The House resumed from June 15 consideration of the motion that Bill C-311, An Act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day), be read the third time and passed.
Colin Fraser Liberal
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often 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.
The House resumed from June 15 consideration of the motion that Bill C-311, An Act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day), be read the third time and passed.
Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business
June 15th, 2017 / 6:15 p.m.
Colin Fraser Liberal West Nova, NS
Madam Speaker, I want to thank everyone who has participated in the debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-311, an act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day). I sincerely thank all the members of the Canadian heritage committee for their work after second reading, and reporting the bill back to the House with constructive amendments.
I want to thank the other members of Parliament who, over the past number of years, have introduced similar legislation, but for one reason or another did not make it all the way through the legislative process. These members include members from the Conservative, NDP, and Liberal parties. As well, I sincerely want to thank all of the organizations and individuals, both opponents and proponents, for their thoughtful and respectful contributions to the debate.
Most notably, and as the member a moment ago did, I want to recognize Wilma McNeill of Sarnia, Ontario, who has been a champion of this bill, and similar ones before it for almost 30 years. Her dedication to the issue of elevating the status of Remembrance Day is an inspiration, and I have enjoyed getting to know Wilma throughout this process. It has been a great privilege to put forward Bill C-311 and work with colleagues in getting this piece of legislation through the various steps in the House.
As I mentioned in my speech at second reading and earlier in the first hour of debate at third reading, the bill would afford Parliament the opportunity to do a couple of things. First, it would help fix inconsistent language in the federal Holidays Act, so that Remembrance Day would be put on an equal footing with other days such as Canada Day and Victoria Day in federal statute. This would elevate the status of Remembrance Day to ensure it is being properly recognized in federal law. A motion alone could not add the consistency and elevate the status of Remembrance Day by changing the language in the Holidays Act. Only another bill or act of Parliament can do that.
The other thing it would do is affirm Parliament's commitment to this important day of November 11 as a solemn day of remembrance in Canada. I believe it is important for us as parliamentarians to shine a light on the significance of this day, and state clearly why it is unique and deserving of prominence, while at the same time allowing us to reflect on the way we mark November 11 across our country.
I want to be very clear, as I have throughout this entire process at every single step. This bill would not and could not create a national holiday across Canada. That is not within the purview of Parliament to do. It is up to each province and territory to decide for themselves whether people get the day off work or school on November 11. This bill would not give anyone the day off who does not already have the day off. For federal employees, that day is determined through the Canada Labour Code.
Throughout the debate, the main contention raised against Bill C-311 is that the Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command does not support the bill. First of all, I have tremendous respect and admiration for the Royal Canadian Legion, and the good work they do across Canada, especially in smaller communities, where not only is it a gathering place for veterans but in many ways is at the very heart of the community.
There are 14 Legions in my riding of West Nova, and I am so proud of the work they do in our community supporting veterans. I am also proud of the support they have shown me with this bill, and the great relationships I have built with them in my time representing them as their member of Parliament.
It was mentioned in debate that the matter of a national holiday for remembrance has been the subject of many resolutions at the national Legion conventions over the years. There has always been a healthy debate about it. In the end, the position has been to be against it. Bill C-311 would not and could not make a national holiday. Again, it will remain up to the provinces and territories to make those determinations.
At the heritage committee, while studying this bill, a Legion member and former president of the Kingston, Nova Scotia branch, Dave Geddes, came before the committee and said:
...when that came to the floor, it was never brought forward like this bill is—that it would be a federal one, and it would be up to the provinces to enact it as they see fit. I think that if it had been brought in that manner, you would have seen a different vote.
This bill and the intention behind it is definitely not what the Legion members were actually voting on in those resolutions. While I totally respect the point of view of the Dominion Command on this topic, I respectfully disagree, because this bill would not do what they seem to say it would.
With regard to the comments from the member for Edmonton Strathcona, there was no change to the bill in the first section. Therefore, it was not watered down.
In conclusion, we can all agree on the importance of Remembrance Day in Canada. We also share the desire to ensure this day appropriately honours the sacrifices, and I ask for passage of this bill.
Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business
June 15th, 2017 / 6:05 p.m.
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”.
Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business
June 15th, 2017 / 5:55 p.m.
Greg Fergus Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate. First, I want to acknowledge the incredible work that my colleague from West Nova did on drafting this private member's bill concerning Remembrance Day. I am encouraged to hear my colleagues across the way take part in this debate and those who say that they support the bill.
This bill is important because it gives Remembrance Day a federally legislated legal status that it did not have before. It will be given the same legal status as Canada Day and Victoria Day. We will be able to say that it is now a statutory holiday to commemorate the armistice that ended the Great War of 1914-18. There will be no exception under the legislation.
When I first looked at this file I thought perhaps that the fact that Remembrance Day had not been given the same legal status as other statutory holidays in Canada was just a fluke. Unfortunately, this exception lingered for quite some time. My colleague from West Nova, Nova Scotia, is to be commended for introducing a bill to right this wrong in Canadian law.
It is very important to understand what this private member's bill would contribute, in no longer allowing for this exception that we have of having two classes of holidays in Canada. We have one class, the legal holiday that is recognized within the Canadian legal parliamentary context, like Canada Day and Victoria Day. However, for some reason, we have taken one of our most sacred commemorations and put it at a lower level than the other two.
For me, that is not acceptable. I applaud my colleague, the member for West Nova, for taking the initiative to make sure we can do this. I would like to thank also other members from across the way for lending their support to this initiative. This is very important for us to do.
Let me also talk about what this private member's bill would not do. There is a sense sometimes; people feel that this would be creating another statutory holiday, a day when people all across Canada would have the day off. That actually is not the case. What we discovered, which is very interesting, is that holidays in this country, in terms of whether people have a paid day off, are determined by the provinces. When we have Canada Day or Victoria Day, or in my province la Fête de Dollard, it is determined by the provincial body whether people will have a paid holiday.
At the federal level, we determine whether this is being considered for bodies that are regulated by the federal government; for example, the federal public service. This would be considered a legal holiday when the federal government would not be at work. For all of us here in Parliament, it is a similar kind of thing. That is where we have that aspect of where it applies.
For other industries and employment situations that are regulated by the provinces, it is up to the provinces to determine whether they can take part in this holiday. That is what they do for Canada Day. I think it would be politically unwise and impossible to do, but a province theoretically could determine that Canada Day would not be considered a statutory holiday, a paid holiday, for the purposes of employment. People in that province would have to show up to work. That is beyond what would be reasonably acceptable, and we would not expect that to happen.
I think Bill C-311 has been warmly received by Canadians across the country. I find more and more in my riding of Hull—Aylmer that people recognize the importance of Remembrance Day, even though we move further away in time from World War I. There are no living survivors of World War I. As we move away from the wars in which Canadian troops have participated, I find it a funny thing that the younger generations in schools in our communities are participating more in Remembrance Day activities. Either people will cross the river to come to the national cenotaph here, or they will go to the cenotaph in the Aylmer sector of my riding.
