyone in Canada to observe November 11. It is really a symbolic change and hopefully it would entice provinces that currently do not observe November 11 as a holiday to change their practice. Six provinces and all three territories already observe November 11 as a holiday. Again, the bill would not force the rest of Canada to have a holiday, but it would give it a slightly different status by using the word “legal”, which is an important distinction.

Many people in constituents in my riding, young and old, all attend Remembrance Day ceremonies. It is a solemn time in my riding. Members may or may not know that thousands of young men and women have been involved in war efforts over the years, including, most recently, in Afghanistan. There is a real understanding in Thunder Bay in particular of the importance of Remembrance Day.

While a lot of people already do attend, the bill would go further to encourage all the provinces to give an opportunity for everyone to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies.

My last point is that it important to have an additional opportunity to educate the next generation. I want to say just something very briefly about that. The school boards right across my riding make a terrific effort to have veterans come into the schools. The children enter the poster contests with the legions and so on. There is not one schoolchild in my riding who does not have an understanding and appreciation of Remembrance Day and what that means. The education of the next generation is already happening, and the next generation after that. I suspect it is much the same right across the country in just about everybody's riding. A lot of things would not change with the bill, but it would increase its status somewhat, and I that is important.

I am going to finish off with just a brief recap of the bill and bills like it, and what the history has been in the House. I hope people will get the idea that it is high time to give support a bill like this.

I will talk about the NDP first. The NDP has put forward similar bills in the past. In 2006, our MP for Hamilton Mountain brought forward Bill C-363. She did the same in 2009 with Bill C-287. There have also been two motions in the past: Motion No. 424, in the year 2000 by Nelson Riis; and Motion No. 27, in 2006 by our member for Sackville—Eastern Shore.

It is also interesting that in the past the Conservatives have brought forward similar bills. Inky Mark brought forward two bills: one in 2004, Bill C-295; and one in 2006, Bill C-354.

The Liberals have also brought forward bills that are much the same in the past. They brought in two bills and a motion. Ronald MacDonald from Dartmouth brought forward Motion No.699 in 1990, another one in 1991, and another in 1994. Roger Gallaway from Sarnia—Lambton brought forward Motion No. 298 in 2002.

Given the history I have ended my speech on, I can see no reason why we cannot get unanimous support right through the House for this.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

June 19th, 2015 / 12:45 p.m.
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Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, this will likely be my last opportunity to address the House. Some members might be somewhat disappointed to hear that.

For a very brief moment, I would like to acknowledge what a privilege it is to be in the House of Commons and to be afforded the opportunity to be able to communicate a message to Ottawa on behalf of the constituents I represent. What a privilege it is to represent the constituency of Winnipeg North.

I also want to very briefly comment on the degree to which all of us, as elected officials, have phenomenal support groups that enable us to do what we do, whether they are our families or our friends—close friends in particular, but friends in general. Without those individuals, we would not be where we are today.

I also want to acknowledge the incredible work done within our constituencies by our support staff, who make it so much easier for us to do the things that are important to our constituents and our parties.

I want to acknowledge the phenomenal efforts and incredible talents that we have within our party. I suspect that applies to all parties, but I am going to be a bit biased here. I am referring to the support staff. Whether outside in the lobby or upstairs, people on and off the Hill contribute so much in terms of ensuring we are able to operate as a party on the floor of the House of Commons and beyond.

Again I emphasize my gratitude and my thanks to everyone from the people who do the recordings to the Speaker of the House to the support and security staff, and to everyone else who in essence makes the House the best place in the world when it comes to participating in democracy. I still believe that Canada has the greatest democracy in the world, although there is always room for improvement.

That said, how appropriate it is that we are speaking on something that is of great importance to all Canadians.

Bill C-597 deals with remembering Remembrance Day in particular. How important it is that we remember those who have lost their lives or who have been maimed in significant ways, both physically and mentally, in ensuring that all Canadians have what we have today: the rule of law, the freedoms. These are things we should never forget.

Across this great nation we have monuments. We have murals. We have all forms of dedications. People want to express the fact that we will not forget. They want to express how much we love and appreciate the modern-day force that is there to protect us. We know that the sacrifices they make can never really be repaid.

That is one of the reasons we aggressively pursued the issue of Veterans Affairs when we saw closures of offices or when we saw government policies that affected our veterans. Both as a member of Parliament and as a person, I want our vets and members of the regular force to know that the Liberal Party is going to be there in a very real and tangible way. We do care about what is taking place in our Canadian Forces today. We understand and appreciate the sacrifices that are made.

I have had the good fortune of being a member of the regular forces, and I am not alone. The member from Montreal was also a member of the regular forces. Although it was short, just over three years, it was a wonderful experience to serve in the forces. I know first-hand the sense of pride that members of our Canadian Forces have for what they do. Whether they were throwing sandbags in Winnipeg during our great floods or serving abroad in the world wars, we understand and appreciate the important role of our Canadian Forces, not only in the past and today but also into the future.

This bill is about Remembrance Day. The legislation cannot mandate a statutory holiday all across Canada, but we can try to bring some influence to bear. There are many people who truly believe it should be a statutory holiday, coast to coast to coast. There is a great argument to be made for that.

