Mr. Speaker, it gives me great personal pleasure to rise today on behalf of the federal New Democratic Party to support my Liberal colleague's motion and give a little personal insight on why I think this is an extremely important bill that should be taken seriously. It is too bad that it is not votable.
We are one of the few western nations that does not have a statutory holiday for the remembrance of our soldiers, the men and women who died in various conflicts around the world.
In my conversations with many Canadians they believe that Remembrance Day is already a statutory holiday. When I tell them that it is not they get quite confused about it. The reality is, as we speak, November 11, Remembrance Day in honour of those who made the great sacrifice and their families, is not honoured through a statutory holiday. I find that a serious omission and one that I am very proud my colleague across the way has brought forward.
I also have a motion that will be debated within a couple of weeks which says exactly the same, that Remembrance Day should become a statutory holiday.
I will elaborate on a personal note. I was born in Holland. My parents were liberated through the sacrifices of the Canadian military. It is quite an honour for me to stand in the House where the decision was made to send troops overseas so that my family could be freed. Not only my family but millions of other people around the world were freed by the efforts of the allies in their fight against Nazi Germany and Japan in those years.
It is only understandable and the right thing to do. We are debating a motion and the relevance should not even be debated. It should be automatic. We should be able to take a motion or a bill of this nature, rush it to third reading, send it to the Senate and have it done.
If we can give ourselves a pay raise of over 20% in the matter of a few hours, certainly we can do something for our remaining veterans who are still alive and those who have passed on by honouring them with a special day on November 11.
November 11 in many ways is a special day, but by not making it a statutory holiday it basically says that we still have not honoured their sacrifices completely.
Some businesses have come to me and asked how they could afford it. I told them with great respect that if it were not for the sacrifices of those Canadian soldiers they would not have their businesses. We must never forget that.
I have a letter dated May 17, 1993, written by the official opposition member who is now the Prime Minister of Canada. He thanked a woman for her correspondence regarding private members' Bill C-289, a bill introduced by a former Nova Scotian Liberal, Mr. Ron MacDonald, to provide that Remembrance Day be included as a holiday in the public service collective agreement. He had narrowed it down just a bit.
He went to say that the Liberal Party understood her concern. Remembrance Day is a time when we honour the more than 100,000 Canadian men and women who sacrificed their lives for our country. Every year on November 11 we are given the opportunity to reflect on the values that Canadians fought and gave their lives to uphold. It is important that these ceremonies continue so that Canadians will always understand the extent and meaning of these sacrifices.
Then he stated that he supported the bill to guarantee Remembrance Day as a holiday for federal public servants. It was not just for public servants. Its intent was to make it a statutory holiday.
Unfortunately treasury board indicated that government members could not support the bill because it had collective bargaining implications and would cost too much. Liberals felt this reasoning was petty. He said they would continue to press the government to pass Bill C-289. As leader of the opposition he indicated that he appreciated the time taken to write and bring those views to his attention.
The Prime Minister took the time to have a letter written on his behalf telling someone that he supports making it a holiday for public servants. There is always speculation that the Prime Minister may decide to leave. In the last few remaining years he may have as a politician, why would he not want to leave a little memento for Canadians by making November 11 a statutory holiday? He has the power to be able to do something like that very quickly.
On November 11 members visit various legions in their ridings to say hello to current military personnel and their families and remaining veterans. It is a very sombre moment.
I personally go to eight legions on that day. I drive over 500 kilometres. I always make a presentation of the Canadian flag and of the national war poster of that year. We have them mounted and we present them to the legions on that specific day.
What an honour and privilege it is to represent not just my party but all members of the House of Commons. That is what we all do. Besides Canada Day, that is the other day when all members of parliament become equals. I have talked to many members of parliament who do the same. They go to the various legions in their ridings. They attend the functions. They shake the hands of the veterans and of the remaining spouses. They shake the hands of the current military and members of the legion. It truly is a wonderful blessed day.
It is time we put the debate aside and realize that now we need to have a proper statutory holiday in remembrance of the brave people who gave the supreme sacrifice. In the end military personnel always paid the ultimate liability. The ultimate responsibilities are up to government and members of parliament.
One of those responsibilities is to ensure that we never forget, that we pass the traditions and their sacrifices on to future generations. One of ways to do that is to have a statutory holiday from coast to coast to coast that properly and once and for all recognizes the supreme sacrifices that were made.
My mother is watching the debate as it is taking place. She is almost 80 years old. We came to Canada in 1956. My dad was a POW. He met a Canadian soldier and asked him why Canada sent so many young people to Holland, why it sacrificed so much. The answer was that they had a job to do. That was it. Then he walked away.
In 1956 the economic situation in Holland was not that good so the only answer for my family and thousands of other people was migration. My father remembered the words of that Canadian soldier and said that if Canada has such a military he could not imagine what kind of country it was.
My family came here in 1956 and has been able to prosper because of the efforts of Canadians. It is only fair and right that we as members of parliament put aside our partisanship this one time and recognize the value of men and women who served in the past and the men and women who are currently overseas in defence of freedom and democracy.
We should honour the motion of my hon. member across the way and recognize that this is a serious bill. We should address it and move on it very quickly. I cannot for the life of me see one reason we would not want to support the bill.
I do not want to talk only about Canadian sacrifices. There is a province in our country that was part of the British empire at that time. It also sacrificed tremendously. That is the great province of Newfoundland and Labrador. No one should ever forget the sacrifices it has made.
If members of the House want to see a lobby dedicated to the sacrifices of Newfoundlanders and Labradorans they should go to the house of assembly in St. John's, Newfoundland. I know my colleague from St. John's East will mention it. They will see something that will bring tears to their eyes. These people have done it right. They understand the sacrifices. We in the rest of Canada should do the same.
On behalf of my late father, mother and family I want to thank the hon. member very much for this motion. Hopefully it succeeds in being passed very quickly.