Last year, we had close to a thousand people who celebrated on November 11. We had women and men taking part, of course, who were serving in our forces. We had veterans come out in uniform to participate. What was really encouraging was seeing regular folks from Hull—Aylmer take part in this, people who came out to recognize the importance and the service that the women and men in uniform have made over time and the sacrifices that they and their families have made. It was really touching to see.
I think we owe it to them, and to all Canadians, to make sure that Remembrance Day shares the same legal definition that other federally regulated holidays have, such as Canada Day and Victoria Day. That is why I feel it is important for us to recognize the sacrifice that our brave women and men have made, to bring it up to the same level, and to allow Remembrance Day to finally have the same legal status in the Holidays Act.
I also want to touch on some of the provisions in this bill. One of them addresses the fact that if November 11 falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the following Monday will be considered a statutory holiday and celebrated as Remembrance Day.
That is important. Through this bill we are making sure that Remembrance Day is treated the same as all the other statutory holidays under the Holidays Act.
Most importantly, not only does the main clause of the bill raise the legal status of this holiday, but the bill also provides that the Canadian flag on Parliament Hill will fly at half-mast on Remembrance Day in recognition of the sacrifice made by our troops and our veterans.
Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business
June 15th, 2017 / 5:50 p.m.
Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to support Bill C-311, an act to amend the Holidays Act, regarding Remembrance Day. It is important to recognize that the bill will not make this a national holiday for all provinces such as my own, although Ontario will continue to have that as an option. It is still much a matter of debate as to the value of having that day as a national holiday or whether, as the Legion professes, it should not necessarily be so because honouring and respecting veterans takes place all the time. They argue school campaigns are just as effective and having the children in the school at that time is effective.
I personally will be supporting it as a national holiday for a number of different reasons because I believe that the work that is done and the argument that is made in the school is very profound and very proficient. I come from an area in Windsor in Essex County where many battles of the War of 1812 were fought. We had a number of different interventions with regard to wars, conflicts, and even peacekeepers over the years. It has not just been World War I and World War II. It is the Korean War, Afghanistan, peacekeeping missions, a series of encounters across the globe involving my constituents from the Essex and Kent Scottish Regiment, the HMCS Hunter, and as well the HMCS Windsor, which is now in the field, that have all been part of the national construct of why we pay tribute and honour them.
I support this as a day to reflect as some workers cannot have that opportunity to take a moment. I know that some establishments no longer even have the 11th hour of the 11th day and the minute of silence, which we are supposed to observe. I remember when I was in school that would take place in Ontario and it still does to this day, but I know it does not take place in other places of business and work. Having that day, we have done a lot in Windsor and Essex County over the years to heighten awareness. It is also important for a diverse culture and community to do so.
I have been fortunate to grow up in the shadow of different experiences, in particular, my biological grandfather John Clifford Addison perished in the fall of the Burma campaign on the HMS Scorpion. I do not know much about my grandfather. I have his medals and his war record. I have a photograph of the ship that he served on, but my grandmother remarried Fred Attwood when he came to Canada. He raised me as his own grandson, so I would go over every weekend and talk to my grandparents and he would share the stories. He served on the MacCallum and the HMS Ark Royal. He was a merchant marine as well as in the Royal Navy. He told stories of how he slept at night making sure to put sugar at the bottom of the grease tins so that the different insects would not get past it and the camaraderie he had as an electrician with some of the pilots on the aircraft carrier that he served.
We have those personal elements that we can share, but how do we transfer that? I would say that there has been a tremendous effort and I want to thank the Windsor Veterans Memorial Services Committee, as we recently had a ceremony. For over 100 years, it has provided services for the men and women of good service to Canada who have passed away and for those who came back from the field of combat to be part of our community. They have a number of different support mechanisms for our veterans, including an honour guard for funerals, and my grandfather was one of the recipients of that. We have a service every year especially for that. It is very unique in Windsor and Essex County. It is ongoing throughout the year. The services have reached into the hundreds in the last number of years because of the number of veterans we have lost most recently.
I am also very proud to represent a region where we already have a connection to Ottawa. When Korea was not recognized as a war, on our city council, I was proud with Charles Hotham to move a motion to put the only city funding and federal funding into the current memorial in Ottawa for South Korea. Losing our veteran, Henry Martinak , this year was very difficult as well as Larry Costello from the Windsor Veteran Memorial Services Committee who passed away.
The point I also want to make in relation to this is that the bill would just be adding a legal aspect to the current terminology, so nothing will really change.
The legislation has been diluted and I do not understand why. I do not sit on committee so I do not know why that was done, but I will support it because it is an improvement to what we presently have. However, questions will remain as to whether the remaining provinces should join the six provinces and three territories that currently observe Remembrance Day as a holiday. For example, banks and federal employees observe this as a day off.
What happened in Windsor and Essex County is really unique. New Canadians who have come from countries around the world and who have no personal connections, who do not have that gift as I and many others do, are able to attend our Remembrance Day ceremonies. This is an opportunity to further showcase that. It is also an opportunity to teach them about the real connections Canadians have.
It is not just about the fact that some people made the ultimate sacrifice. It is also about the fact that so many came back and they have contributed a lot to their communities and families. This is so critical to mention because many of those helped to establish unions, community groups, and many different organizations. They led to the many diverse ways that Canada has expressed itself and contributed so predominantly in the world.
I will be supporting the bill and I thank the member for bringing it forward. The reality is that at the end of the day, we will still be having the discussion in places like Ontario as to whether Remembrance Day will become a full holiday or not. Until that time and until that discussion, at least we in this place continue to recognize our veterans as well as their families for their continued contributions to our communities.
Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business
June 15th, 2017 / 5:40 p.m.
John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise on behalf of the great residents of Barrie—lnnisfil and as the opposition critic for veterans affairs. I am pleased again to speak to Bill C-311 at third reading.
Today we speak to address only one amendment to the Holidays Act for Remembrance Day, which is to add the word “legal”.
I want to commend the hon. member for West Nova for his inspiration for this bill and to recognize his work on behalf of the men and women of our armed forces, not only with respect to this bill but also for his work as a member of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. We have had some spirited discussions at that committee.
I would also like to state that the previous Conservative government, and the current government, continue to show the respect due to our veterans. The 100th anniversary of Vimy celebrations in France were outstanding. Thousands of Canadians stood with government and military representatives remembering and reliving the actions of the thousands who fought in those days of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The commemoration services in Ottawa were just as moving, with a sunset candle-lighting ceremony, Saturday, April 8, and a touching passing of the torch to Canada's future military from our veterans. The Saturday evening service was followed by a full commemoration on Vimy Day, April 9, in full sun, weather conditions our soldiers in 1917 certainly would have preferred to the rain and mud they experienced on that April morning.
