House of Commons Hansard #103 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was veterans.


The House resumed from October 27, consideration of the motion that Bill S-208, An Act respecting National Seal Products Day, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading of Bill C-208 under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #142

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I declare the motion carried.

Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed from October 28 consideration of the motion that Bill C-224, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (assistance—drug overdose), be read the third time and passed.

Good Samaritan Drug Overdose ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-224.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #143

Good Samaritan Drug Overdose ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

The Speaker. It being 6:28 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 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 second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise this evening to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-311, an act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day). At the outset, I would like to express my thanks for the work done on similar bills in previous Parliaments, most recently by former New Democrat MP Dan Harris, in the 41st Parliament, but before that by former Conservative MP Inky Mark and former NDP MP Chris Charlton.

In the last Parliament, in November 2014, Dan Harris's bill passed second reading in the House with near unanimous support. The 41st Parliament ended before the bill could be voted on at third reading.

The bill changes the wording and status of Remembrance Day in the federal 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, which currently has different language for Remembrance Day than the language used for Canada Day and Victoria Day. I believe that it is important to fix this inconsistency and properly recognize Remembrance Day in our federal legislation as a legal holiday.

More than simply correcting this inconsistency, however, I believe it is important that we continuously examine how we as Canadians remember the sacrifice of our fallen heroes and honour the service of past and present Canadian Forces members. In so doing, I am hoping that the bill will start a conversation across Canada about whether we are doing enough to appropriately recognize Remembrance Day.

Personally, I believe that it would be appropriate for Remembrance Day to be a statutory holiday in every province and territory in Canada so that it is marked from coast to coast to coast as a national holiday and a day of solemn remembrance. However, I completely respect that it is not within the purview of Parliament to enact such a law, and of course, the bill does not do so.

Nevertheless, I believe that if the bill is passed and our Parliament reinforces in this way the importance of November 11, it can give the provinces that do not already do so a good opportunity to revisit whether they want to mark Remembrance Day as a statutory holiday in their jurisdictions.

Bringing this forward makes us pause to reflect on why Remembrance Day is so important. Canadians are rightly proud of their country. We are so blessed to live in such a beautiful, diverse, and free society. We must never take for granted everything we are blessed with in Canada. We are 36 million people, but we are less than one-half of one per cent of the world's population, and we are so very fortunate to live here.

Our beautiful and peaceful country did not happen by luck. It was built by those who have gone before us, those who protected and defended our liberties, values, and rights, those who have served in our Canadian Forces.

Remembrance Day is on November 11, because that is the day in 1918 when the guns fell silent and the Great War ended. It has come to symbolize, mark, and solemnly remember those who paid the supreme sacrifice in the service of our country. From Ypres, Flanders Fields, and Vimy Ridge in World War I, to Dieppe, Italy, Normandy, and the Pacific in World War II, to Korea, peacekeeping missions, the Gulf War, and Afghanistan, along with other conflicts in tormented places around the world, our brave men and women have made us proud. We continue to honour them and the sacrifices of others who have gone before them. It is right that a grateful country such as Canada pays tribute and remembers our fallen.

For decades, Remembrance Day has given us an opportunity to gather together and pay tribute to all those who died while serving our country and to recognize the courage of current and former members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

All too often, we take for granted our values, institutions, freedom of association, freedom of speech, and right to make our own political choices without fear of reprisal. Our veterans, including many Acadians in my region, went to war overseas because they believed that the values and beliefs that we still share as Canadians were threatened. They were determined to protect, at all costs, vulnerable populations who were being oppressed by radical ideologists.

Remembrance Day reminds us of the importance of preserving this sense of freedom that our heroes wanted to protect and of our responsibility to keep the peace for which they fought.

Growing up in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Remembrance Day was instilled in me to be a solemn day. My family always went to the cenotaph on Main Street for 11 o'clock on November 11. There were a lot of people who did so.

However, I must say that it is encouraging to see that the numbers of those attending such ceremonies right across my riding, all across Nova Scotia, and indeed, across Canada, have been increasing over the last number of years.

The main Remembrance Day ceremony in Yarmouth is now in the Mariners Centre, a hockey arena that is more accommodating of the large crowd and also for the many veterans who have mobility issues and cannot attend at the cenotaph. The cenotaph still has an excellent ceremony and there are a lot of people who attend at each place. I look forward to attending the Mariners Centre this year in order to share the occasion with many veterans from my area and also many citizens who will be there to mark the solemn occasion.

As important as these ceremonies are on November 11, I will never forget the veterans who would come into my school, when I was a child, in the days leading up to November 11. They would tell us their stories of sacrifice and valour, but also in their message was pride for our country and their love of peace over war. It touched me profoundly to see their emotion when talking about the horrors of war and about the terrible loss of a comrade. I believe these stories need to be taught throughout the year to our young people. However, it is at this time of year, in particular, near Remembrance Day, that they are especially poignant and meaningful.

