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.

Sponsor

Dan Harris  NDP

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

Status

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

Summary

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.

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.

Votes

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 19th, 2015 / 12:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

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.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

June 19th, 2015 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

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 / 12:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

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 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

St. Catharines Ontario

Conservative

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 / 1:10 p.m.
See context

Willowdale Ontario

Conservative

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

November 3rd, 2014 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

moved that Bill C-597, an act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to speak to and in favour of my private member's bill, Bill C-597, an act to make Remembrance Day a national statutory holiday, tabled in this House on May 14, 2014.

This act would seek to give Remembrance Day the same legal status as Victoria Day and Canada Day, the two legal holidays listed in the Holidays Act.

The act also contains a second clause that seeks to codify that on Remembrance Day the flag on the Peace Tower would be flown at half-mast. Later in my speech, I will come back to that second clause and elaborate on deliberations with my fellow MPs from all parties in that regard.

Remembrance Day has always been a special day and has had a very special meaning to me and my family. Like so many other Canadians, we cherish the commitment made by the brave men and women who have donned Canada's uniform since even before our founding as a nation. It has great personal meaning for our family and has shaped our personal history, starting with my great-grandfather, Harold Riley, who served in both world wars. My great-grandmother immigrated to Canada as a First World War bride.

That service continues through to today, with family members who did tours in Afghanistan. Our story, though, is hardly unique.

Our country has been blessed by the courage and dedication of generations of armed forces personnel who have stood and fought and died, or come home broken, to defend Canada,

I am far from the first to suggest making Remembrance Day a national statutory holiday. Currently six provinces and the three territories already have legislation in place to make November 11 a holiday. Indeed, similar versions of this bill have been introduced in previous parliaments by the current member for Hamilton Mountain, at the behest of local legions, and by former Conservative MP Inky Mark.

My bill varies from previous incarnations in a small but substantial way. Other versions called for a day off on the Friday before or the Monday after if November 11 falls on a weekend. Before introduction, I removed this clause, because to me, the 11th is the 11th is the 11th.

Canadians I have spoken with wish to be able to attend ceremonies to pay their respects and to engage in this important act of Remembrance.

Earlier in my speech, I said I would come back to the second clause, which is about having the flag on the Peace Tower flown at half-mast. To most Canadians, that clause would seem entirely reasonable, as it did to me until recently.

During several discussions with colleagues from all parties, the issue of protocol was raised. This clause, as written, does not allow for flexibility so that the flag can be lowered to half-mast at a specific time of day, like 11 a.m., nor does it allow protocol to evolve as times change. It would also be unnecessarily complex to attempt to enumerate the facets of protocol so as to properly capture the sentiment and meaning conveyed by this clause. As such, should this bill pass second reading, I will wholeheartedly endorse an amendment at committee to remove the second clause.

There are also arguments against making Remembrance Day a national statutory holiday. Many businesses fear a loss of revenue or additional payouts, and that is worth considering. I was, however, pleasantly surprised, in discussing the issue with many local businesses and several nationwide operations, that many favour its implementation. Some believe productivity would increase if their staff had another day off. Others have family members who served, and they would like the opportunity themselves to attend services and honour them. A few weeks ago, I was speaking to a CEO, who said to me, "Consumers only have so much money to spend. If they cannot spend it today, they will spend it tomorrow”.

The most compelling argument I have heard for not making November 11 a statutory holiday is that kids should be in school to observe services. This is a very compelling argument. However, I am drawn back to the provinces where it is already a holiday, such as Newfoundland and Labrador, where kids learn about it during the week leading up to the 11th and on the 11th can put what they have learned into practice.

I am also drawn to what happens here in Ontario, where it is not a statutory holiday, though it used to be, when November 11 falls on a weekend. Most schools have services the last school day before the 11th.

At our local cenotaph in Scarborough, every year, a class of kids from Cliffside Public School comes to the ceremony and sings “In Flanders Fields”. It would be a shame to lose that. I believe that they would still continue to do that, given the opportunity, and that they would bring their parents along to see them.