Services in Ottawa and across Canada were attended by Canadians of all ages from all communities. Canadians have shown that they have a birth-born respect for our current members of the Canadian Armed Forces and our veterans to whom we owe so much. These feelings of respect and long-standing admiration do not need to be legislated to Canadians.
From the earliest school day memories of services in our school auditoriums and cafeterias, presence on Remembrance Day was never a forced obligation. With Bill C-311, there would be a forced obligation on Canadians, a forced obligation that is, quite frankly, not needed.
Let me take a few minutes to provide a few examples for this House.
Each year the Canadian Legion launches its poppy campaign on the last Friday in October, and it runs until Remembrance Day. Of all money raised from the 20 million poppies distributed, 85% goes back to veterans and their families through services and programs.
When I think of all the military events in our nation's history we commemorate, I find it hard to believe that some people think we do not honour those who have fallen enough. Last week we remembered June 6, 1944, D-Day, the raid on Normandy. We have annual services at the National War Memorial and across Canada for the Battle of the Atlantic. On July 1, in Newfoundland and across Canada, we will remember the loss of a generation at the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel. Coming up, we will remember the 75th anniversary of Dieppe in August. National Peacekeepers' Day is August 8.
If this House and the government really want to recognize the sacrifices of our armed forces, there could be another way we could do this. In 2017, while Veterans' Week is taking place, from November 5 to 11, all MPs will be here in Ottawa and only able to return home on November 9 or 10 to attend services for Remembrance Day. Would it not make more sense to have our House leaders agree to permanently reschedule our November break to coincide with Veterans' Week so that all MPs can participate in their ridings? I do not speak for all members, but I know that I will miss several important Remembrance Day ceremonies in the communities of Barrie—lnnisfil while I am in Ottawa that week.
I applaud the effort and sincerity of the member for introducing Bill C-311. However, it would have made much more sense to introduce a bill or motion that would have made a permanent change that positively affects how we can be with our constituents for Veterans' Week, the whole week, not just November 11, as will be the case this year.
What this bill would do is only one thing, which is label Remembrance Day a “legal” holiday. I am not quite sure what impact that would have, because it is still up to the provinces to determine whether they will impose a statutory holiday.
I would like to restate to the House my comments at the heritage committee when the bill was debated, where, in committee, two of the three clauses were removed from the bill. When we pass pieces of legislation in the House of Commons, we do not do so because they feel good. We do so because they support the intent to make the lives of Canadians better. Understandably, there can be an argument that this will help elevate the status of Remembrance Day, but as we heard from Mr. White, with the Royal Canadian Legion's Dominion command, and from others, and as I can tell you anecdotally from being as involved in Remembrance Day week as I was, the status of Remembrance Day continues to grow in this country without the help or the need for legislation.
A significant number of Canadians participate in the remembrance of those who gave their lives in sacrifice for the freedoms that we enjoy. As I said when the bill was being dealt with in committee, there is not a day that goes by that I or any of us who have the privilege of sitting in the House of Commons do not realize that those sacrifices were real, that blood was spilled and that families were torn apart to allow each and every one of the 338 of us the privilege of sitting in our symbol of democracy: the House of Commons.
As I and others in committee mentioned to the member for West Nova, if the intent was to emphasize the importance of Remembrance Day to Canadians, we could have easily done that through a motion that would have reaffirmed Parliament's commitment to our veterans and to Remembrance Day. We did not necessarily need a piece of legislation to change an act of Parliament to do that.
Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business
June 15th, 2017 / 5:35 p.m.
Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON
Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of Bill C-311, an act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day).
Before I begin, I would like to thank the member for Central Nova for bringing this forward. It is long overdue and is an issue that we need to discuss in the House today.
Growing up in Manitoba, Remembrance Day was always a holiday. I can still recall my confusion upon arriving in Ontario to find that it was not recognized as a holiday. This bill would ensure that from coast to coast to coast, Canadians would have the opportunity to reflect and remember the sacrifice of the fallen.
Remembrance Day holds special significance for all Canadians, whether they are serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces, relatives of those who have fought, or even new Canadians, because all Canadians enjoy the rights and freedoms fought for and preserved by those who fought and those who continue to fight.
Guelph knows the importance of remembrance because of our strong history and connection to Canada's military past. With the arrival of the First World War, 3,300 people enlisted in Guelph. Local union and business leaders spearheaded campaigns to raise money for war bonds and charity efforts.
Soldiers who enlisted would arrive at the freshly constructed armoury, completed in 1908, which is now almost 110 years old. The armoury is home to Guelph's 11th Field Artillery Regiment, RCA, affectionately known as the gunners, and is Canada's oldest artillery regiment. Thousands of troops were accommodated and trained at the armoury during the First World War. The local militia unit was renamed the 1st (Howitzer) Brigade, Canadian Forces Artillery. After their training, new recruits were sent east to Sydney or Halifax, Nova Scotia, on their way to France.
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, the celebrated war poet, was just one of the dedicated volunteers from Guelph and one of thousands of Canadians who shared the experience of war. His poem, In Flanders Fields, is inscribed in the memorial chamber of this place and has earned worldwide recognition as a symbol of the costs of war and the duty of those left behind to remember the fallen. His contribution was by no means the only one made by the people of Guelph in support of the war effort.
The University of Guelph, then known as the Ontario Agricultural College, was charged with doing what it could to offset food shortages. The war attracted many faculty, staff, and students as recruits. The War Memorial Hall was opened in 1924 in honour of the 109 who died. In total, Guelph lost 281 men and one nursing sister. The end of the war in 1918 brought peace, but it would not be long before Guelphites were called upon again to serve.
When war was declared in 1939, Guelphites once again answered the call. By the end of the Second World War, Guelph had lost 173 citizens. This included Isaiah Acker, who died while on duty serving with the RCAF. As a tribute to his service, the Jewish community in Guelph named their synagogue after him in 1949.
Guelph contributed to the war effort in many ways, whether it was manufacturing furnaces and fridges for the navy or women pitching in as constables due to labour shortages.
Today the spirit of remembrance is alive and well in Guelph. Every November 11, at the Guelph Cenotaph on Eramosa, the legion, the 11th Field Artillery Regiment, 121 Red Arrows Squadron, and community members gather to pay their respects.
However, remembrance in Guelph is by no means confined to just one day a year. Our local legion and regiment participate in charitable events, such as the United Way campaign kickoff barbecue for Guelph, and they also hold Decoration Day and many other events within the community. These events remind the community of the active role the military and the legion play.
This year, thanks to the MP for Scarborough—Guildwood and the Vimy Oaks Legacy Corporation, members were able to adopt oak saplings, descendants of the original oaks brought over from Vimy Ridge by Lieutenant Leslie Miller. Guelph was able to acquire two of these living memorials to the First World War. The first sapling was planted last week at the Guelph Legion, which will be celebrating its 85th anniversary next week. Fittingly, the second tree was planted at the home, now museum, of Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, who also fought at Vimy.