A few years after high school, I was extremely fortunate to be selected to work as a tour guide at Vimy Ridge, France. The Canadian monument at Vimy and its place in our country's history are awe-inspiring. My time at Vimy Ridge and learning the history of Canadians who fought there reinforced, in my mind, the significant debt of gratitude our country owes to our forces and to our veterans.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge was fought in April 1917, and in only a few short months, we will be marking the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. It is significant that it is also in the year Canada will be celebrating its 150th anniversary as a country, as Vimy Ridge was the first time that Canadians from across our country fought together, shoulder to shoulder, as a cohesive formation and achieved a remarkable victory. Many believe that out of this event with its success but tragic loss, Canada's national identity and nationhood were born.

As members of Parliament, we will each be returning to our ridings next week and on Friday of next week, November 11, will be attending Remembrance Day ceremonies and events.

I know that there are many activities planned throughout my riding of West Nova throughout the whole day. Last year, I had the pleasure to attend the moving Remembrance Day ceremony at Kingston, Nova Scotia, and visited various events throughout the Annapolis Valley, home to 14 Wing Greenwood. I am so privileged to represent those members of the Canadian Forces and also the veterans who have contributed so richly to my community.

Like many of my colleagues, I will also be attending ceremonies in the days leading up to November 11. For example, on November 8, at the Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School, and on November 10, at Meadowfield elementary school, I will be attending Remembrance Day ceremonies with students and staff, as well as veterans, to honour and share in solemn remembrance those who have sacrificed so much for Canada.

In many schools next week, it is in fact marked as Remembrance Day week. Students learn about the history of our men and women in service to Canada and pause to reflect on their sacrifice. These are just a couple of the many ways that Remembrance Day is marked at schools in West Nova and in the days leading up to November 11. It is encouraging to know many young people will also attend Remembrance Day ceremonies with their families on November 11, or perhaps as part of the memorial club in Yarmouth, whose young members throughout the year, but particularly on Remembrance Day, demonstrate their pride in Canada and gratitude for our veterans.

I am very pleased that many veterans in West Nova and across Canada are supporting the bill. They believe, as I do, that it is important to draw attention to the significance of Remembrance Day.

One of the legions in my riding is the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 155 in Wedgeport, Nova Scotia. Over the past several months, I have been fortunate enough to attend two different ceremonies, where a member of a branch has been received into the French Legion of Honour for their incredible service and as a sign of France's respect for their contributions to the combat that led to the liberation of France in World War II.

Bernard Smith and Vernon Doucette joined two other members of the Wedgeport legion, Alcide LeBlanc and Wesley Spinney, in receiving the French Legion of Honour for their part in the liberation of France. Western Nova Scotia is very proud of these four gentlemen and their service to Canada in the cause of freedom. It is, indeed, very special that one small legion branch has four such heroes who have been recognized in this significant way.

There are so many other stories like theirs across my riding and across our country. We honour their sacrifices and living legacies, and also remember the many men and women who have donned a Canadian Forces uniform in our history, who did not return home, and who did not have the chance to have us thank them for their valiant and brave service to Canada.

As it relates to the bill, in addition to modifying the language to make Remembrance Day a federal legal holiday and have the same status in the Holidays Act as Canada Day, the bill also purports to do two other things.

First, subclause 3(2) provides that if November 11 falls on a weekend, similar language to that of Canada Day be used to make the following Monday a holiday.

Second, subclause 3(3) provides that on Remembrance Day, the Canadian flag on the Peace Tower shall be lowered to half mast.

Upon reflection and consultation with my colleagues, I realize that both of these provisions are, unfortunately, problematic. I am, therefore, very open to these provisions being deleted from the bill by amendment at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, where the bill will be referred to should it pass a vote in the House after second reading. In fact, I am very happy to propose them directly to the committee if this is to be done.

The main objective of the bill and the motivation I had in putting it forward in the first place is not furthered by either of these provisions.

Let us, in this 42nd Parliament, do what is right. Let us recognize Remembrance Day as a federal legal holiday, put it on the same level in the Holidays Act as Canada Day and Victoria Day. We can also provide the occasion to the provinces that do not already recognize Remembrance Day as a statutory holiday to revisit how Remembrance Day is observed in their jurisdiction.

From McRae's famous poem that echoes through the ages:

To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

Let us then do our duty and not break faith with those who have died for Canada. Let us do all we can to ensure we honour their sacrifice. I believe Bill C-311, in a modest way, would help in that cause, and that is why I ask for the support of my colleagues.

I ask all Canadians right across our country to please show their respect for our veterans and our fallen, wear a poppy, and attend a Remembrance Day ceremony next week.

Lest we forget.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member talked about two parts of the bill that may not necessarily reflect a purpose. Could he expand further on those two parts of the bill?

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Colin Fraser Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the second provision, which is when November 11 falls on a Saturday or Sunday, it was my intention that would be placed in the bill in order to standardize it to similar holidays mentioned in the Holidays Act, and that the following Monday would be the holiday. It was obviously never my intention that November 11 would not be celebrated on November 11. For other reasons, the fact that if this were done, it would need to be amended in the Labour Code and as this provision really has no effect, I have no problem with it being removed.

