Madam Speaker, I am honoured to be able to speak today to Bill C-311. This bill has been debated a number of times in the House.
On reading the bill we see that it seeks to give November 11 official status as Remembrance Day across Canada. However, it does not make Remembrance Day a full-fledged statutory holiday, but instead a legal holiday. The provinces regulate statutory holidays in their own jurisdictions and this bill does nothing to change that and that is too bad. We can continue to mark November 11, but it cannot become a statutory holiday through this bill because that would require provincial legislation. We therefore wonder what purpose this bill serves.
However, I am very pleased to speak to this subject today because my grandfather fought in World War II. He was in the navy. My great-uncle was in the army. When I was 14, he told me stories about the war. At that age, I did not appreciate the gravity of what he experienced. To him, these were pivotal moments.
Now, I am participating in the debate in the House and I am thinking about him. I shared some special times with my great-uncle. Unfortunately, my grandfather, who was in the navy, died when I was 3 years old. Therefore I was unable to learn more about what he went through during the Second World War. My great-uncle had the chance to share his experience with me, and it is with these memories in mind that I am speaking of him.
My father was in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for 35 years. He worked to ensure that our country was safe. This is something I am proud of. Speaking in the House today, I think about my father, who watches me from time to time as well. We have had some good talks about what he experienced during his 35 years of service.
Today we are talking about all those who protect our country. These are men and women who put their lives on the line each and every day, who have given their all to keep us safe at home and to fight abroad.
It is important for me to commemorate Remembrance Day and to share it. I make it a priority to talk about it in schools. Over the past two or three years, students in my riding, Joliette, have been reviving a tradition that was disappearing: they have been making poppies, and their teachers have been explaining the symbolism of the poppy to them and the importance of remembering what happened. I often say that it is important to know and remember what happened so we do not repeat the mistakes of the past and so we can go forward.
I would also like to say a few words about the Arvida branch of the Royal Canadian Legion. I have had the pleasure of getting to know these people since becoming an MP, and they are like a second family. The Arvida branch of the Royal Canadian Legion offers extraordinary support and networking. Branch 209 was founded in 1947, but its current home was built in 1962 by the veterans themselves. Now the building is in need of repair and needs quite a few renovations. The veterans themselves are working on renovating it.
The branch has 150 members, and I am proud to say that the ladies' auxiliary has 130 members. It goes without saying that spouses of people in the armed forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are involved too. The whole family is involved, actually. When people go off on missions, their children and spouses worry. That is why members of the ladies' auxiliary are involved with the Arvida branch of the Royal Canadian legion. They do so much work in the community.
Some veterans are active in the Fonds de dotation Santé Jonquière, the Jonquière hospital's endowment fund, to help the hospital purchase new research equipment and other new machines. Some veterans have helped create scholarships for veterans. They also raise funds to help children pursue their studies, which I think is amazing.
Getting back to the main point of my speech, Remembrance Day, it is obvious that commemoration is important to veterans.
The Sunday prior to Remembrance Day, I attended a poppy celebration with some veterans. They have a ceremony, and it is quite an event. We also have poppy week, and all veterans participate. They go to shopping malls and schools to raise money to support veterans, including both retired and active military personnel. Unfortunately, many veterans require assistance at some point in their career.
For veterans, it is very important to remember. In the spring I had the opportunity to present a medal to a veteran. It was the highest honour a veteran can receive. Mr. Boivin, who is now 90 years old, had taken part in the the Normandy landing. How incredible.
I felt quite moved and fortunate to present him with his medal and this honour. He said he did nothing more than his duty. I was proud to present him with his medal. All he cared about was serving our country and ensuring our safety, but also remembering what happened. Unfortunately, many of his comrades did not come back home with him. Mr. Boivin told me he lost members of his family. Those sad moments make him want to remember what happened all the more. That is to his credit because he and his wife have been on an emotional roller coaster over the years.
For some veterans at the Arvida branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, the war left physical scars. For some, the injuries changed their lives forever, hence the importance of the support they get at the Legion. The Legion not only helps the community, but it also enables veterans to help each other and that support is important.
In my opinion, November 11 has to be a time for gathering and remembrance, a time when we remember what veterans did for us.
I would like to come back to educating children. Our role as MPs involves sharing information with our young people and explaining to them what Remembrance Day is all about. Unfortunately, it seems to be losing its meaning as time goes by. Federal MPs are in a good position to go explain the purpose of Remembrance Day to students.
I will close by saying that I am a bit disappointed by this bill. As I said at the beginning of my speech, the bill makes Remembrance Day a legal holiday. Since statutory holidays fall under provincial jurisdiction, I am wondering how the bill will be implemented.
Of course, as I said before, the Bagotville military base is in my riding. It employs over 2,000 soldiers, and many veterans have also worked there. I am in regular contact with them, and I know that they think it is important for us to remember what they have done.
I am very proud to have had the opportunity to speak to Bill C-311 today.