Even foreign governments have seen fit to recognize the contributions and accomplishments of Guelphites during wartime. Earlier this year, the Government of France bestowed one of its highest honours on a pair of Guelph veterans, Frank Taylor and Donald Sutherland. In a ceremony with the French consul, they were both named Knights of the French National Order of the Legion of Honour for their contributions during World War Two in the liberation of France. I was deeply honoured to participate in this ceremony.
Guelph has always had a strong connection to Canada's military past and present. However, this connection is not unique. It is mirrored in communities from coast to coast to coast. It is for this reason that Remembrance Day should be listed as a national holiday under the Holidays Act. This will ensure that all Canadians are free to gather at local cenotaphs and participate in remembrance ceremonies.
I would once again like to offer my thanks to my colleague from Nova Scotia for bringing this important bill forward.
In closing, I encourage all my colleagues in this House to support this legislation as a means to further unite Canadians in the spirit of remembrance.
Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business
June 15th, 2017 / 5:30 p.m.
Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to support the bill, although I have to admit I am deeply disappointed that the member has relented and reduced his bill substantially.
Initially, as I understand, Bill C-311 proposed that Remembrance Day be a statutory holiday. Remembrance Day is already a statutory holiday in my province of Alberta and in every province except Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia.
My experience is, and the experience of those in my city, that making this day of remembrance a statutory holiday enables and encourages families to participate in memorial services. Events are well-attended in Edmonton, at cenotaphs located across the city. Schools do host events and there is no conflict, as has been raised I think by some veterans. Most schools host their November 11 activities days before November 11. I have regularly participated in events in both McNally High School and Vimy Ridge Academy and they are a pleasure.
While the largest service held with the Lieutenant Governor is hosted at the University of Alberta in my riding, for the past few years, I have been honoured to be invited to join the premier and the South Alberta Light Horse regiment in a very special service at Holy Trinity Anglican Church. We then march with the soldiers to the cenotaph at the now renamed Light Horse Park.
I have also had the privilege of working with a committee of Edmontonians determined to refurbish the old Strathcona cenotaph, an effort led by the South Alberta Light Horse Regiment Foundation, nicknamed Sally Horse.
I am joined on this committee by our local MLA, the premier of Alberta, the rector for Holy Trinity Anglican Church, the Royal Canadian Legion, our city council, the Old Strathcona Foundation, the Strathcona Community League, Fringe Theatre Adventures, the Old Strathcona Business Association, and finally the Youth Empowerment and Support Services, or YESS.
YESS is an organization that supports youth who are homeless. It is located in the adjacent Connaught Armoury, the oldest in the province. Each Remembrance Day, they kindly host all who attend the ceremonies at our cenotaph.
This joint initiative to refurbish the cenotaph has been inspired by the growing interest in participating in this community-based ceremony and in recognizing the deep connection of the Light Horse to Old Strathcona.
The official birthdate of the SALHties was July 1905 and Old Strathcona was the regimental headquarters until 1964. Their flags still fly in Holy Trinity church.
The regiments were horse-mounted in the early days. Albertan regiments are famous for the horsemanship, going back to World War I, when Albertans were tasked with breaking in new mounts at Swaythling Remount Depot because of their natural horsemanship.
Members of the then-called Dragoons were dispatched from the Old Strathcona train station in 1914, during World War I, and also in 1939 during World War II. Their current Colonel-in-Chief is Her Royal Highness, the Countess of Wessex, who has attended some of the November 11 services and ceremonies. She honoured us at the groundbreaking of the new cenotaph park, Light Horse Park.
The 31st Battalion was one of the key Alberta battalions. It drew approximately 50% of the men from Edmonton and its surrounding area. It was active in all major campaigns throughout World War I and was awarded many battle honours, to name only a few: Ypres, Mount Sorrel, the Somme, Arras, Vimy, Hill 70, Passchendaele, and Flanders.
The 15th Light Horse continues to service Calgary on horseback and trains regularly as part of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade, 5th Cavalry Division, alongside the 19th Alberta Dragoons. In 1942, the unit was converted to a tank regiment re-designated as the 29th Armoured Recognizance Regiment, and fighting in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and, finally, German, with continuous action from 1944 to 1945.
In 1954, the South Alberta Regiment merged with the 15th Alberta Light Horse to form the South Alberta Light Horse.
Planned additions to the memorial will commemorate the Alberta Light Horse history and its strong links to the community, creating a place of interest and gathering year-round. The changes will provide new educational materials for students, families, and community members helping bring the local military history alive. The Light Horse Park cenotaph rehabilitation project is an important legacy project, not just for November 11, but benefiting the community year-round, including for our famous Fringe Theatre festival and for the Strathcona Community League.
We are hopeful that it will soon be completed so that all may gather in a beautiful location in Edmonton Strathcona to observe Remembrance Day. Again, I am very grateful that everyone, every family in my city, has the opportunity to come and celebrate with us on Remembrance Day.
The House resumed from May 4 consideration of the motion that Bill C-311, an act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day), be read the third time and passed.
Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business
May 4th, 2017 / 6:25 p.m.
Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK
Madam Speaker, I am a member of the heritage committee, and I have attended the meetings discussing Bill C-311. It has become abundantly clear to me that this measure aims to go in the back door to achieve a desired outcome at the front door. I am opposed to the legislation and to the method by which it has been proposed.
First, let us get some history. We have heard a lot of history in the last 50 minutes or so. The bill is described as a modest measure to add consistency to the language in the federal Holidays Act by adding the word "legal" and ensuring that the same language that is used for Canada Day and Victoria Day is used for Remembrance Day. The bill has been introduced and reintroduced nine times since 2004. Seven of the nine introductions never made it past first reading. Does this not raise the question, then, of whether it is worth spending more time debating a measure to add consistency to the Holidays Act?
This inconsistency has been around since 1931—that is, 86 years—without any ramifications. As I said earlier, the desired outcome is a national statutory holiday coming out the front door; this is just gaining entry through the back door.
Remembrance Day is the day dedicated to remembering those who have served and sacrificed. We have an opportunity to thank those who have served in our world wars. However, do we need a holiday to do this?
Last year, as is my habit, and for the past number of years in my city, I attended the ceremonies at the Sasktel Centre with over 9,000 other Saskatonians. The Sasktel Centre event is considered Canada's largest indoor Remembrance Day ceremony, and it has been for the last two and a half decades.
Let me quote a statement made at the committee by Mr. Brad White, who is the dominion secretary of the Legion. He said:
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.
What I saw in the testimony at the heritage committee was no documentation at all. All we heard from the guests was talk about the RCAF Association and the navy, although during cross-examination it was not so much about the navy. The testimony that we heard had very little to do with the national association but with all the local bodies. This is why we see the bill come back to the House of Commons time and time again.
Madam Speaker, I notice the time. I would not support this bill today.
Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business
May 4th, 2017 / 6:20 p.m.
Alaina Lockhart Liberal Fundy Royal, NB
Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise today and speak to Bill C-311, an act to amend the Holidays Act for Remembrance Day.
I want to praise my colleague, the hon. member for West Nova, for bringing forward the bill, but also for his tireless efforts on behalf of the women and men in the Canadian Armed Forces, and our veterans. We are both members of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, and his passion for the commemoration of sacrifices made by our veterans is clear.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak today, because I believe one of the most poignant things we can do as proud Canadians is to join together as a nation and as individuals to recognize and pay tribute to those brave Canadian soldiers, sailors, and aviators who have made the ultimate sacrifice, in wartime and in peace, at home and abroad, to safeguard our values and our way of life.
Well before the people of Fundy Royal placed their trust in me to represent them in Ottawa, I would attend the Sussex Remembrance Day ceremonies every year with my family. One of my earliest memories I have is attending the local ceremonies in my hometown of Sussex, New Brunswick, where veterans and citizens alike paid their respects to those who came before and served our nation with dignity and with their lives.
I remember how we stood by the cenotaph alongside the Sussex train station, a place where many of the 300,000 personnel trained at Camp Sussex passed before, during, and after the World War I. It was also at this train station where many, but not all, returned home. I remember being a proud seven year old in my neatly pressed Brownie uniform standing beside my hero, my veteran, my grandfather. He made my Remembrance Day real. Together we waited for the clock to strike 11:11, and then walked up to the cenotaph to pin our poppies on white crosses.
The act of remembrance remains the most important ceremony for me each year. Since those days, I have had the opportunity to meet many heroes in many communities throughout Fundy Royal and New Brunswick because of the dedication of many organizations, including Royal Canadian Legion branches, cadet units, municipalities, and the 8th Canadian Hussars association.
I have witnessed each community's immense pride in their local heroes and contributions to the efforts of the Canadian Armed Forces.
I am sure every member of the House can relay his or her own story of the unique way his or her communities take pause for the act of remembrance. They do this at cenotaphs and memorials, community halls, auditoriums, hockey rinks, and public squares.
As we celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary, we are looking to the future and thinking more than ever what the Canada of tomorrow will look like and the values we hold dear, a year where we confirm that we are proud of this amazing land, its kind and welcoming people, and the example we have set for the world. I would agree with my honourable colleague from West Nova that as proud as we are of Canada, we are just as proud of the women and men who have served our country with distinction, and with their lives.
Bill C-311 will be another chapter in the progression of our efforts as Canadians to remember. What began as a response to the incredible losses of the First World War, where we lost almost one in 10 of the nearly 620,000 men and women of the armed forces, has evolved into a national tribute to all those who made the ultimate sacrifice and a consistent show of support for our Canadian Forces.
In 1919, as a response to calls for a commemoration to mourn these deaths and pay tribute to those who were returning from the Great War, King George V urged people across the Commonwealth to observe two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. local time. This was to be known as Armistice Day. From 1921 to 1930, Canada observed Armistice Day on the Monday of the week in which November 11 fell.
It was the Canadian Legion that began lobbying Parliament to enshrine in law, November 11 as Armistice Day. In fact, it was one of the original resolutions it had at its founding convention. In 1931, the hon. member for Comox—Alberni, introduced a bill to observe the date as November 11. Passed by the House of Commons, the bill also changed the name to Remembrance Day, and it was first observed in 1931.
The member for West Nova has given us a timely and special opportunity to mark Canada's 150th anniversary by introducing Bill C-311 to change the definition of Remembrance Day in the Holidays Act, from a holiday to a legal holiday. Not only will Bill C-311 elevate the status of Remembrance Day to the same level as Canada Day and Victoria Day, it will reconfirm the commitment of the House to veterans and their families, and those who are serving today, and will show our unwavering gratitude for their sacrifice and service.
Those who serve in uniform do it with bravery, honour, and dignity, protecting the values we cherish most, and doing so with their lives. Let each day we enjoy our freedom be a day we honour them in remembrance.
Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business
May 4th, 2017 / 6:10 p.m.
Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON
Madam Speaker, today I rise in this House to speak on the subject of Bill C-311, an act to amend the Holidays Act for Remembrance Day, presented by the member for West Nova. This bill seeks to modify the Holidays Act to make Remembrance Day a legal holiday, which would impact federally regulated employees but would not force the provinces to adopt it as a paid statutory holiday. For many, the main goal of this bill would be to make Remembrance Day a legal holiday as well as to encourage Canadian provinces and territories to revisit the possibility of making November 11 a statutory holiday. On a federal level, it is Parliament that decides holidays and their designations, but provinces and territories decide which days become non-working holidays in their respective jurisdictions.
First and foremost, we need to ensure that, for generations to come, the bravery and sacrifice of those who fought are celebrated, and that the horrific nature of war is remembered, and that these things are passed to our children and to theirs. Personally, I have been passionate about Remembrance Day for a long time. I have the utmost respect for serving Canadians, past, present, and future. Honouring our veterans was so important to me as a child that I wrote numerous poems on the subject and received several awards from the Royal Canadian Legion in St. Catharines for my poems from 1972 to 1974.
Each year, I participate in nearly a dozen events that mark Remembrance Week in my riding of Sarnia—Lambton. I have received countless emails and letters from constituents in my riding, outlining why they are in favour of this bill and why they would like to see me vote in favour of this legislation.
Many provinces and territories already have legislation in place that recognizes Remembrance Day as a legal holiday. Making Remembrance Day a legal holiday would simply elevate its federal status to that of Canada Day and Victoria Day. Currently, three territories and six provinces have made Remembrance Day a paid public holiday, including Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, P.E.I., Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. Nova Scotia and Manitoba have specific legislation surrounding what can and cannot be open on November 11. Only Ontario and Quebec do not consider Remembrance Day to be a paid holiday and so have no legislation regarding November 11.
One of the many concerns raised regarding this bill touched on the educational component of Remembrance Day in schools and the fear that ongoing education on this subject could be lost. I certainly believe that children in Canada should learn about our military history, sacrifice, honour, and the important military role Canada has played since its creation. Battles such as Ypres, Vimy Ridge, and Passchendaele, the Battle of the Atlantic, the Dieppe raid, D-Day, the Korean War, and the missions in Afghanistan define Canada as we know it and are recognized internationally as acts of bravery, courage, and partnership.
Creating a sense of respect for our veterans in children from an early age will help to instil a sense of pride in young Canadians, and that impact is not easily erased. The earlier our youth learn what actions and decisions shaped our country, the more equipped they are to really appreciate and participate in Canadian society. They need to learn these things in school, but they also need to experience the act of remembrance at a cenotaph. These services have moved me to tears many times, and are a most effective reminder of those who sacrificed themselves in defence of our country. In the provinces and territories where legislation regarding Remembrance Day is already in place, most schools dedicate specific time to Remembrance Day education and ceremonies. This, along with its being a paid statutory holiday in some provinces and territories, allows Canadians to congregate at cenotaphs across the country on November 11. The act of seeing a formal Remembrance Day ceremony at a cenotaph or war memorial can have a significant impact on children and youth in our communities and can instil a sense of pride and honour that only ceremonies as powerful as those mentioned can bring. I believe it is important for all Canadians to have the opportunity to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies, should they so choose.