With respect to the other provision, that the Canadian flag fly at half mast, it sounded like a good idea until I started understanding the protocol regarding flags at half mast. I now understand there is no problem with the flag flying at half mast on Remembrance Day, that it is already in the protocol, and that it could cause other problems in the protocol. For example, if the Queen were in Ottawa on that day, her standard would fly over the Peace Tower and, by protocol, would never be lowered to half mast.

For those reasons, I have no problem with those sections being removed.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the legislation and for remembering all of those who brought it to this place before him.

To what degree has he talked to veterans in his community? How do they feel about the bill? Sometimes veterans are leery of making Remembrance Day a holiday.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

November 2nd, 2016 / 6:45 p.m.


Colin Fraser Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, certainly I have consulted with veterans in my riding in particular, but I have also heard from veterans across the country who feel that it is important at every opportunity possible to elevate, to recognize Remembrance Day, and to make sure that it is in the forefront of Canadians' minds to mark this special day of solemn remembrance.

With regard to veterans, in my riding, they have been very supportive of the bill. They feel that it is a good measure. I know that there are other veterans who may not share that view because they feel that rather than a day off, which the bill does not provide, but if it were to go that way, it would be better for the schoolchildren, for example, to stay in school.

The examples I gave from my experience in Nova Scotia show that veterans have the opportunity to come into schools, meet the children, and then everybody gets the chance to go to the cenotaph or memorial ceremony on November 11.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my friend from West Nova for this excellent proposal to honour our veterans.

One of my proudest days was near Côte Saint-Luc, when we named the park next to our city hall Veterans Park to honour those men and women who came back to Canada and built so many of our suburban communities after the war.

I ask my hon. colleague from West Nova whether or not his interaction with veterans has been one of the highlights of his time as an MP and whether that led him to put forward the bill.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Colin Fraser Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I share my colleague's enthusiasm for meeting with veterans. In my riding in particular, I have a number of veterans that I am privileged to represent in the House of Commons.

I have met with many different veterans' groups in my riding, and certainly the legions. On every occasion I have the opportunity to attend one of their functions I am so pleased to do so. It really is an honour to share in their marking services, which are coming up next week. Just the contribution that veterans and Canadian Forces members make to our communities right across the country is something we need to celebrate more often.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate what the hon. member has brought forward today. Having taken many students to places in Europe, to Vimy Ridge, to Italy, I understand the importance of it.

We have a national Legion. Has he had the opportunity to discuss it with the national organization and is it in support of this?

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Colin Fraser Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to speak to the national Legion. In previous iterations of the bill, when testifying at committee, members of the national Legion had expressed reluctance in supporting this type of bill because they thought that it should not lead toward a national holiday. The bill does not do that, of course.

In my discussions with representatives from the Royal Canadian Legion, national branch, they expressed the same reluctance to accept what the bill does. However, I look forward to continuing those discussions. As it relates to Legion members I have spoken to, those in my riding, and many other Legion members across the country, they are supportive of the bill.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise on behalf of the great residents of Barrie—Innisfil as the official opposition critic for veterans affairs.

My colleague from West Nova and I have had many discussions over the course of the last several weeks since I assumed this position. I believe he is very sincere in his attempt to raise the relevance and the prominence of Remembrance Day in this country.

That being said, there are some issues with this bill that I will be outlining throughout the course of my speech.

I want to thank the member for Beauport—Limoilou who was the previous opposition critic for veterans affairs for the work he did, and the work he has helped me with in the transition, as well as the member for Durham, the previous minister of veterans affairs. I really appreciate the fact that they have taken me under their wing, and have guided me on many of the issues with respect to veterans.

I am pleased to speak to Bill C-311, which is an act to amend the Holidays Act for Remembrance Day. I commend the hon. member for West Nova for his work on this bill, and recognize his work on behalf of the men and women of our armed forces.

Veterans week is only days away, and the annual poppy campaign by the Royal Canadian Legion is now underway with thousands of veterans and volunteers around this country sitting in grocery stores, community halls, shopping malls, and so many other places.

Last week, I had the pleasure of supporting the Montgomery Legion, located just blocks from Parliament Hill, to kick-off their poppy campaign. Money raised from the sale of poppies stays in the community and supports our vets close to home. That was a very important message that the Montgomery Legion wanted me to bring to the House today.

What veterans are doing to help support each other continues to be amazing. Legion halls provide a community for our veterans to gather, talk, perhaps talk like they are unable to at home, retelling stories of their experiences.

More importantly, veterans organizations provide support, information, and a way through the maze which sometimes can be difficult when seeking help and assistance. I am fully supportive of honouring the blood and treasure of those who came before us with further distinction. However, I have questions about how that would be integrated into provincial laws.

Canada will be commemorating the 97th Remembrance Day, a day that first started as Armistice Day, in honour of the end of the Great War in 1918. At the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month, we will remember. Veterans, soldiers, families, Canadians, will gather at local cenotaphs, or war memorials, to honour those who have answered the call of peace.

Canada's National War Memorial was officially unveiled by His Majesty, King George VI. In 1939, over 100,000 people attended that event. Originally, the National War Memorial was dedicated to those who fought in World War I. It was not until 1982, when the monument was re-dedicated with the addition of World War II and Korean vets.

