Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise today and speak to Bill C-311, an act to amend the Holidays Act for Remembrance Day.
I want to praise my colleague, the hon. member for West Nova, for bringing forward the bill, but also for his tireless efforts on behalf of the women and men in the Canadian Armed Forces, and our veterans. We are both members of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, and his passion for the commemoration of sacrifices made by our veterans is clear.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak today, because I believe one of the most poignant things we can do as proud Canadians is to join together as a nation and as individuals to recognize and pay tribute to those brave Canadian soldiers, sailors, and aviators who have made the ultimate sacrifice, in wartime and in peace, at home and abroad, to safeguard our values and our way of life.
Well before the people of Fundy Royal placed their trust in me to represent them in Ottawa, I would attend the Sussex Remembrance Day ceremonies every year with my family. One of my earliest memories I have is attending the local ceremonies in my hometown of Sussex, New Brunswick, where veterans and citizens alike paid their respects to those who came before and served our nation with dignity and with their lives.
I remember how we stood by the cenotaph alongside the Sussex train station, a place where many of the 300,000 personnel trained at Camp Sussex passed before, during, and after the World War I. It was also at this train station where many, but not all, returned home. I remember being a proud seven year old in my neatly pressed Brownie uniform standing beside my hero, my veteran, my grandfather. He made my Remembrance Day real. Together we waited for the clock to strike 11:11, and then walked up to the cenotaph to pin our poppies on white crosses.
The act of remembrance remains the most important ceremony for me each year. Since those days, I have had the opportunity to meet many heroes in many communities throughout Fundy Royal and New Brunswick because of the dedication of many organizations, including Royal Canadian Legion branches, cadet units, municipalities, and the 8th Canadian Hussars association.
I have witnessed each community's immense pride in their local heroes and contributions to the efforts of the Canadian Armed Forces.
I am sure every member of the House can relay his or her own story of the unique way his or her communities take pause for the act of remembrance. They do this at cenotaphs and memorials, community halls, auditoriums, hockey rinks, and public squares.
As we celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary, we are looking to the future and thinking more than ever what the Canada of tomorrow will look like and the values we hold dear, a year where we confirm that we are proud of this amazing land, its kind and welcoming people, and the example we have set for the world. I would agree with my honourable colleague from West Nova that as proud as we are of Canada, we are just as proud of the women and men who have served our country with distinction, and with their lives.
Bill C-311 will be another chapter in the progression of our efforts as Canadians to remember. What began as a response to the incredible losses of the First World War, where we lost almost one in 10 of the nearly 620,000 men and women of the armed forces, has evolved into a national tribute to all those who made the ultimate sacrifice and a consistent show of support for our Canadian Forces.
In 1919, as a response to calls for a commemoration to mourn these deaths and pay tribute to those who were returning from the Great War, King George V urged people across the Commonwealth to observe two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. local time. This was to be known as Armistice Day. From 1921 to 1930, Canada observed Armistice Day on the Monday of the week in which November 11 fell.
It was the Canadian Legion that began lobbying Parliament to enshrine in law, November 11 as Armistice Day. In fact, it was one of the original resolutions it had at its founding convention. In 1931, the hon. member for Comox—Alberni, introduced a bill to observe the date as November 11. Passed by the House of Commons, the bill also changed the name to Remembrance Day, and it was first observed in 1931.
The member for West Nova has given us a timely and special opportunity to mark Canada's 150th anniversary by introducing Bill C-311 to change the definition of Remembrance Day in the Holidays Act, from a holiday to a legal holiday. Not only will Bill C-311 elevate the status of Remembrance Day to the same level as Canada Day and Victoria Day, it will reconfirm the commitment of the House to veterans and their families, and those who are serving today, and will show our unwavering gratitude for their sacrifice and service.
Those who serve in uniform do it with bravery, honour, and dignity, protecting the values we cherish most, and doing so with their lives. Let each day we enjoy our freedom be a day we honour them in remembrance.