I also believe that it would be easier to get more veterans into schools if their services took place on the last school day before November 11, because where are veterans on Remembrance Day? They are at ceremonies and cenotaphs and services across the country.

In Scarborough, we also hold a service on the Sunday before November 11, at the Scarborough Civic Centre. The sight is spectacular. During the ceremony, air, naval, and army cadets line each level of the Scarborough Civic Centre, and when we look up and see them standing there, we are filled with pride, hope, and faith in Canada's future while we remember the past. Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, Sparks and Brownies also assemble to sing at these ceremonies. Our schools are not the only place we should be educating the next generation.

The education of our children around Remembrance Day is important, and it could be argued that it is the most important act of our remembrance. Just as the decision whether to observe November 11 as a holiday rests with the provinces, so does the curriculum. The Royal Canadian Legion, other veterans organizations, Veterans Affairs, and the Government of Canada already enrich that curriculum, but there is always room to do more.

Like many Canadians, I would like to see more, but that critical component will not be addressed through this bill, nor could it be. Each province chooses how to commemorate. In Manitoba, for instance, retail stores may operate on Remembrance Day, but cannot be open between the hours of 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Our neighbour to the south observes Remembrance Day as Veterans Day. The federal government passed a bill to make it a holiday within federal jurisdiction, and all 50 states passed their own bills so that its application is universal across the United States of America. We can achieve the same here in Canada. A united voice from Parliament would be a big encouragement in that regard, while still respecting each province's ability to choose for itself.

Remembrance Day is a very important day for my family and for this country. I believe that it is our duty to do what we can to honour our men and women in uniform.

It is also important to point out that many of the individuals who fought in the Second World War did not choose to go; the state chose to send them. Still, they did their duty and fought for their country, their province and their values on behalf of us all.

Canadians in uniform have always placed themselves in harm's way for us and deserve to be honoured, whether it be on battlefields 100 years ago and on the other side of an ocean or two weeks ago a few hundred metres from where I stand, in sight of this building, on ceremonial guard over the fallen.

Whether hundreds of kilometres away or in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, our women and men in uniform are always there to defend us and it is our duty to remember them.

In my opinion, Bill C-597, which I am introducing, is an opportunity to emphasize the importance of remembering our veterans and paying tribute to the 40,000 of them who returned from Afghanistan.

The face of veterans is changing. We have 40,000 brave women and men who returned from Afghanistan who are as equally deserving of our support and respect as are all of those who came before them.

It is also the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, which gave birth to Remembrance Day as Armistice Day. I believe that it is time to make November 11, Remembrance Day, a national statutory holiday.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

November 3rd, 2014 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

Durham Ontario

Conservative

Erin O'Toole ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to rise today to speak on behalf of the government on Bill C-597, particularly at this time when all members of the House are wearing the poppy. It is important for us to debate Remembrance Day, its role in our country, and how we should remember, both here in our nation's Parliament and at the cenotaphs scattered around the hundreds, if not thousands, of small towns and cities across the country as acts of remembrance.

I would like to thank the member for Scarborough Southwest for bringing this debate to the House today. As he knows, the government supports the intention of the bill with some amendments, which we have spoken with the member about throughout the process. I would like to thank him for sharing his personal reflections on what Remembrance Day means to his family, and indeed he showed the House that the events of a few weeks ago in this city still reverberate deeply with the nation and the members of the House.

It is interesting that we are debating Remembrance Day, a very important and solemn day for our country, but it was not Remembrance Day when it first came to Canada. In fact, in 1919, it was referred to as Armistice Day because it was the year following the important armistice to end the Great War, where the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month would be commemorated to honour the dead from that Great War and to respect the peace that was secured through the sacrifice of many. There have been 1.5 million Canadians who have heeded the call of service over our history as a nation, so it is not only a time when remembrance can be given to the fallen but respect for the service of those in the past and present can be shown.

