By Trevor Busch
Recognizing Remembrance Day (Nov. 11) as a legal holiday was the subject of a Private Member’s Bill introduced earlier this month in the House of Commons.
On Nov. 2, Colin Fraser, Liberal member for West Nova, introduced Bill C-311, An Act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day).
“The bill changes the wording and status of Remembrance Day in the federal Holidays Act by making it a legal holiday, like Canada Day and Victoria Day. It is intended this amendment will correct the Holidays Act, which currently has different language for Remembrance Day than the language used for Canada Day and Victoria Day. I believe that it is important to fix this inconsistency and properly recognize Remembrance Day in our federal legislation as a legal holiday.”
Many Canadians might be surprised to know that Remembrance Day is currently not classified as a legal national holiday, and does not enjoy the same status in the Holidays Act as Canada Day and Victoria Day. A relatively minor alteration to the legislation, Fraser’s bill seeks to rectify the discrepancy, equalizing the status of Remembrance Day with other holidays reflected in federal legislation.
At present, provinces and territories determine which days are non-working holidays, and Remembrance Day is recognized as a statutory holiday for federal workers. This is in addition to three territories and six provinces — including Alberta — which make the day a statutory holiday. The legislation, if passed, would force provinces and territories that don’t recognize Nov. 11 as a statutory holiday to revisit their own provincial legislation.
Rising in the House to address the legislation on Nov. 2, Bow River MP Martin Shields questioned some of the changes proposed under Bill C-311, especially a lack of public support on the part of the Royal Canadian Legion, which has expressed fears in the past that such changes would denigrate the reverence held for the day, making it “just another long weekend”.
“Mr. Speaker, I appreciate what the honourable member has brought forward today. Having taken many students to places in Europe, to Vimy Ridge, to Italy, I understand the importance of it. We have a national Legion. Has he had the opportunity to discuss it with the national organization and is it in support of this?”
Fraser replied that while the Royal Canadian Legion has “expressed reluctance” about the bill’s implications, he claims the legislation does not do what others fear, while indicating that more grassroots Legion membership have looked on the idea favourably.
“Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to speak to the national Legion. In previous iterations of the bill, when testifying at committee, members of the national Legion had expressed reluctance in supporting this type of bill because they thought that it should not lead toward a national holiday. The bill does not do that, of course. In my discussions with representatives from the Royal Canadian Legion, national branch, they expressed the same reluctance to accept what the bill does. However, I look forward to continuing those discussions. As it relates to Legion members I have spoken to, those in my riding, and many other Legion members across the country, they are supportive of the bill.”
Bill C-311 is currently moving through the parliamentary process, and is expected to be put to a vote in late 2017.