Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to support the bill, although I have to admit I am deeply disappointed that the member has relented and reduced his bill substantially.
Initially, as I understand, Bill C-311 proposed that Remembrance Day be a statutory holiday. Remembrance Day is already a statutory holiday in my province of Alberta and in every province except Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia.
My experience is, and the experience of those in my city, that making this day of remembrance a statutory holiday enables and encourages families to participate in memorial services. Events are well-attended in Edmonton, at cenotaphs located across the city. Schools do host events and there is no conflict, as has been raised I think by some veterans. Most schools host their November 11 activities days before November 11. I have regularly participated in events in both McNally High School and Vimy Ridge Academy and they are a pleasure.
While the largest service held with the Lieutenant Governor is hosted at the University of Alberta in my riding, for the past few years, I have been honoured to be invited to join the premier and the South Alberta Light Horse regiment in a very special service at Holy Trinity Anglican Church. We then march with the soldiers to the cenotaph at the now renamed Light Horse Park.
I have also had the privilege of working with a committee of Edmontonians determined to refurbish the old Strathcona cenotaph, an effort led by the South Alberta Light Horse Regiment Foundation, nicknamed Sally Horse.
I am joined on this committee by our local MLA, the premier of Alberta, the rector for Holy Trinity Anglican Church, the Royal Canadian Legion, our city council, the Old Strathcona Foundation, the Strathcona Community League, Fringe Theatre Adventures, the Old Strathcona Business Association, and finally the Youth Empowerment and Support Services, or YESS.
YESS is an organization that supports youth who are homeless. It is located in the adjacent Connaught Armoury, the oldest in the province. Each Remembrance Day, they kindly host all who attend the ceremonies at our cenotaph.
This joint initiative to refurbish the cenotaph has been inspired by the growing interest in participating in this community-based ceremony and in recognizing the deep connection of the Light Horse to Old Strathcona.
The official birthdate of the SALHties was July 1905 and Old Strathcona was the regimental headquarters until 1964. Their flags still fly in Holy Trinity church.
The regiments were horse-mounted in the early days. Albertan regiments are famous for the horsemanship, going back to World War I, when Albertans were tasked with breaking in new mounts at Swaythling Remount Depot because of their natural horsemanship.
Members of the then-called Dragoons were dispatched from the Old Strathcona train station in 1914, during World War I, and also in 1939 during World War II. Their current Colonel-in-Chief is Her Royal Highness, the Countess of Wessex, who has attended some of the November 11 services and ceremonies. She honoured us at the groundbreaking of the new cenotaph park, Light Horse Park.
The 31st Battalion was one of the key Alberta battalions. It drew approximately 50% of the men from Edmonton and its surrounding area. It was active in all major campaigns throughout World War I and was awarded many battle honours, to name only a few: Ypres, Mount Sorrel, the Somme, Arras, Vimy, Hill 70, Passchendaele, and Flanders.
The 15th Light Horse continues to service Calgary on horseback and trains regularly as part of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade, 5th Cavalry Division, alongside the 19th Alberta Dragoons. In 1942, the unit was converted to a tank regiment re-designated as the 29th Armoured Recognizance Regiment, and fighting in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and, finally, German, with continuous action from 1944 to 1945.
In 1954, the South Alberta Regiment merged with the 15th Alberta Light Horse to form the South Alberta Light Horse.
Planned additions to the memorial will commemorate the Alberta Light Horse history and its strong links to the community, creating a place of interest and gathering year-round. The changes will provide new educational materials for students, families, and community members helping bring the local military history alive. The Light Horse Park cenotaph rehabilitation project is an important legacy project, not just for November 11, but benefiting the community year-round, including for our famous Fringe Theatre festival and for the Strathcona Community League.
We are hopeful that it will soon be completed so that all may gather in a beautiful location in Edmonton Strathcona to observe Remembrance Day. Again, I am very grateful that everyone, every family in my city, has the opportunity to come and celebrate with us on Remembrance Day.