Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate. First, I want to acknowledge the incredible work that my colleague from West Nova did on drafting this private member's bill concerning Remembrance Day. I am encouraged to hear my colleagues across the way take part in this debate and those who say that they support the bill.
This bill is important because it gives Remembrance Day a federally legislated legal status that it did not have before. It will be given the same legal status as Canada Day and Victoria Day. We will be able to say that it is now a statutory holiday to commemorate the armistice that ended the Great War of 1914-18. There will be no exception under the legislation.
When I first looked at this file I thought perhaps that the fact that Remembrance Day had not been given the same legal status as other statutory holidays in Canada was just a fluke. Unfortunately, this exception lingered for quite some time. My colleague from West Nova, Nova Scotia, is to be commended for introducing a bill to right this wrong in Canadian law.
It is very important to understand what this private member's bill would contribute, in no longer allowing for this exception that we have of having two classes of holidays in Canada. We have one class, the legal holiday that is recognized within the Canadian legal parliamentary context, like Canada Day and Victoria Day. However, for some reason, we have taken one of our most sacred commemorations and put it at a lower level than the other two.
For me, that is not acceptable. I applaud my colleague, the member for West Nova, for taking the initiative to make sure we can do this. I would like to thank also other members from across the way for lending their support to this initiative. This is very important for us to do.
Let me also talk about what this private member's bill would not do. There is a sense sometimes; people feel that this would be creating another statutory holiday, a day when people all across Canada would have the day off. That actually is not the case. What we discovered, which is very interesting, is that holidays in this country, in terms of whether people have a paid day off, are determined by the provinces. When we have Canada Day or Victoria Day, or in my province la Fête de Dollard, it is determined by the provincial body whether people will have a paid holiday.
At the federal level, we determine whether this is being considered for bodies that are regulated by the federal government; for example, the federal public service. This would be considered a legal holiday when the federal government would not be at work. For all of us here in Parliament, it is a similar kind of thing. That is where we have that aspect of where it applies.
For other industries and employment situations that are regulated by the provinces, it is up to the provinces to determine whether they can take part in this holiday. That is what they do for Canada Day. I think it would be politically unwise and impossible to do, but a province theoretically could determine that Canada Day would not be considered a statutory holiday, a paid holiday, for the purposes of employment. People in that province would have to show up to work. That is beyond what would be reasonably acceptable, and we would not expect that to happen.
I think Bill C-311 has been warmly received by Canadians across the country. I find more and more in my riding of Hull—Aylmer that people recognize the importance of Remembrance Day, even though we move further away in time from World War I. There are no living survivors of World War I. As we move away from the wars in which Canadian troops have participated, I find it a funny thing that the younger generations in schools in our communities are participating more in Remembrance Day activities. Either people will cross the river to come to the national cenotaph here, or they will go to the cenotaph in the Aylmer sector of my riding.
Last year, we had close to a thousand people who celebrated on November 11. We had women and men taking part, of course, who were serving in our forces. We had veterans come out in uniform to participate. What was really encouraging was seeing regular folks from Hull—Aylmer take part in this, people who came out to recognize the importance and the service that the women and men in uniform have made over time and the sacrifices that they and their families have made. It was really touching to see.
I think we owe it to them, and to all Canadians, to make sure that Remembrance Day shares the same legal definition that other federally regulated holidays have, such as Canada Day and Victoria Day. That is why I feel it is important for us to recognize the sacrifice that our brave women and men have made, to bring it up to the same level, and to allow Remembrance Day to finally have the same legal status in the Holidays Act.
I also want to touch on some of the provisions in this bill. One of them addresses the fact that if November 11 falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the following Monday will be considered a statutory holiday and celebrated as Remembrance Day.
That is important. Through this bill we are making sure that Remembrance Day is treated the same as all the other statutory holidays under the Holidays Act.
Most importantly, not only does the main clause of the bill raise the legal status of this holiday, but the bill also provides that the Canadian flag on Parliament Hill will fly at half-mast on Remembrance Day in recognition of the sacrifice made by our troops and our veterans.