House of Commons Hansard #235 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was parole.


Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

12:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

(Motion agreed to)

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

12:15 p.m.


Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, how befitting that we should engage in a slight bit of time travel to end this Parliament. That brings me back to a quote from the veterans affairs minister when he spoke in favour of this bill at second reading and said:

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.

I would now like to thank my colleague from Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier for seconding my motion today and for her excellent work on the military file in her role as deputy national defence critic. I would also like to thank my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue for seconding my motion at second reading and for having served in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Remembrance Day has always been a very important day for my family, and the reason I wanted to bring this bill forward is to rectify that drafting error from the 1970s so that Remembrance Day would stand on an equal footing under the Holidays Act with Canada Day and Victoria Day, the other two legal holidays that we observe in Canada.

Yesterday I had a very touching moment when I took part in a special ceremony at my father's elementary school, Donwood Park Public School in Scarborough. My father is retiring this year after 28 years as a teacher in Scarborough, the last 25 of them at Donwood Park Public School. During the ceremony at the school yesterday, one of the other teachers, Shane Matheson, said that when he joined the teaching family at Donwood Park, he asked the principal and other teachers which of them took care of the Remembrance Day ceremonies, because usually one teacher is designated. All of the teachers immediately shouted out that it was Mr. Harris.

Of course I mean my father, David Harris, who has taken care of the Remembrance Day ceremonies at the school for years and years. He had a talk with my father to find out how he could help to further improve the ceremonies. They actually got a letter from the current Minister of Veterans Affairs to thank my father for the tremendous work he has done over the years in teaching the next generation about the importance of Remembrance Day here in Canada. It is particularly important work for communities that have a large number of new citizens.

The veterans affairs minister wrote the letter, and it was a very touching moment for us. As I have said in the House before, my family has a long-standing military tradition. My great-grandfather served in the both world wars; my grandmother was in the Canadian Women's Army Corps; my great-uncle, Bill Riley, was in the service in the Second World War and served in Europe. Last weekend, for the very first time, we were able to find and visit his tombstone in Pine Hills Cemetery in Scarborough. My father just happened upon the tombstone. He was there for a memorial service for a friend of his and happened to walk by the tombstone. That was certainly a very sombre but important moment for my family.

This bill went before committee. It went before two committees, in fact. It was there for 205 days before it was reported back to the House. Witnesses appeared multiple times both in the heritage committee and the veterans affairs committee, and there seemed to be some confusion about what the bill would actually do.

Let me clear that up now.

Just as the Minister of Veterans Affairs said, this bill would correct a drafting error from the 1970s. It would elevate Remembrance Day to the same status as the other holidays.

This does not create a statutory holiday. We in Parliament cannot impose holidays on the provinces. That is provincial jurisdiction. The provinces get to decide which holidays to observe, and of course, every province does it a little bit differently.

With respect to Remembrance Day in particular, six provinces and three territories treat it as a statutory holiday. In Manitoba, businesses have to be shut down until 1 p.m. so people have the chance to go to ceremonies, and Nova Scotia has its own Remembrance Day Act. There are lots of models to follow. Ontario and Quebec do not do anything special with respect to a holidays act or changing the normal course of business.

I would like to quote my colleague from Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley in Nova Scotia. He said:

I want to thank you for bringing this legislation forward. I think it is a very interesting discussion.

I'm from Nova Scotia. We have the Nova Scotia Remembrance Day Act. It means a day off school. Businesses are closed. It's a really big event. It's become bigger over the years. I think your legislation is timely, considering the age of our World War II and Korean War veterans. I can remember, as a child, watching the World War I vets. All of them are gone. My grandfather was in World War I. I have military history in my family that is very similar to yours.

As a former elementary school principal, I can tell you that the local legions, in the 19 cenotaph services in my riding, are very active in all the elementary schools, the junior highs, and the high schools in the area, but particularly in the elementary schools. The schools embrace the legions. There's a really strong partnership.

That is the important point. Everyone who works towards honouring and remembering our veterans and the brave service and sacrifice they have all made works together so that we can continue to impart to future generations the importance of that sacrifice and so that we never forget.

Regardless of what different provinces do, whether it is a day off school or not, that relationship between the kids and all the other groups that participate in Remembrance Day is what will help keep the spirit of that day alive for us so that we never forget.

I am certainly hoping today that we can actually end the 41st Parliament on a high note; more than likely we will not be coming back here until the election. We all came together as a Parliament on November 5 to vote on this bill. It was indeed fast-tracked through second reading. It passed second reading with a vote of 258 to 2. We were all able to come together in November to move the bill forward, and I certainly hope that now, in the waning hours of this Parliament, we will be able to do so again and get the bill through third reading before we all rise for the summer.

Some of our colleagues, and you, Mr. Speaker, are not coming back. I would like to thank you for the wonderful job you have done in that chair over the last four years I have been here. I am certain that you did a great job in your previous capacity, but I was not witness to it.

I just want to thank all the people who make Parliament work on a day-to-day basis: the clerks, the folks at the table; the pages and the incredible work they do; and the constables and security services here that work to keep us safe every single day. We would not be able to do the work we do on behalf of Canadians without all of them, and I just want to say thanks to them before we rise for the summer.

