Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise on behalf of the great residents of Barrie—lnnisfil and as the opposition critic for veterans affairs. I am pleased again to speak to Bill C-311 at third reading.
Today we speak to address only one amendment to the Holidays Act for Remembrance Day, which is to add the word “legal”.
I want to commend the hon. member for West Nova for his inspiration for this bill and to recognize his work on behalf of the men and women of our armed forces, not only with respect to this bill but also for his work as a member of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. We have had some spirited discussions at that committee.
I would also like to state that the previous Conservative government, and the current government, continue to show the respect due to our veterans. The 100th anniversary of Vimy celebrations in France were outstanding. Thousands of Canadians stood with government and military representatives remembering and reliving the actions of the thousands who fought in those days of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The commemoration services in Ottawa were just as moving, with a sunset candle-lighting ceremony, Saturday, April 8, and a touching passing of the torch to Canada's future military from our veterans. The Saturday evening service was followed by a full commemoration on Vimy Day, April 9, in full sun, weather conditions our soldiers in 1917 certainly would have preferred to the rain and mud they experienced on that April morning.
Services in Ottawa and across Canada were attended by Canadians of all ages from all communities. Canadians have shown that they have a birth-born respect for our current members of the Canadian Armed Forces and our veterans to whom we owe so much. These feelings of respect and long-standing admiration do not need to be legislated to Canadians.
From the earliest school day memories of services in our school auditoriums and cafeterias, presence on Remembrance Day was never a forced obligation. With Bill C-311, there would be a forced obligation on Canadians, a forced obligation that is, quite frankly, not needed.
Let me take a few minutes to provide a few examples for this House.
Each year the Canadian Legion launches its poppy campaign on the last Friday in October, and it runs until Remembrance Day. Of all money raised from the 20 million poppies distributed, 85% goes back to veterans and their families through services and programs.
When I think of all the military events in our nation's history we commemorate, I find it hard to believe that some people think we do not honour those who have fallen enough. Last week we remembered June 6, 1944, D-Day, the raid on Normandy. We have annual services at the National War Memorial and across Canada for the Battle of the Atlantic. On July 1, in Newfoundland and across Canada, we will remember the loss of a generation at the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel. Coming up, we will remember the 75th anniversary of Dieppe in August. National Peacekeepers' Day is August 8.
If this House and the government really want to recognize the sacrifices of our armed forces, there could be another way we could do this. In 2017, while Veterans' Week is taking place, from November 5 to 11, all MPs will be here in Ottawa and only able to return home on November 9 or 10 to attend services for Remembrance Day. Would it not make more sense to have our House leaders agree to permanently reschedule our November break to coincide with Veterans' Week so that all MPs can participate in their ridings? I do not speak for all members, but I know that I will miss several important Remembrance Day ceremonies in the communities of Barrie—lnnisfil while I am in Ottawa that week.
I applaud the effort and sincerity of the member for introducing Bill C-311. However, it would have made much more sense to introduce a bill or motion that would have made a permanent change that positively affects how we can be with our constituents for Veterans' Week, the whole week, not just November 11, as will be the case this year.
What this bill would do is only one thing, which is label Remembrance Day a “legal” holiday. I am not quite sure what impact that would have, because it is still up to the provinces to determine whether they will impose a statutory holiday.
I would like to restate to the House my comments at the heritage committee when the bill was debated, where, in committee, two of the three clauses were removed from the bill. When we pass pieces of legislation in the House of Commons, we do not do so because they feel good. We do so because they support the intent to make the lives of Canadians better. Understandably, there can be an argument that this will help elevate the status of Remembrance Day, but as we heard from Mr. White, with the Royal Canadian Legion's Dominion command, and from others, and as I can tell you anecdotally from being as involved in Remembrance Day week as I was, the status of Remembrance Day continues to grow in this country without the help or the need for legislation.
A significant number of Canadians participate in the remembrance of those who gave their lives in sacrifice for the freedoms that we enjoy. As I said when the bill was being dealt with in committee, there is not a day that goes by that I or any of us who have the privilege of sitting in the House of Commons do not realize that those sacrifices were real, that blood was spilled and that families were torn apart to allow each and every one of the 338 of us the privilege of sitting in our symbol of democracy: the House of Commons.
As I and others in committee mentioned to the member for West Nova, if the intent was to emphasize the importance of Remembrance Day to Canadians, we could have easily done that through a motion that would have reaffirmed Parliament's commitment to our veterans and to Remembrance Day. We did not necessarily need a piece of legislation to change an act of Parliament to do that.