That said, it is important that we respect provincial jurisdictions. As was pointed out, Manitoba has a half day. There was consultation in that regard. There are some provinces that have a full day as a statutory holiday; there are others that do not have a statutory holiday at all.

The Liberal Party has indicated its support for Bill C-597. As much as possible, we want to see our provinces deal with this issue in a fair and compassionate way and to respond and put into place what they believe their veterans and their citizens as a whole would like to see done in their provinces.

There are many within the Liberal caucus who believe it should be a full statutory holiday coast to coast to coast. Others, myself included, would like to ensure that the provinces play a stronger role in recognizing the requests from many to examine full statutory holidays. However, Bill C-597, at the very least, heightens the importance of recognizing the significance of Remembrance Day. To that degree, every member of the Liberal caucus is in full support. We voted for the bill at second reading and we were encouraged by the comments we heard at committee stage.

We recognize that it is an important issue, and it would be nice to see it resolved in a very positive way. I personally think it is important to look at ways we can honour our vets. Our vets are, and should be, an inspiration to us all.

There are certain things we can do as individual members of Parliament. We can approach local businesses, encourage our local schools, and get involved in worship centres to encourage some form of activity such as the laying of wreaths. We can do things within our communities to make sure people understand how important it is that we not forget.

I would like to close, as I started, by thanking the good citizens of Winnipeg North for choosing to support me in 2011. What a wonderful privilege it has been to represent Winnipeg North.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

June 19th, 2015 / 12:35 p.m.
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Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to have the opportunity to rise in the House to talk about veterans issues. However, before I do, I would like to pay tribute to you and the wisdom you have shown in the House in chairing the 40th and 41st Parliaments. I will always remember fondly that I gave you your first tabs. You have worn them proudly. The House is better for the service you have given it, and I thank you very much.

Thank you to my Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs members for working together to move this bill as expeditiously as possible. It is good to see everyone working together for Canada's veterans.

While on the subject of this committee, I would like to take a moment to express how much I enjoyed chairing our meetings. No one can deny the earnestness of each and every person sitting at the committee table, and this is to the credit of its members. Thank you for your commitment to helping veterans.

Furthermore, when Parliament is dissolved, two members of this committee will be leaving to face new challenges. I wish the member for Edmonton Centre and the member for Guelph much success, and I thank them for their contribution to the high-quality discussions of this committee. I thank them for their wisdom and for their passion.

Bill C-597 would not create a statutory holiday, as the member for Scarborough Southwest said. That is a day off work or out of school.

For anybody who might be unclear on that point—it could not direct the provinces to let everyone out of school and out of work. That is because letting people out of school and out of work is provincial jurisdiction, not federal jurisdiction.

Thanks to the knowledgeable witnesses we heard over the past several months, we have learned there is a great divide over whether Remembrance Day should be a statutory holiday.

That is a debate for another time and place.

In getting to where we are today, we had some great ideas come forward on how Canadians can best honour the fallen and our veterans.

The whole debate has been very informative and has inspired a healthy conversation about remembrance. Thanks to the members of the committee for that.

We have heard how commemorative ceremonies take place across Canada, in all major cities and towns. Some of these are led at the grassroots level by young and old, military and civilians, by various levels of government, schools, churches, and private businesses. These events depend largely on the organizational culture and leadership.

As we heard from the witnesses, some groups broadcast the last post and reveille—combined with a moment of silence—over the internal PA.

Some employees take time off to attend the local cenotaph ceremony, but anything more organized, on a larger scale, requires strong leadership. Certainly with the hire a veteran initiative and the Veterans Hiring Act, both of which were spearheaded by this government, we will begin to see more veterans in the workplace in the future. Perhaps that leadership will come from them and it will only be a matter of a few years before we see more organized commemoration activities in the workplace.

As an aside, I wonder how many in this room know about the last post ceremony in Ypres, Belgium. The Last Post Association ensures that those who died in the First World War are remembered to this day, in a simple ceremony that takes place every evening.

At 8 p.m. all traffic through the Menin Gate is halted, and two buglers move to the middle of the street and sound the last post.

On July 9, this simple 15 minute act of remembrance will be performed for the thirty-thousandth time. Now, that is leadership. That is dedication.

Would it not be wonderful if we could duplicate the last post ceremony in at least one Canadian community every night, like the citizens of Ypres?

I believe we all agree that the present system in Canada is not perfect and could and should be improved, especially in the public school system. Imagine how much more meaningful Remembrance Day would be with a little leadership, imagination, and dialogue.

The tools are there. Veterans Affairs Canada creates some excellent learning materials for schools and education authorities.

The Tales of Animals in War and the Canada Remembers Times are great resources, which do a good job of engaging students in remembrance. On the learning section of the department's website, schools can also find information on how to plan a successful remembrance ceremony. In reality, there is no amount of commemoration we can give to the fallen, our veterans, and our Canadian Armed Forces members to make up for their sacrifice.

The Minister of Veterans Affairs has worked extremely hard since his appointment to create a more respectful and veteran-centric environment.