It was Armistice Day for our young country that was honoured each November. Interestingly, which I am sure the hon. member knows from his research on the bill, for the first decade or so, it was not even formally recognized on November 11 but on the first Monday of the week in which November 11 fell. It might be interesting for members of the House to know that it was an act by a member of Parliament from British Columbia in 1931 that solidified November 11 as the day that would be marked, and changed the name from Armistice Day to Remembrance Day that we know today.

The first decade or so of remembrance for our young nation was an interesting period because within that first decade the guardians of Remembrance Day were also born. In 1925 the Royal Canadian Legion was created, bringing together a number of fraternal and service organizations with many veterans from the Great War. They came together. Then in the House the following year, 1926, an act of Parliament was granted to recognize the important role the Royal Canadian Legion played then and plays now on remembrance and care for our veterans.

To this day, there remains 1,100 veteran service officers whose core principle for the branch they serve is to serve the veteran community. I know the veteran service officer in my branch, on an individual basis, has helped over 500 veterans or their partners access benefits. Most Canadians should know that when they support the poppy drive in their towns and cities across the country, they are supporting the work of the veteran service officers because the proceeds from the poppy fund are dedicated to veteran care in the community and across the country.

I would like to thank the Legion for its important role with our veterans and for making sure that Remembrance Day happens. This week I will be at Remembrance Day services at two of the small cenotaphs in hamlets in my community. There would be no service in those small hamlet cenotaphs were it not for Branch 178 of the Royal Canadian Legion, which makes sure that every cenotaph that bears the name of a fallen soldier for Canada has a proper ceremony and mark of remembrance.

Eight years afterward, in 1939, after Remembrance Day as we now know it was brought forward by this federal House, our National War Memorial was unveiled.

It was struck two weeks ago. It was attacked for what it represents to our country. We are all still shaken by the death of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who was an honorary guard there to show respect for the fallen who are commemorated by that memorial and by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. There are 22 figures that adorn our National War Memorial that represent the commitment of Canada as a young nation to the Great War, and then subsequently to the wars that followed. In the days following the attacks in Ottawa, everyone in this House was touched by the Bruce MacKinnon cartoon that showed those historic figures tending to the newly fallen Corporal Cirillo.

Canadians continue to commemorate. Just this week, in Whitby, I attended Wounded Warriors Canada's opening of the Park of Reflection. The park is a memorial to the fallen from Afghanistan and to those who travelled the Highway of Heroes. It provides veterans a place of solace for their own recovery. I would like to thank Scott Maxwell and Phil Ralph of Wounded Warriors Canada for keeping these memories alive.

Corus Entertainment's Gary Maavara and Joel Watson, a lawyer from Toronto, are ensuring that broadcasters on November 11 commemorate the two minutes of silence at 11 o'clock on TV broadcasts if they are not already playing the national ceremony.

It is tremendous to see the spirit of Remembrance Day from 1931 to today. I think what my hon. colleague wants to recognize through this bill is that across the country Canadians are showing their own ways of keeping this important date as an important part of their lives and of remembering the service and sacrifice of our men and women.

The specifics of the bill before this House are to correct a drafting oversight from the 1970s, when the Holidays Act treated Remembrance Day slightly differently from the way it treated Victoria Day and Dominion Day, now Canada Day. I am proud that it seems most members of this House will support the member for Scarborough Southwest in rectifying this oversight to ensure that as a federal holiday, Remembrance Day is treated in the same way as those other days that are important to our country.

The other item from the member's bill, as he has recognized in our discussions, is that the flag on our Peace Tower is normally lowered to half-mast on Remembrance Day as part of our act of national commemoration. In some ways, some of the spirit behind his bill is being exercised already. I am glad to see that the House will rectify this 1970s omission from the act.