In my riding of Sarnia—Lambton, we have a special constituent who has been advocating for the designation of Remembrance Day as a legal holiday for over a quarter of a century. Wilma McNeill of Sarnia has been actively working toward legislation such as this at both the provincial and federal level for over 27 years. With her two sons and her late husband having served in the military, Wilma has dedicated herself to seeing legislation such as this put into place.
Wilma's journey first started with a bill proposed by MP Ken James in the early 1990s. Soon after, she strongly supported Ontario MPP Dave Boushy, whose bill reached second reading. When Wilma speaks on the subject, she recalls how excited and encouraged she was when MP Ronald MacDonald presented two bills on the subject under the Chrétien government.
Wilma has fought tirelessly to reinstate Remembrance Day as a statutory holiday in Ontario and has worked with Sarnia—Lambton's previous MP, Pat Davidson, along with myself, to ensure everything is being done to encourage this bill.
Wilma has written to countless prime ministers, premiers, MPs, and MPPs on the subject and has told me that she will continue to do so until changes are made.
Wilma spoke in favour of this bill only weeks ago at committee, and has spoken in favour of a similar bill at committee in the past.
Wilma is determined to have legislation such as this passed in her lifetime. I would like to both thank and commend Wilma for her years of dedication, her constant smile, and her countless pink outfits that bring joy and encouragement everywhere she brings her message.
Not every person in my riding is in favour of this legislation. I have also heard from constituents who stand against this bill and would like to see it voted down. One of the primary concerns I heard centres around how a proposed day off, which is still up to the discretion of the provinces for the majority of Canadians, could be seen as a vacation and not a day of remembrance. Many constituents are concerned that Remembrance Day could turn into another long weekend or a day to sleep in and relax.
However, I would like to think that those of us who are committed to remembering our fallen heroes would encourage others to take the time and make the effort to pay our respects on November 11 and join our communities at the local cenotaphs.
Another concern raised was how Remembrance Day becoming a holiday could affect our children and our youth in schools. Concerns were raised as to whether this legislation would alter, reduce, or eliminate any form of education of ceremonies on the subject of Remembrance Day. The provinces where legislation already exists proves this is not the case and the education and ceremony segments are simply scheduled earlier or later in the week, permitting students to attend community ceremonies with their families, if they desire.
Personally, in my role as MP, I can truthfully say that I attend at least 11 Remembrance Day ceremonies in the week leading up to November 11. Remembrance Day is not necessarily a one-day event and can often stretch over an extended period of time. I do not believe that making November 11 a legal holiday will have a lasting impact on Canadian students as alternatives already exist and have already been successfully implemented in numerous provinces and territories.
Another concern raised was that of the position of many Legions across the country, as well as the position of Dominion Command. Not all the Legions across the country are on the same page when it comes to this subject and their opinions vary.
In addition, the Canadian military, the Merchant Navy, the Air Force Association of Canada, and the 1st Hussars all support having this day as a legal holiday.
Dominion Command, on the other hand, has clearly stated that it is not in favour of Bill C-311. Dominion Command has been dealing with these concerns for decades and its role is indisputable. It is familiar with the issue. I fully respect its stance and all the work it does for the forces and for our veterans. Having dealt with this issue 15 times in 45 years, Dominion Command has seen a growth in Remembrance Day activities and in participation. It highlighted concerns about the subject of education in schools and concerns that Remembrance Day might become another holiday that would lose meaning, and if it were to become a legal holiday, would it be treated as another time to remember and honour our fallen or just another long weekend.
Seeing as the majority of Canada already has legislation in place regarding the status of Remembrance Day, and seeing those provinces and territories are capable of providing complete in-school education and ceremonies during the week that leads up to November 11, I believe students are still receiving excellent education and interaction on this subject in school.
Allowing Canadians the opportunity to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies in their communities, or in larger city centres, would encourage Canadians to participate, which I believe is a good thing.
I recognize that not all Canadians would take advantage of the opportunity, but the question remains, should Canadians have that choice?
As such, I will be standing in favour of the bill when it comes for a vote. I will do so both in support of Wilma McNeill, as well as in honour of the countless Canadians who deserve to be remembered forever.
Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business
May 4th, 2017 / 6 p.m.
Sean Casey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage
Madam Speaker, I rise today to address Bill C-311. This bill seeks to make changes to the Holidays Act as it pertains to Remembrance Day.
I am pleased to advise the House that we will be supporting the bill with the amendments that were made at committee. I would also like to take this occasion to congratulate and thank the member for West Nova, who has shepherded the bill through committee in a very deliberate and thoughtful way. The passion that he feels for this subject has been very evident in the manner in which he has approached his work throughout in connection with this piece of legislation.
First allow me to explain the origins of the Holidays Act. It is a consolidation of three previous statutes: the Dominion Day Act, the Remembrance Day Act, and the Victoria Day Act. The main purpose of the Holidays Act is to establish the date of these holidays. Although other legislation, such as the Canada Labour Code, refers to Remembrance Day, the Holidays Act is the only place where the date is defined as November 11. When the Holidays Act was put in place, it incorporated the existing wording of all three of the previous statutes, which explains why Canada Day and Victoria Day are referred to as legal holidays and Remembrance Day is referred to simply as a holiday.
The bill before us today proposes to change the Holidays Act to add the word “legal” before “holiday” as it pertains to Remembrance Day. Changing the reference to Remembrance Day to be the same as the term used for Canada Day and Victoria Day will provide consistency in the Holidays Act.
It is important to note, however, that adding the word "legal" before “holiday” in the Holidays Act will not make Remembrance Day a paid non-working holiday for all Canadians across Canada. At the federal level, the Canada Labour Code determines paid non-working holidays for employees under federal jurisdiction. Employees who do not work under federal jurisdiction are subject to provincial and territorial legislation. This change would be a symbolic reflection of the continued commitment of our government to honour veterans and remember their sacrifices.
It is fitting that these discussions about Bill C-311 are occurring in the year when we are commemorating significant anniversaries, including the 100th anniversary of the battles of Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele and the 75th anniversary of the Dieppe raid. Through major events here in Canada's capital at the National War Memorial and overseas at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France, we are turning Canadians' attention once again to these pivotal moments and the sacrifices that were made for our freedom.
Remembrance Day is more than just a date on the calendar. Observed on November 11, the anniversary of the armistice that formally ended hostilities at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, Remembrance Day is a national annual commemoration that keeps alive, in our collective memory, the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who served. They served in the air, they served on land, and they served at sea, and millions more contributed on the home front.
