Madam Speaker, I want to thank everyone who has participated in the debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-311, an act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day). I sincerely thank all the members of the Canadian heritage committee for their work after second reading, and reporting the bill back to the House with constructive amendments.
I want to thank the other members of Parliament who, over the past number of years, have introduced similar legislation, but for one reason or another did not make it all the way through the legislative process. These members include members from the Conservative, NDP, and Liberal parties. As well, I sincerely want to thank all of the organizations and individuals, both opponents and proponents, for their thoughtful and respectful contributions to the debate.
Most notably, and as the member a moment ago did, I want to recognize Wilma McNeill of Sarnia, Ontario, who has been a champion of this bill, and similar ones before it for almost 30 years. Her dedication to the issue of elevating the status of Remembrance Day is an inspiration, and I have enjoyed getting to know Wilma throughout this process. It has been a great privilege to put forward Bill C-311 and work with colleagues in getting this piece of legislation through the various steps in the House.
As I mentioned in my speech at second reading and earlier in the first hour of debate at third reading, the bill would afford Parliament the opportunity to do a couple of things. First, it would help fix inconsistent language in the federal Holidays Act, so that Remembrance Day would be put on an equal footing with other days such as Canada Day and Victoria Day in federal statute. This would elevate the status of Remembrance Day to ensure it is being properly recognized in federal law. A motion alone could not add the consistency and elevate the status of Remembrance Day by changing the language in the Holidays Act. Only another bill or act of Parliament can do that.
The other thing it would do is affirm Parliament's commitment to this important day of November 11 as a solemn day of remembrance in Canada. I believe it is important for us as parliamentarians to shine a light on the significance of this day, and state clearly why it is unique and deserving of prominence, while at the same time allowing us to reflect on the way we mark November 11 across our country.
I want to be very clear, as I have throughout this entire process at every single step. This bill would not and could not create a national holiday across Canada. That is not within the purview of Parliament to do. It is up to each province and territory to decide for themselves whether people get the day off work or school on November 11. This bill would not give anyone the day off who does not already have the day off. For federal employees, that day is determined through the Canada Labour Code.
Throughout the debate, the main contention raised against Bill C-311 is that the Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command does not support the bill. First of all, I have tremendous respect and admiration for the Royal Canadian Legion, and the good work they do across Canada, especially in smaller communities, where not only is it a gathering place for veterans but in many ways is at the very heart of the community.
There are 14 Legions in my riding of West Nova, and I am so proud of the work they do in our community supporting veterans. I am also proud of the support they have shown me with this bill, and the great relationships I have built with them in my time representing them as their member of Parliament.
It was mentioned in debate that the matter of a national holiday for remembrance has been the subject of many resolutions at the national Legion conventions over the years. There has always been a healthy debate about it. In the end, the position has been to be against it. Bill C-311 would not and could not make a national holiday. Again, it will remain up to the provinces and territories to make those determinations.
At the heritage committee, while studying this bill, a Legion member and former president of the Kingston, Nova Scotia branch, Dave Geddes, came before the committee and said:
...when that came to the floor, it was never brought forward like this bill is—that it would be a federal one, and it would be up to the provinces to enact it as they see fit. I think that if it had been brought in that manner, you would have seen a different vote.
This bill and the intention behind it is definitely not what the Legion members were actually voting on in those resolutions. While I totally respect the point of view of the Dominion Command on this topic, I respectfully disagree, because this bill would not do what they seem to say it would.
With regard to the comments from the member for Edmonton Strathcona, there was no change to the bill in the first section. Therefore, it was not watered down.
In conclusion, we can all agree on the importance of Remembrance Day in Canada. We also share the desire to ensure this day appropriately honours the sacrifices, and I ask for passage of this bill.