What is interesting, as the member pointed out in his remarks to the House, is that across the country, six provinces and three territories also grant statutory recognition to Remembrance Day on a provincial level. Federally, it is already a statutory holiday for federal employees within the federal jurisdiction, and six provinces have extended that at the provincial level. It seems that the member is hoping that the remaining provinces might take this rectifying of the language on a federal level in recognition of the importance of Remembrance Day to our country as an opportunity to revisit their decisions on a provincial level. If that is the case, it is a good exercise.

In my time in uniform serving this country, I had the benefit of living in two different provinces where it was handled in different ways. While I was in Nova Scotia serving with 423 Squadron and 406 Squadron, that province had a provincial holiday as well, and we saw large numbers of people at the cenotaph. In Ontario it was not a provincial holiday.

There is merit, as the member recognized, to the argument that it is good to have students in school learning about this process. The Ontario legislature visited this issue in the late 1990s and decided not to proceed provincially with a statutory holiday, for the very reason that it knew students would be learning about Remembrance Day within the school.

Bill C-597 would make it clear where the federal government stands with respect to the importance of Remembrance Day to our country. It would give the provinces the opportunity to revisit whether they want to make it a statutory holiday as well.

At this time of year, if anything, I hope this legislation reminds Canadians that they need to wear a poppy. They need to get to a cenotaph. They need to make sure they remember the people who fell for our country and hold the significance of the date dear to their hearts.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

November 3rd, 2014 / 6:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak to Bill C-597, an act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day).

How fortunate it is that the debate takes place this week, ahead of our Remembrance Day constituency week. A week from now, most of us will be back in our ridings, gathered at cenotaphs and Legion halls, honouring the men and women, our friends and neighbours and family, who serve now and have served to protect Canada and Canadians. We live in a country built on the devotion and sacrifice of those men and women, the men and women who came before us in service to our country.

Canada may not have been born out of armed conflict or violent revolution, but the values established by the Fathers of Confederation and the men and women who lived here for centuries before them have been challenged from time to time by those who would try to impose their will and their values upon us. In those instances when the call went out, Canadians answered and were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. With them, we made a sacred covenant.

At Vimy Ridge and Juno Beach, in the Kapyong Valley and across Kandahar province, brave Canadian men and women fought for our freedom and for a world free from tyranny and oppression.

As a country, we have called on successive generations of Canadians to make great sacrifices, including accepting terrible circumstances, separated from their families and loved ones, accepting unlimited liability, and putting their futures and very lives on the line.

Many never returned. Those who did returned with wounds, visible and invisible. To them we owe a sacred obligation, an incredible debt. We owe this debt every day, though there is one day of the year in particular when Canadians stop and are more acutely aware of the depth of the profound sacrifice made by successive generations of Canadians.

The hostilities of the First World War came to an end formally at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, November 11, 1918, 96 years ago next week. The following year, King George V called on everyone in the Commonwealth to stop what they were doing at 11 a.m. on November 11 for two moments, not two minutes, but two moments of silence, to commemorate the Great War's armistice. Since that day, on or around the 11th, Canadians have come together to remember our fallen friends and family and to honour the courage and sacrifice of the living.

The bill brought before us by the hon. member for Scarborough Southwest would have us bring the language surrounding Remembrance Day in line with other important days governed by the Holidays Act and would move us down the road to changing how we observe the day as a country and as a people.

There may be some who are unaware of how we used to mark Remembrance Day. Following the appeal of King George V to mark November 11, a proposal was brought forward in the House of Commons to join the celebration of Armistice Day, on the Monday of the week of November 11, and Thanksgiving. While some were grateful for the long weekend, many veterans and a considerable number of Canadians found that the celebration of Thanksgiving at the same time as the sombre observance of the armistice meant that less than adequate attention was given to the memory of the 60,000 Canadians who perished in the First World War.

The Royal Canadian Legion, after its formation in 1925, petitioned Parliament to have Armistice Day observed exclusively on November 11. It was six more years before a bill was brought before the House of Commons to do just that, and at the same time, the name was changed from Armistice Day to Remembrance Day.

