News - All - 16 Feb 2018
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Veterans: 16 Feb 2018
Private member's bill which makes Remembrance Day a ‘legal holiday’ faces resistance from Canadian Legion
Do Canadians need a paid day off to honour the sacrifices of veterans?
|Members of the public lay poppies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during Remembrance Day ceremonies in Ottawa. Patrick Doyle/Postmedia/File
It’s a question that splits the country down the middle, with six provinces and all three territories deeming Remembrance Day a statutory holiday and four provinces — Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Manitoba — holding out.
The federal government can’t force a holiday on the provinces, but a recent private member’s bill will tweak Canada’s holiday legislation and — its sponsor hopes — coax the remaining provinces into making Nov. 11 a day off for everyone.
The bill fixes an odd discrepancy in the country’s Holidays Act, which says that Canada Day and Victoria Day are “legal holidays” and Remembrance Day is simply a “holiday.”
Why the law was drafted that way is a question lost to history.
“We had no way of knowing when looking at this bill if this was … an oversight or if it was the intention of the framers to give Remembrance Day a lesser recognition,” said Sen. Joseph Day, the leader of the Senate Liberals, during debate on the law.
After passing third reading in the Senate this week, the bill is awaiting royal assent before it becomes law.
The bill breezed through the House and the Senate, in part because it simply put Remembrance Day on equal footing with the other holidays and nothing more. But the change has been met with resistance from the Royal Canadian Legion, which is worried it could spur the remaining provinces to make the day a stat holiday.
At committee, the Legion argued schools provide structure and ensure kids are attending some kind of event on Nov. 11.
Brad White, the national executive director of the Legion, pointed out that Christmas shopping tends to kick off after Remembrance Day and a stat holiday might encourage people to hit the malls, rather than observe the holiday. He said the issue comes up every so often at their conventions and the delegates always vote against the idea.
“It’s like Canada Day or anything else, people just tend to not go to participate in events and we’re afraid that if it’s a national holiday people will just find better things to do,” said White.
Colin Fraser, the Nova Scotia MP who sponsored the private member’s bill, said the solution is to get the best of both worlds. In provinces where Remembrance Day is already a stat holiday, schools hold a ceremony the day, or week, before and then students can also attend events in the community.
“It does allow them to make it a family event and be there with veterans on Nov. 11, but they can still learn about it on the week leading up (in schools), and in practice, that’s what happens in places where people do have time off on the eleventh,” said Fraser.
White said the Legion has seen a steady increase in turnout to recent events, which he attributes partly to the fact that the war in Afghanistan saw reservists called up for active duty in a way that hadn’t happened in decades and which would be fresh in the memory of younger Canadians.
“It’s really a varied crowd that’s out there nowadays, with a lot of young people, too,” he said.
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