I am going to cut my remarks short, because I want to make sure that we get to the other speakers and that we actually have a chance to wrap up debate and move things forward. If we do not horse about here today, the bill will get through. I am certainly hoping that my colleagues, in particular those across the way, will agree to wrapping up the debate.

Again, I quote what the Minister of Veterans Affairs said:

The specifics of this bill before this House are to correct a drafting oversight from the 1970s,

He went on to say:

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 provinces the opportunity to revisit whether they want to make it a statutory holiday as well.

It would not force them to do so.

That is what this bill does. It clarifies Remembrance Day within the Holidays Act by according it the same status as Canada Day and Victoria Day. It changes exactly one word by adding the word “legal” in front of Remembrance Day so that it matches what is says for Canada Day and Victoria Day.

I think it is a simple change that we can all get done today.

I want to thank all my colleagues and everybody who has been a part of this 41st Parliament. It has truly been an honour and a privilege to sit here and to represent the constituents of Scarborough Southwest, where my family has lived for almost 90 years.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

12:30 p.m.


Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Scarborough Southwest for presenting this bill, and maybe even commend the people of Scarborough Southwest for sending to this place a member who is so passionate about veterans affairs.

I have some questions, and I will do them without preamble.

The sponsor of the bill said that he would contact the provinces after second reading. First, I would like to know, what did the affected provinces, particularly Ontario and Quebec, where November 11 is not a statutory holiday, have to say about this bill?

Second, what did the member hear from the Ontario school boards about this bill? My understanding is that school boards have been clear in saying that they want to keep students in school on November 11.

Third, has the member calculated how much it would cost small businesses to make November 11 a statutory holiday?

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

12:30 p.m.


Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, the bill would not create a statutory holiday, so there would be no cost with respect to that.

It is actually a little difficult to calculate the exact cost with respect to adding Remembrance Day as, say, a statutory holiday. If we were to add another new holiday, something else, it does not matter what, that would impact the entire country, it would be easy to measure that.

If Remembrance Day was made a statutory holiday, it would not impact six provinces and three territories; it would slightly impact a couple of provinces, and it would impact two provinces.

It is hard to find out what the cost would be to businesses right now. Businesses I have spoken to have said it is very confusing if they have an operation in Ontario and one in B.C. The folks in B.C. would be off for the day and the folks in Ontario would not be and if they tried to conduct business between the two, they could not get it done. That has a cost as well.

Businesses want predictability. Sometimes uniformity across the country is actually helpful to business. We only have to look to our neighbours to the south, the United States, for an example. The U.S. federal government passed a bill, and then every single one of the states passed their own bills. Now they have uniformity with respect to the observance of Remembrance Day, which they call Veterans Day.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

12:30 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question is related to my first-hand experience when there was a discussion in Manitoba to look at expanding it from a half day to a full day in terms of the statutory holiday. There was a lot of the resistance to moving to a full day which actually came from veterans. They indicated their concern was they did not want people to see it strictly as a holiday to go off and enjoy themselves. The veterans seemed to lobby that what we should be doing is encouraging school activities and programs. Ultimately, it was decided that we would stick with the half day. It seems to be working in Manitoba. This was debated in the 1990s.

Has the member had any indication from veterans who believe that a half day would suffice, and that what they are more interested in is those moments of remembering and opportunities to educate the public as a whole?

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

12:30 p.m.


Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, with respect to Remembrance Day, we have a situation here in Canada where every single Canadian who wants to go and pay their respects, however they want to do that, should have that opportunity. The model in Manitoba where businesses are shut down for half the day, certainly in the vast majority of instances would allow that to happen.

That is also why I have not been pushing specific suggestions with respect to what to do. Some of the provinces have done different things. Manitoba has gone in one direction. Nova Scotia has gone in another direction. Six provinces and three territories have decided to make it a full statutory holiday.

When we were hearing witnesses in committee, Canadian Veterans Advocacy said something that was quite poignant, that we were supposed to go and pay our respects and lay down our poppies, but afterwards we are supposed to carry on and continue to live our lives.

If families were to have that opportunity to spend the rest of the day together and choose to use the day however they wished, I do not see a problem with that. They would get to spend time together. It would also offer the opportunity for Canadian society to perhaps even do something for veterans and their families if we were to start organizing things. However, that would be a much larger discussion and a different debate on a different bill at a different time. However, I am always happy to talk about Remembrance Day.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

12:35 p.m.


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

12:45 p.m.


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

12:55 p.m.


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

1:05 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario


Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Bradley also said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lest we forget.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

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

Willowdale Ontario


Chungsen Leung ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

1:15 p.m.


Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. It seems as though all parties have been supporting this bill all along the way and congratulating me for this work. However, for some reason, the Conservatives seem to want to talk out the clock today instead of getting this bill over to the Senate for study and adoption. Here is the last chance.

Therefore, I would seek unanimous consent for the following motion: that notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House—

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

1:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order. Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to put this question forward?

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members



Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

1:15 p.m.


Chungsen Leung Conservative Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, currently in provinces and territories where Remembrance Day is not a paid non-working day, many schools organize commemorative events to teach and increase students' knowledge of the importance of this day. Schools hold assemblies and invite veterans to speak. The activities at school ensure that students learn about our veterans and the role our soldiers played and continue to play in Canada—

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

1:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order. Unfortunately, the time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

It being 1:20 p.m., pursuant to an order made earlier today, this House stands adjourned until Monday, September 21, 2015, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 1:20 p.m.)