The first Remembrance Day, as we know it, was celebrated in 1931, and ever since, it has been celebrated at the National War Memorial and cenotaphs across the country as a solemn day to commemorate not just the dead and injured from the First World War but those from the Second World War, Korea, and Afghanistan and from peacekeeping missions in the Suez Canal, the Golan Heights, the Balkans, and Haiti.

How we celebrate Remembrance Day across the country is not consistent. Some provinces and territories, as has been mentioned, notably British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Yukon territory, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut mark November 11 as a paid statutory holiday. Federal public servants also are given the day off with pay. Other provinces such as Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Nova Scotia, which incidentally make up more than half of the Canadian population, do not mark November 11 as a paid statutory holiday. Everywhere and every one marks the day in one way or another. Most often businesses are closed at least until noon or 1 p.m., so that Canadians have an opportunity to make it to one of the many ceremonies being held.

The intention of the bill before us was clearly to make the treatment of Remembrance Day as a holiday more uniform. By asking for it to be observed much like Canada Day, it was clear the sponsor hoped to make it a statutory holiday so that all Canadians would have an opportunity to attend a ceremony and reflect on the importance of the day. Unfortunately, as it is written, the bill would not accomplish those particular goals.

While the bill would change the language of the Holidays Act to make Remembrance Day a legal holiday, the term “legal holiday” has no special status in law. The administration of holidays in Canada is accomplished through various pieces of legislation at both the federal and provincial levels, as was noted earlier, which include but are not limited to the Canada Labour Code, the federal Interpretation Act, the Excise Act, and the like.

I admire the intent of the bill as I admire any opportunity we have to make the observance of Remembrance Day more special and more accessible to Canadians. Whether we are ready for the day to be celebrated as a statutory holiday, again, is a different matter across the country. Veterans groups with whom I have spoken have some reservations. On the one hand they support any effort to increase awareness and elevate the importance of Remembrance Day to Canadians. However, as was mentioned, there are concerns with the side effects of a statutory holiday. A day off work and school might not lead to more Canadians attending ceremonies, rather they would just take the day off. Kids likely learn more while at Remembrance Day ceremonies at school, and on those rare occasions where the date would fall on a Sunday, giving a Monday off would seem out of the spirit of observance.

What the bill does accomplish is to lay the groundwork for a greater conversation about how we celebrate Remembrance Day. What greater time than this year, after the events of two weeks ago, when Corporal Nathan Cirillo was senselessly slain at Canada's National War Memorial and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was killed outside of where he worked, to consider how we celebrate?

There are no longer any generations of Canadians untouched by war or conflict. More and more people make their way to ceremonies. Perhaps it is time to discuss how we might make it easier for Canadians to do so. What greater time than the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War to give ample consideration to how we commemorate our Canadian Armed Forces and veterans, and how we observe our sacred obligation to them?

We agree with the member for Scarborough Southwest on possible amendments respecting protocol and the flying of Canada's flag at half mast.

I proudly support the bill because I believe it is the start of a much greater conversation.

Holidays Act (Remembrance Day)Routine Proceedings

May 14th, 2014 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-597, An Act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day).

Mr. Speaker, it is with pride and purpose that I rise today to introduce my private member's bill, an act to make Remembrance Day a national statutory holiday.

Similar versions of this bill have been introduced by the NDP member for Hamilton Mountain and by former Conservative MP Inky Mark. Petitions supporting this position have also been submitted by the member for Sarnia—Lambton.

Others were presented in 2010 and 2011 by the hon. member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel.

It is time to reaffirm our commitment to our veterans.

At a time when the number of veterans of past wars dwindle, we are faced with the changing face of veterans, and 40,000 brave young women and men who have earned our gratitude and thanks.

It is time, on the 100th anniversary of the start of the war to end all wars, to rededicate ourselves to all those who have faithfully answered their country's call and come to help those in need.

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