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—