In a moving ceremony in 2000, the remains of an anonymous soldier, who previously lay near Vimy Ridge, was placed in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Today, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is where thousands of Canadians leave thank you notes, flowers, and in a moving tribute to the unknown soldier and all soldiers, they leave their poppies on top of the grave.

On Remembrance Day 2014, the monument was once again re-dedicated, when the dates of the South African War and the mission in Afghanistan were added. This year, 77 years later, after it was originally dedicated, Canadians will see a refreshed National War Memorial after months of work on the monument and the grounds it stands on surrounding the great response, the sculpture designed by Vernon March of Farnborough, Kent, England.

About the monument, March wrote, it was “to perpetuate in this bronze group the people of Canada who went Overseas to the Great War, and to represent them, as we of today saw them, as a record for future generations.”

In Bill C-311 the member for West Nova wishes to formally recognize Remembrance Day in Canada. Though each province has selected just how the 11th day of the 11th month is commemorated, Remembrance Day is, in fact, held every year from coast to coast to coast. There is not one province or territory that does not mark this day.

The bill needs further work in committee. I am quite certain the government side will not disagree with that notion. There, in committee, we will be able to hear from stakeholders, including the Royal Canadian Legion, and thoughtfully consider their opinions, as they did on a similar bill, Bill C-597, which was brought to the House in 2014 by MP Dan Harris, who was then the member for Scarborough Southwest.

I am suggesting, as well, that Bill C-311 be heard at the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, a committee on which the sponsor of the bill and I sit. We will be able to ask questions and seek further guidance from not only the Legion but other veterans groups.

By going to committee, we can ask other stakeholders about the impacts of the bill. One group might include labour organizations or federally-regulated companies. These stakeholders will be part of the ripple effect of the bill by making Bill C-311 a legal holiday, and giving it the same standing as other legal holidays, such as Canada Day. Establishing another legal holiday will affect other legislation, specifically the Canada Labour Code, as the member for West Nova has identified.

In doing research on the bill, I inquired with the Library of Parliament and parliamentary counsel on the legal definitions and differences between a legal holiday and a statutory holiday.

Did members know there are none? In fact, the terms, according to the Library of Parliament, are interchangeable. Therefore, when is a holiday a holiday, or even a legal holiday? These are questions that need to be asked and answered in committee. Our veterans and current forces members, who represent our next generation of veterans, deserve that.

As well, the bill proposes to provide a day off when Remembrance Day falls on a Saturday or Sunday. I have always stood with my fellow Barrie residents on November 11, whether the day fell on any day during a work week, Monday to Friday, or if it was a Saturday or Sunday. I do not differentiate between a week day and the weekend, but again, I would like to hear from Canadians, the Royal Canadian Legion, and affected employees on how they feel about this.

The third part of the bill, that was not in Bill C-597, deals with how the flag is flown on Remembrance Day. We all know that the flag is half-mast on many occasions during Remembrance Day. The rules for this, and many other rules regarding the treatment of our flag, are found in the national flag of Canada etiquette and rules for half-masting the national flag of Canada

While the rules are available to be read, it is unclear if these rules are set in legislation. If there is legislation, it needs to be identified. The current rules have served the flag in Canada well, and if there is a need to set in legislation these rules, again, let us debate them in committee.

In Canada, there are over 100 days that either have national, provincial, local, or religious commemoration. Nationally, there are only four days that are recognized in each province and territory across Canada on the same day. They are New Year's Day, Canada Day, Labour Day, and Christmas Day. Days we would think are national holidays are, in fact, not national holidays. Thanksgiving, Good Friday, and Victoria Day are examples of days we could all rightly assume were marked across the country, but are not universal.

While I did not serve in the Canadian Armed Forces, I did wear a uniform, the uniform of a firefighter. I understand the pride I felt while wearing that uniform, and I also understand the responsibility that came from wearing it.

In my riding of Barrie—Innisfil, a great many men and women living in my riding serve and have served our country. For 100 years, Base Borden has been instrumental in the training and education of thousands of Canadian and foreign soldiers, and my home of Barrie—Innisfil has a deep connection with our service members and their extended military families.

I was honoured to have been present at the Base Borden Legacy Wall unveiling earlier this year. It is a sacred place that gives a nod to the many who trained at Base Borden and served all over the globe.

The Legacy Wall is a special place, and I am so proud of the work by the Vimy Foundation. Base Borden is a special place. Contained within the Legacy Wall is an urn of soil from the battlefield at Vimy Ridge. It will forever be a proud place of honour.

As I close my remarks on Bill C-311, the bill needs to go to committee, because there is much more work to be done on it.

I will close by honouring the men, women, and service animals who have served our country so dutifully. For some, their struggle overseas pale in comparison to what they face when they return home. We owe our veterans so much, and all of us in the House of Commons need to support, and act to ensure that when our soldiers come home, they can be healthy and active in our Canadian society.

For those who serve, we honour them.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I too want to thank the member for West Nova for introducing this legislation. I am most grateful for the privilege to be the critic on behalf of veterans of Canada.