The government introduced some new measures this spring to help provide security and peace of mind in retirement.

We broadened eligibility criteria for a financial benefit called the permanent impairment allowance.

As well, financial benefits for injured part-time reserve force veterans have been enhanced. These men and women who have careers in the civilian world now receive the same minimum income support payment through something called “earnings loss benefit”.

We also introduced the critical injury benefit, commonly known as CIB, which will provide a $70,000 tax-free payment to support the most severely injured and ill Canadian Armed Forces members and veterans. The family caregiver relief benefit will provide veterans who have a service-related injury with an annual tax-free grant, to provide caregivers in the home with flexibility or relief while ensuring that the needs of the seriously injured veterans are met.

As well, the process has begun to hire more than 100 case managers and locate them in key sites across the country. By increasing the number of case managers, we will be able to provide improved one-on-one service and better meet the individual needs of veterans. The government is working hard every day to provide the supports and necessary benefits so that Canada's veterans and their families have the right amount of assistance, income, and peace of mind.

Veterans deserve the highest respect we can give them. This conversation on how we can best honour the tremendous sacrifice made for our country over the years by countless individuals is certainly an important dialogue to have and to continue to have. In fact, it would be an honour for me to personally lead that conversation if given the opportunity.

Our nation's serving military and veterans are an inspiration to Canadians. Those I meet at the friendliest Legion in the region, branch 632 in Orléans, prove it to me every day. They inspire us to embrace freedom.

They inspire us to oppose oppression.

And they inspire us to do the right thing. We will remember them.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-597, An Act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day), as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Remembrance DayStatements By Members

June 15th, 2015 / 2:10 p.m.
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Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by once again thanking the great people of Scarborough Southwest for their support in 2011. It has been an honour and a privilege to represent them in the House for the past four years.

My bill, Bill C-597, which would make Remembrance Day a legal holiday, is finally back from committee after 205 days and studied by two parliamentary committees. The bill would add exactly one word to the Holidays Act. No new changes were made to the bill during this committee odyssey.

This Friday, my bill will be back before the House. Now we can finish the great work that began last November when the bill passed second reading 258 to 2.

This Friday, let us end the 41st Parliament on a high note and elevate Remembrance Day to the same status as Canada Day and Victoria Day by passing Bill C-597, making Remembrance Day a legal holiday.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

May 28th, 2015 / 10 a.m.
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Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in relation to Bill C-597, an act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day). The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.

May 25th, 2015 / 5:30 p.m.
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Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair. If you allow me just a moment to clarify what we're prepared to do, it might expedite the process of voting on the bill.

I would move that that Bill C-597 be amended by deleting lines 12 to 14 of clause 1, which state, “on Remembrance Day, the Canadian flag on the Peace Tower shall be lowered to half-mast.” If that is agreed, we would be prepared to support the rest of the bill, on division.

May 25th, 2015 / 5:30 p.m.
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The Chair Conservative Gord Brown

We're going to call this meeting number 48 of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage back to order.

For this last half hour, pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, November 5, 2014, our topic is Bill C-597, An Act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day).

Mr. Dykstra.

April 28th, 2015 / 8:55 a.m.
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Communications Manager, York Catholic District School Board

Sonia Gallo

Members, good morning. It is a pleasure to be here on behalf of our chair of the board, Elizabeth Crowe, and our director of education, Ms. Patricia Preston, to speak to you this morning about Bill C-597, an act to amend the Holidays Act, Remembrance Day.

At the York Catholic District School Board's regular meeting of the board, held on Tuesday, November 25, the board of trustees passed a motion that a letter be written to members of municipal, provincial, and federal governments to express their strong belief that November 11, Remembrance Day, should not be made a statutory or school holiday. This year, nearly 100 letters were sent. The motion was a result of comments made to trustees by several veterans who visited and presented at various Remembrance Day services across the York Catholic District School Board. The veterans' comments unanimously expressed their desire to keep our schools open on November 11 in order to appropriately honour this important day.

The York Catholic District School Board supports this desire by our veterans and does not endorse Member of Parliament Dan Harris's private bill to make November 11, Remembrance Day, a statutory holiday. Although the bill may have good intentions, we believe that school Remembrance Day ceremonies and activities are an opportunity to teach young students to appreciate the many sacrifices of those who have fought, died, and served for our great nation.

Remembrance Day ceremonies are held at each of our 104 schools with over 55,000 students participating to honour our Canadian Armed Forces and Canada's fine military history. Students gain a better understanding of the meaning of Remembrance Day and are able to fully participate in activities commemorating the sacrifices that Canadians have made in armed conflicts by wearing poppies, offering prayers of thanks, hope and peace, hearing liturgies, hearing war veterans recount, or hearing active duty personnel speak to students, and observing a moment of silence.

This year alone, we had many members of the Canadian Armed Forces visit our schools to speak to our young students. There is no guarantee that students would respectfully observe Remembrance Day if they were not in school, because it would be a statutory holiday. We respectfully ask that you work with all levels of government to discourage the making of Remembrance Day into a statutory holiday so that we can continue to create meaningful learning opportunities for the future generations of Canadians, our students.

Thank you, and I welcome any questions.