Canada pays tribute to our heroes. Canada's national flag, a paramount symbol of our nation, is flown at half-mast on Remembrance Day. The act of half-masting is a dramatic visual statement that speaks to the sense of shared loss. The flag on the Peace Tower is lowered at 11 a.m. on Remembrance Day, in synchronization with the flag at the National War Memorial.
Flags at other locations across the country are also flown at half-mast on Remembrance Day. Each year, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, Canadians across the country gather at the National War Memorial, in memorial parks, community halls, workplaces, schools, and homes to observe a moment of silence, collectively stand in honour of all who have fallen in the service of their country, and acknowledge those presently serving.
There is a profound value in pausing to remember and in setting aside time to participate in remembrance activities. It is easy sometimes to take for granted the many freedoms we enjoy in Canada: the freedom of thought, of religion, of expression, and the right to equality, liberty, and security. These freedoms are enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights, and the charter forms part of our Constitution.
On April 17, 2017, we marked the 35th anniversary of the charter. The Prime Minister reminded all Canadians:
The Charter protects the rights and freedoms that are essential to our identity as Canadians. It allows us to express ourselves as individuals and to celebrate our differences, while bringing us closer as a country.
In 2017, as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, the 100th anniversary of the First World War, and the 35th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights, let us address the long-standing inconsistency in the Holidays Act and use the same language for Remembrance Day that is used for Victoria Day and Canada Day.
On Victoria Day we honour our sovereign, Her Majesty The Queen; on Canada Day we show our pride in being Canadian; on Remembrance Day we pause to remember, to reflect on the value of our freedom, and to honour our brave Canadian men and women in uniform who have served and continue to serve our country.
Though changing the Holidays Act to identify Remembrance Day as a legal holiday would be symbolic, it is an important recognition of the significance of that date. Symbols are powerful, as they have an impact on identity. As Canadians, we hold our veterans and our serving members in high esteem, and we set aside time on Remembrance Day to show our respect and gratitude.
This change to the Holidays Act would reflect the continued commitment of the Government of Canada to honour our Canadian values of freedom and equality and would serve as a reminder that Remembrance Day is a time to appreciate our hard-earned freedom. The men and women who fought and continue to fight deserve our respect and admiration. We need to keep their stories alive and pass them on to the next generation.
Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business
May 4th, 2017 / 5:45 p.m.
Alex Nuttall Conservative Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to stand in the House today to speak to Bill C-311 regarding potential changes to Remembrance Day in terms of being a legal holiday.
This private member's legislation comes from the right place, from a good place. We all want to see participation in the recognition of our veterans' service grow. We want to see more people at parades on Remembrance Day or on any other days of the year when we recognize the contributions made in the many wars Canada has had to participate in, where our troops have fought so valiantly.
Most members of the Conservative caucus, if not all, voted for this legislation. We wanted to see it go to committee. The reason we wanted to see it go to committee was very simple. We wanted the committee to analyze it, bring in witnesses, and understand the potential ramifications and concerns that would be brought forward by different veterans groups and organizations. Certainly there were those who supported it. I do not want to say it was on one side.
The Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command has been very clear over the years that it does not support a change in this respect. We have to listen to those stakeholders. We need to ensure that we listen to them in this process. After all, it provides a community for those who have served. We need to ensure that its voice is heard on a national and even a provincial level. This specific private member's bill has both a provincial and a federal piece to it.
An organization that represents over 275,000 members has said that it believes that the best way to grow participation on Remembrance Day is to ensure that young people are in the classroom to ensure that they are learning about the day on that specific day. That is a very strong argument that has been brought forward and is one that I have personally heard in my riding, where I have two legions. It is one that I know has been communicated to most members of the House.
I like to draw on my experiences as a young person, and specifically as a young person in politics. Had it not been for my school having Remembrance Day services, there probably would have been many children in my school and in my area who would not have had the ability to participate in a Remembrance Day ceremony. Where I grew up, to be blunt, it was a very poor area. There was government housing. The reality is that there was no opportunity sometimes to get to Remembrance Day services, because people did not have the means.
It is ultra important that young people are able to see and be a part of these services that take place each and every year that recognize the incredible contributions of our veterans. Those who are with us still can show up at schools and share their experiences and their values and why it was so important to fight for their country, or in many cases, even to fight for people in other countries. This is so necessary for our young people. We need to make sure that this is preserved going forward.
I recognize that it is a bit different, depending on where we go and what province we are in. I can speak to the experiences I have had in Ontario.
As we look forward, I know the Legion Dominion Command will continue to be involved in this process. Its members are doing an incredible amount of work to ensure that Remembrance Day grows and has more participation. With the amount of work I know they do in our community in setting up our Remembrance Day ceremony and working with local media to ensure people are able to come out and participate, I feel they are the experts on this subject. Any time we have an opportunity to listen to the experts on a subject, we should do so. They have a lot to contribute and certainly they know this file better than almost any of us in the House could, save and except those who have served in our armed forces.
I know a lot of work has been put into this bill to date. The member for Barrie—Innisfil, the member for Souris—Moose Mountain, and the member for Yorkton—Melville have all put a ton of time in, along with members from the other parties, to ensure all sides and all stakeholders have been listened to and consulted on the subject.
However, as we come here, debate and are readying for a final vote on this in the House, it is a time when I specifically need to say that I will not be supporting the bill. It has been well debated, well-thought-out, and well positioned. It comes from a great place with respect to what the member is trying to achieve. However, at the end of the day, I believe we should be doing everything we can to ensure that the ceremonies that happen in schools with young people continue and that we do not do anything to inhibit that or to create this as a holiday instead of a day of remembrance. To me, it is not a holiday. It is a day that we should all take very seriously, to understand the sacrifices that have been made so we can stand in the House freely, without any concern for our well-being, and say everything we believe as politicians.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this subject and I look forward to the upcoming vote.
Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business
May 4th, 2017 / 5:30 p.m.
Colin Fraser Liberal West Nova, NS
moved that Bill C-311, An Act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day), be read the third time and passed.
Madam Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure to rise in the House this evening to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-311, an act to amend the Holidays Act with respect to Remembrance Day.
I want to sincerely thank the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage for examining my bill, listening to witnesses, and making changes to the bill that I completely agree with. In fact, at second reading, I had mentioned that I would be suggesting those changes to the committee, and those changes were recommended by the committee.
My bill changes the wording and status of Remembrance Day in the Holidays Act by making it a legal holiday, like Canada Day and Victoria Day. It is intended that this amendment will correct the Holidays Act that currently has different language regarding Remembrance Day than the language used for Canada Day and Victoria Day.
I believe it is important to fix this inconsistency and properly recognize Remembrance Day in our federal legislation as a federal legal holiday. More than simply correcting this inconsistency, however, I believe it is important that we continually examine how we are remembering the sacrifice of our fallen heroes and honouring the service of past and present Canadian Forces members.