Interestingly, this private member's bill has come before the House for debate in previous Parliaments and has been introduced across the spectrum of members from the NDP, Conservative, and Liberal caucuses.

The bill, making Remembrance Day a legal holiday federally, is very often misunderstood. The ramifications, if passed, are minimal, as the jurisdiction for statutory holidays still remains with the provinces. Thus, a change to the legislation is a formality only, and would not impact how we recognize or appreciate veterans on November 11 each year.

That being said, the bill remains controversial within the veterans community. Many veterans are concerned that by expanding the legal holiday designation, it will, by extension, more formally indicate that the federal government recommends making Remembrance Day a statutory holiday. On the other hand, many veterans want Remembrance Day to be a holiday across Canada to ensure that all Canadians can have the opportunity to participate in ceremonies on November 11 each and every year.

Today, Remembrance Day is considered a holiday for all federal employees. It is also a holiday in all provinces and territories, except for Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. Actually, Ontario provincial government employees also have the day off.

The hope behind the bill is that if all provinces adopt Remembrance Day as a statutory holiday, it will allow everyone who chooses to be afforded the opportunity to pay tribute to our fallen soldiers and veterans by observing this day with their loved ones.

The provinces that have already enacted this legislation have seen positive outcomes, as more people are able to attend local ceremonies. When families attend ceremonies together, they are able to teach their children about the sacrifices and bravery demonstrated by the servicemen and women who fought, and continue to fight, for the freedoms we cherish as Canadians.

Supporters of this legislation, such Mike Blais from Canadian Veterans Advocacy, have argued in favour it. These are Mike's words:

This is a wonderful opportunity for parliamentarians to embrace this sacred obligation to honour national sacrifice in a significant and meaningful manner. There is so much that we as a nation can do to honour the fallen, the wounded, our veterans, and serving members, but there must be inclusion, recognition, the understanding of national sacrifice. Equally important is the opportunity for participate in our national services as a family unit to embrace the spirit of the nation as a community, despite the fact that the return of that day off will have to be discussed at the provincial level. I understand that. It is important that the words of the Holidays Act do not demean Remembrance Day.

Detractors of the proposed legislation argue that statutory or civic holidays are often not used or celebrated for the purpose for which they were intended. Many Canadians use those days to get away, or spend time with family, not necessarily to remember or commemorate a specific day.

Currently, Remembrance Day is recognized and honoured by many Canadians who participate or witness the ceremony at their local cenotaph. They do so out of choice, because it is important to them, and they have personal reasons. Making this a holiday of any sort would not change that.

It must also be said that the Royal Canadian Legion is clear in its position and is concerned that Canadians, if given the time off as a legal holiday, may not take the time to remember, that it may simply become a mid-week break or just part of another long weekend. We need to make honouring and remembering an important part of our regular routine on November 11 and not simply provide a day off from school or work.

Interestingly, after consulting with Army, Navy & Air Force Veterans in Canada (ANAVETS), on this legislation, it indicated that the organization had recently changed its position to support that Remembrance Day be a statutory holiday, with the caveat that if Remembrance Day fell on a weekend, no alternative day be recognized as Remembrance Day. ANAVETS was very clear that any holiday should be about giving all Canadians an opportunity to participate in ceremonies and not be treated as a holiday like any other.

I would like to note that this legislation does indicate that another day be designated, but I am pleased to hear that the mover of the legislation is open to changing this because of the concerns of some of our veterans. It is important that we be cognizant of their concerns.

I have also heard from both sides about the impact on schools and how children's education would be affected. Some veterans feel that the ceremonies in schools are key to ensuring that children are educated about veterans and the importance of Remembrance Day, but others feel that if schools held ceremonies and organized assemblies on a day other than Remembrance Day, more veterans would be available to attend and children as well as veterans would be able to attend the ceremonies at the local cenotaph with their parents and their friends. It is clear that veterans remain divided on whether Remembrance Day should be a statutory holiday, and no matter where one falls in this debate, it seems that the goal is to honour veterans with respect and dignity.

Sadly, many veterans are facing difficulties as they leave the Canadian Forces and begin their lives as civilians. Others find that their injuries take time to manifest, and they then struggle to get benefits from Veterans Affairs Canada. It is extremely concerning that many veterans may feel abandoned and ignored and remain distrustful of the very government that is supposed to look after them.

If we truly want to show our respect for veterans as parliamentarians, as Canadians, we should be focusing on ensuring that benefits and services for veterans and their families are easy to access and provide the needed support.

If we truly want to show our respect, the government should not be arguing in court that the Canadian government does not have a covenant of moral, social, legal, and financial obligations to our veterans.

New Democrats honour the service of the men and women who put their lives on the line for our country. It is critical that we listen to veterans in our communities and hear how they wish to honour their fallen brothers and sisters on Remembrance Day. We feel it is important to listen, reflect, and to share their voices, to tell their stories in this community and communities across Canada.

I welcome this legislation and hope that it will be a starting point for a conversation with veterans on how they wish to be recognized.

I encourage all members of the House to speak with veterans in their communities, to listen not only to their views on this legislation, but also to listen to their experiences, their concerns, and to hear their questions.

Veterans deserve our respect. This legislation is an excellent opportunity for MPs to show their respect by listening and responding to local veterans and their families, and to understand that what they gave was so very precious, what they did was so very important, and that we must honour that.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta


Randy Boissonnault LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise in the House this evening to speak about Bill C-311, an act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day), introduced by my hon. colleague the member for West Nova. I deeply respect and admire my colleague's dedication to honouring our country and the brave women and men who have and continue to bravely serve it.

As bright red poppies begin to appear on the lapels of Canadians from coast to coast to coast, let us take a moment to pause and reflect on those we will be honouring on Remembrance Day, Canadians like Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae whose iconic poem, In Flanders Fields, has become an enduring symbol of remembrance and hope, and those like 28 year old Master Corporal Byron Garth Greff, who grew up in my hometown of Morinville and tragically lost his life in Afghanistan in 2011.

Remembrance Day is a time for all Canadians to come together to honour Lieutenant Colonel McCrae, Master Corporal Greff, and the tens of thousands of men and women who have served and continue to serve our country with pride. It is with our deep and heartfelt gratitude that we stand in the House today.

Bill C-311 would amend the Holidays Act, which was adopted in 1970 to consolidate the Dominion Day Act, the Armistice Day Act, and the Victoria Day Act.

Canada Day and Victoria Day are designated as legal holidays, whereas Remembrance Day is a holiday.

Bill C-311 seeks to remedy the situation by designating Remembrance Day as a legal holiday, which would provide consistency with the other two days in the Holidays Act, namely Canada Day and Victoria Day.

Previous bills on this issue, for example Bill C-597, which was debated in the last Parliament, raised questions about whether this change would create a paid holiday across Canada. I want to be clear. That would not be the outcome if the law that institutes legal holidays were amended.

In fact, according to constitutional law, legislative measures concerning paid holidays fall under the jurisdiction of Parliament and the provincial and territorial legislatures. Legislative measures concerning provincial and territorial paid holidays are the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces and territories, as set out in subsection 92(13), property and civil rights, and subsection 92(16), matters of merely local or private nature in the province.

Our government supports making Remembrance Day a legal holiday, which would provide consistency with the other holidays in the Holidays Act and demonstrate our respect and support for our veterans and serving women and men.

Last year, I had the opportunity to attend the Remembrance Day celebration at Edmonton city hall with Mayor Iveson, and I later attended the commissionaires' ceremony at the University of Alberta's Universiade Pavilion. It was an immense privilege for me to see veterans, young people, and members of our community come together to pay tribute to our veterans and soldiers. This is at the heart of what it means to be Canadian. I look forward once again to participating next week in Remembrance Day commemorations in my hometown of Edmonton.

In addition to this change, Bill C-311 also proposes two other changes to the Holidays Act. Our government does not support either of these two changes. Proposed subsection 3(2) proposes, “When November 11 is a Saturday or a Sunday, the following Monday is a legal holiday and shall be kept and observed as such throughout Canada under the name of “Remembrance Day”.” These provisions mean that the official name of Remembrance Day could apply to November 12 or 13, should November 11 fall on a weekend. There is a profound reason why we mark Remembrance Day on November 11, and Remembrance Day must remain on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”. As such, we will support the removal of proposed subsection 3(2).

The purpose of the other change proposed in subclause 3(3) is to legislate the half-masting of the national flag of Canada on Remembrance Day. This provision is unnecessary, because this is already a long-standing tradition that is set out in the Rules for Half-masting the National Flag of Canada. Lowering the Canadian flag to half-mast is a moving part of the act of remembrance and an expression of our collective mourning.

In addition to this important symbol, Canada also marks Remembrance Day with community activities that are held across the country and by the national Remembrance Day ceremony that takes place at the National War Memorial here in Ottawa.

This ceremony is broadcast all across the country and is covered in the media from coast to coast to coast. Veterans from all the wars and peacekeeping operations, many dignitaries, the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP, members of the diplomatic corps, and youth representatives all take part in the ceremony.

Thanks to the many ways we express this tradition of remembrance, we will ensure that Canada never forgets.

The Government of Canada reaffirmed our commitment to honouring our veterans at the Remembrance Day ceremony last year. As the Prime Minister said:

We have an obligation to our country’s women and men in uniform, our veterans, and their families. As a government, we will honour this social covenant with the respect and gratitude it deserves.

I call on Canadians to join me in expressing our heartfelt gratitude to all those who have worked and fought so courageously to keep us safe. Today, and every day, we remain committed to ensuring they have nothing less than the care and support of a grateful nation.

As we approach Veterans' Week 2016, which will be observed from coast to coast to coast from November 5 to 11, let us pause to remember and reflect on the ordinary Canadians who became heroes when confronted with extraordinary circumstances, and take time to express our gratitude to those who served our country as well as those who serve in uniform today.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.


Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to Bill C-311, an act to amend the Holidays Act, regarding Remembrance Day.