I hope my bill will also have the added ability of affirming Parliament's commitment to this important solemn day of remembrance right across Canada. It is important to ensure that we shine a bright light on Remembrance Day and remembrance-type services at any opportunity we get.
Last month, I had the honour to attend the Vimy 100 commemoration in France as part of the Canadian delegation. It was an amazing experience to share with veterans and youth, as well as other fellow parliamentarians who were with the delegation.
We toured battlefield sites and cemeteries to remember our fallen. The interaction between the youth and the veterans was an amazing thing. There were two youth from each province and territory in Canada. It was wonderful to experience how they worked together to honour the sacrifice of our brave soldiers who fell in duty in World World I at Vimy, but also how they were able to share stories and engage in conversation with veterans who were on the trip and also, in many cases, family members of those who had fought at Vimy Ridge. I think it is important to celebrate at every opportunity, to make sure that our history is remembered for generations to come.
One of the interesting veterans on the trip was Ed Peck. I had an opportunity to speak to Ed on a couple of occasions during the trip. He is from British Columbia. He is a veteran of the Second World War, and participated in the liberation of Holland. He told me about his father, whose name was Cy Peck, who was actually a sitting member of Parliament during World War I and fought at the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
This amazing connection between generations and between people who serve in this place, as Mr. Peck did, is an incredible testimony to the dedication in service to our country. Mr. Cy Peck was the only sitting member of Parliament to ever win the Victoria Cross at the Battle of Amiens, I believe, in 1918. It is an amazing story which, upon reflection, ties very well into what my bill is attempting to do in elevating the status of remembrance in our country, and ensuring that our history is remembered for generations.
The ceremony on April 9 at Vimy was also an incredible opportunity as a collective experience for young people and veterans alike to share with all Canadians. There were more than 25,000 Canadians, many of them youth, from across our country who were able to attend that ceremony. Many of them had fundraised on their own in order to participate. This is a wonderful symbol for many years to come, a remembrance of sacrifice by our veterans, that will be in good hands.
Whenever we as Canadians have an opportunity to raise the profile of Remembrance Day and shine a light on its significance for our country, I believe it is worthwhile.
The bill was sent to the Canadian heritage committee, which oversees the Holidays Act. There were a number of proponents who spoke in favour of the bill. Some of them had the opportunity to explain why they thought it was important to insert the word “legal” into the context of the Holidays Act.
Mr. Dave Geddes, upon being asked what he thought adding the term “legal” to the term “holiday” would mean, said:
First, I think it would show our veterans that the government really does care. I understand that you people do, but to do this on our 150th birthday, for the veterans.... I think you would get 100% support from them.
Mr. John FitzGerald from Newfoundland and Labrador said:
I agree. Yes, I think changing would help. It gives it prominence. It gives it an importance and a weight—or I can use the word “gravitas”—that it deserves, and that our history and our duty to remember and honour our veterans and those who put themselves in harm's way even today in our Canadian Forces deserve.
That's my short answer.
Also appearing was Wilma McNeill, who has been a champion of modifying or making language consistent in the Holidays Act for many years. She is a strong supporter in favour of the bill. She said:
Yes, I agree that putting it up in the status with Canada Day and Victoria Day will help. Maybe it will wake up some of the provinces and they'll come on board. I think it's very important that we have it, and then it will be there forever. It won't be taken away.
This is the time to do it, as everybody is making celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the birth of Canada. Wouldn't this be a great way to honour our veterans once and for all for the sacrifice? When we think of what they did for us.... We live in a democracy, free, and we can do whatever we want, and it's because of the veterans.
Those were some of the testimonies given at committee in support of the bill.
Comments were made by a representative of the Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command as well. We talked about this at second reading, the fact that it had not supported the idea behind making it a statutory holiday in all jurisdictions. It was certainly saying that to the committee. However, the main point it raised was twofold. First, schoolchildren should be in school on November 11 to ensure they were learning about Remembrance Day. Second, if it were made a day off for everyone, people would treat November 11 as just another day off.
I have the utmost respect for the Royal Canadian Legion, and I have canvassed this issue with many legion members at the legions in my riding and across Canada. Many of them, and all of them in my riding in particular, support the bill.
The Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command put forward those two reasons for not supporting my bill. I believe it is in error. The bill has nothing to do with giving people the day off work or school. It cannot do that. It is not within the purview of Parliament to pronounce or legislate on such things. That is up to the provinces. The bill does not and cannot encroach on the jurisdiction of the provinces. Therefore, it is a moot point.
However, if we take the arguments themselves on their merits in any event, in jurisdictions where it is a day off for schoolchildren, it works very well. In Nova Scotia, in Veterans Week and leading up to November 11, many veterans are able to come into the schools to participate with schoolchildren and explain to them why remembrance is so important. The children then have the opportunity on November 11 to attend a cenotaph with family and with veterans and share in that collective experience, as I mentioned before when I saw the students and veterans participate in at Vimy on April 9.
Becoming just another day off is another argument used for people getting the time off work. Again, this has no ability to do that and it has nothing to do with it. That is completely up to the provinces. This is simply modifying language in the federal act to make it consistent with other days.
We see increasing numbers at Remembrance Days services across Canada, most particularly in Nova Scotia. Because of the Remembrance Day act in that province, they have the ability to attend those services.
Therefore, I would respond that the possibility people would take it for granted and just treat it as another day off is incorrect. I believe that year after year people are showing more reverence, and more importance and emphasis is being placed on Remembrance Day. The more we can use education and ensure that children are being taught why Remembrance Day is so important, the better off our country will be. This is a valued and important day of reflection for many Canadians. I think that because of increasing attendance, especially in jurisdictions where people do have the day off work, that is not a proper argument for not supporting this bill, especially since it does not do what is claimed it would do, which is to give people the day off in any event.
The other aspect of this bill that I would like to highlight is that at committee I was asked by some members who did not support the bill at committee stage why this was not simply brought as a motion rather than a bill if all it is to do is elevate the status and shine a light on it. The reason is quite simple. In addition to shining a light on this important day, and ensuring that Canadians know that Parliament is affirming its commitment to honouring and commemorating this important day of November 11, it actually does something tangible. It fixes an inconsistency which may well have been a drafting error made many years ago in the Holidays Act by leaving out the word “legal”. The word “legal” holiday is there for Canada Day and Victoria Day. I would submit that it should be there for Remembrance Day as well.
In conclusion, I believe this bill is well reasoned and is a modest bill in what it actually does. It adds consistency of language in the Holidays Act. It elevates Remembrance Day to the same status as Canada Day and Victoria Day in federal statute, and it does affirm Parliament's commitment to ensuring that this very important day of reflection and gratitude to our fallen and all of those who serve is given its due respect. Therefore, I would ask all of my hon. colleagues to support my bill, Bill C-311, and ensure its passage.