I will start off by saying that I am one of the people, and I think we all are here, who believe our veterans should be celebrated every day for their supreme sacrifices, as well as those who continue to put the uniform on so that our maple leaf is still standing tall and that we remain the true North, strong and free.

I want to celebrate and acknowledge our colleague from West Nova for putting the bill forward. I think the intent of the bill is the right thing to do. However, as has been mentioned by not only the member himself but a number of other colleagues, the bill is flawed and does require some work. The intent of the bill is to ensure that all Canadians from coast to coast to coast have the ability to pay their respects to our soldiers and veterans and to make sure that November 11 continues to be a sacred day for Canadians. It is an opportunity for us to show our fallen, our veterans, our forces members, and their friends, families, and loved ones, that they are honoured and respected both in life and death. We will never forget.

There are thousands of distractions that compete for our time on a daily basis, be it the work email that needs to be answered, the TV in the background, or that phone call that needs to be returned. However, Remembrance Day is the one day where on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month Canadians pause to remember. It is an opportunity for us to take time to be thankful for the sacrifices of others, whether protecting our country, working with our allies and partner countries, providing humanitarian assistance, aiding countries by helping to restore the peace, or fighting for our freedom. The sacrifices of our brave men and women have allowed us to continue to live in a free and democratic country where we are tolerant and we respect freedom of speech, religion, thought, belief, and expression.

We live in the best country in the world. I know that I do not need to tell the hon. members in this chamber that. We all have the privilege each and every day to walk into this chamber and raise the issues that are important to our constituents.

I want to hearken back to when I was a sea cadet. For a long time, I proudly wore the uniform and I proudly marched in Remembrance Day ceremonies. I had what I consider to be the distinct honour of being an honour guard at a number of those ceremonies. I want to come back to one of the most proud days that I had, which was the day right after being elected last year. Remembrance Day had taken place and I was going to be sworn in the very next day, but I had that opportunity to lay the wreath that said “Canada” on our local cenotaph. I am getting goosebumps right now just thinking about that because there is no greater honour than paying respect to those who have given the supreme sacrifice. There is no greater honour than when we look through the windows and we see the flag.

As I am looking over your shoulder right now, Mr. Speaker, I cannot help but look at that flag and think of the blood that was spilled fighting for our country, the blood that was spilled ensuring that you, I, all of the members in the House, and our friends and our families can sleep silently and know confidently that we are protected.

We all have the privilege each and every day to walk into this chamber and raise the issues that are important to our constituents because of democracy, because of the sacrifices that these soldiers, these brave men and women, have made for our country. Remembrance Day is a time for everyone to come together and pay their respects for the loss of youth, for the blood of their comrades who may or may not rest in foreign fields, and for the sheer anguish of having fought in war.

We are now just understanding what the term PTSD means. It is one of the reasons why one of the very first things that I did in coming to the House was to table Bill C-211, calling upon the government to develop a national framework recognizing the challenging demands that our first responders, our military, and indeed our veterans have faced dealing with PTSD, as we are just now beginning to understand.

November 11 is not the only day to remember that. As I said earlier, we should always be remembering that supreme sacrifice.

There is much debate about the flaws in the bill and whether it is a provincial or federal regulation. The important part is that the bill is going to hopefully go to a committee. The bill as it stands today will be completely different when it comes out the back end, but my hope is that perhaps we can engage veterans from coast to coast. Perhaps we can engage the Legion. We need to have that conversation. We need to always be mindful of those sacrifices and celebrate them.

This day was created to honour our history and remember that the freedom we have in Canada comes at a cost. We are thankful to those who were there and to those who are today always willing to fight for us to have the privilege of waking up each and every morning knowing that we live in peace. As I said earlier, they are our silent sentinels. While most would run away from danger, they run toward it. When they wake up each day, they live with the knowledge that when they put their boots on in the morning, they may have to put their lives at risk to support and protect Canadians and our country.

It should never be forgotten that this freedom comes at the most significant cost of all, the supreme sacrifice. It comes at the cost of bloodshed, injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, and death. Even when our soldiers are able to return home, it will never be the same for them, because they will never forget. They will continue to be haunted by the horrific sights and smells of war. The nightmares and the mental demands do not end. These are graphic scenes and images that anyone would find difficult to see.

It is so important that we educate our next generation, our future generations, about this history, the importance of our forces, and the price that was ultimately paid by the youth of another generation in preserving our freedom. This responsibility falls on all of us as citizens, as educators, and as families across Canada.

We cannot have this debate without bringing in the fact that the Royal Canadian Legions are our guardians of remembrance. There are more than 1,400 branches across Canada. More than 300,000 members give about 1.5 million volunteer hours a day. They give back to the communities about $6.5 million helping our soldiers and veterans come back and have some form of peace. They give back to their communities, and we can never forget that.

It is my hope that by getting the bill to the next level, Dominion Command will be invited to Ottawa to speak before the committee and that veterans will have the opportunity to be heard.

This is about the over 1.7 million Canadians who have served our country, whether in the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War, the conflicts we have had in recent years, or the ones we are facing today. It is about all of those who have honoured us by serving and some who made the supreme sacrifice.

In closing, it is a true honour and a privilege today to rise and speak about our troops and our veterans. I will be voting to send Bill C-311 to the committee stage. On a personal note, I hope that all Canadians will make an effort to participate in Remembrance Day ceremonies in their communities on November 11. If that is not possible, I hope they will take two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. to remember those who made such a huge sacrifice for all of us. To those who are listening to this debate today, they have served beyond.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, Remembrance Day is a vital time for Canadians to reflect and honour the service of men and women who put their lives on the line for our country.

On November 11, we honour our veterans, our fallen soldiers, peacekeepers, and their families and we recommit to stand up for them as they have stood up for us. It is our solemn responsibility to ensure that every veteran has the care our country owes them.

Hundreds of volunteers conduct Remembrance Day ceremonies in my riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith, and I am very grateful for their work. Nanaimo—Ladysmith has four legion branches. Members should listen to this rundown of ways our community honours veterans and remember on November 11. There are at least seven distinct events.

On November 11, I will be at a breakfast for veterans, service members and their families at Legion 256 at 8 o'clock in the morning in Nanaimo. Lantzville and Ladysmith both have parades that lead to their local cenotaphs where wreaths are laid.

I will be at Lantzville luncheon for veterans, service members and their families, following that Remembrance Day ceremony.

The Gabriola Island veterans association holds a ceremony at the Gabriola cenotaph, which is at the RCMP detachment. I have been laying wreaths there for 12 or 14 years as a local government representative. It is a great honour. Hundreds of people come out in the community.

Both legions in Nanaimo work together to hold a hugely well-attended ceremony that includes a parade also. Two legions co-operate together to have that ceremony happen at the cenotaph in downtown Nanaimo.

Finally, I will see community members at 1:45 p.m. at Cedar Memorial Gardens, where Ladysmith's legion holds an afternoon ceremony in the community of Cedar.

Air Cadets, Girl Guides, Scouts and Beavers are always there. We have this fantastic wave of young energy, people who are learning lessons from the experiences of veterans and honouring together.

In my home province of British Columbia, November 11 is a holiday already. We really recognize that when families are able to come together to attend all these ceremonies. They can spend all day in my riding honouring veterans. It really has an impact.

Another powerful learning place in our riding is the Vancouver Island Military Museum. It has 25 exhibits showcasing Canada's military efforts. It has a Wall of Honour where local community members can honour veterans and their fallen loved ones. It has free admission on Remembrance Day, 11 o'clock to 4 o'clock. It has special exhibit this year highlighting the achievements of the African-Canadian Battalion of World War I, which worked with the Canadian Forestry Corps to ensure safe access, particularly to rescue fallen soldiers at the front.

In my community there is a great deal of support and a deep recognition of the sacred responsibility to honour and respect. I look forward to standing with my community on November 11 in this way.

Holidays ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I am sure the House will be pleased to know that the hon. member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith will have six and a half minutes time remaining for her remarks when the House next returns to business on this question.

It being 7:29 p.m., the time provided for 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.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Status of WomenAdjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to bring the House back to the conversation we were having about pay equity and the advancement of that issue in the House. Canada remains without federal pay equity legislation despite having made that commitment 40 years ago.

I am going to describe a few leaders in our country who are urging action.

Margot Young of the University of British Columbia has pointed out that “talk about gender equity, slogans like ‘it's 2015’, are purely empty rhetoric without such things in place as proper and full pay equity law.”

Barbara Byers, secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress, has stated:

After 12 years, working women deserve nothing less than proactive pay equity legislation.... We can't let it languish in the archives any longer. Let us also be mindful that women have been waiting for longer than 12 years. We've been waiting for decades and decades, and while we wait, the debt owed to those who are caught in the wage gap continues to mount.

I was honoured in the House as a new MP to stand and present the NDP's motion on pay equity. I was so glad to have the government's support. The government did agree to strike a special committee, and my colleague, the New Democrat MP for Saskatoon West, was our representative on that committee. Her recommendation was that there be pay equity legislation tabled this December. That would be six months from the time of the report and it is what witnesses had said.

The committee itself recommended that it be June 2017, but, sadly, the government has just let us know that it will not be until 2018 that it tables that legislation. There is no rationale for that.

We just heard a report from the Canadian Bar Association that says:

So to recap: a 1956 federal law requiring equal pay didn’t close the gender wage gap. Neither did the 1977 law establishing a complaint-based system for equal pay for work of equal value. In 2016 a special committee suggests the government get around to drafting proactive legislation based on a report tabled 12 years ago that said it was time for women to be paid the same as men for work of equal value.

It is time to act, indeed.

Fiona Keith of the Canadian Human Rights Commission has argued that, compared to alternative options, “the task force's recommendations will likely lead to the most robust and most effective right to pay equity, both in terms of implementation and cost.”

So, we have the right models. I want to know why the government is asking us to wait until the end of 2018. Even the President of the Treasury Board has said that “equal pay for work of equal value is a human right”. Why is his government still denying women their human right?