This past June, the House of Commons passed legislation to make Remembrance Day a legal holiday across Canada.
Liberal MP Colin Fraser introduced Bill C-311 as a private member’s bill, which typically don’t end up becoming law. But it passed by a margin of 205-36, with most of the opposition coming from Conservative voters.
The move helps elevate the status of Remembrance Day in federal law by giving it the same legal status as Canada Day and Victoria Day. However, most agree that it is still not enough, as it still does not make Nov. 11 an official statutory holiday across the country.
The House of Commons does not have the power to make Remembrance Day a full-fledged national statutory holiday, as it is up to the provinces to make that call for themselves. Currently, Remembrance Day is a statutory holiday in all provinces and territories except for Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia. Federal employees are also granted the day off.
Many Canadians believe that the provincial and federal governments need to work together to make Remembrance Day a proper holiday for all Canadians, and not just for half of the country and federal employees.
Past attempts to make Nov. 11 a national holiday have failed due to resistance from the Royal Canadian Legion. Bill Maxwell, a Legion member, argued that if Remembrance Day “was institutionalized and made a statutory holiday, the impression would be that people in their homes would not make the effort to attend a downtown ceremony.”
Others disagree, claiming that having Remembrance Day off would not lessen its symbolic importance, but rather allow Canadians (who would otherwise be distracted by work) to have a full day to really reflect on its importance. “Indeed, the opportunity to enjoy a day with family and friends – as well as to reflect on the sacrifices of those who made it possible – are surely not incompatible,” reads an editorial from the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.
The full text of Bill C-311, as passed by the House of Commons, currently reads as follows:
An Act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day) Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows:
1 Section 3 of the Holidays Act is replaced by the following: Remembrance Day
3 November 11, being the day in the year 1918 on which the Great War was triumphantly concluded by an armistice, is a legal holiday and shall be kept and observed as such throughout Canada under the name of “Remembrance Day”.
Perhaps it’s time we gave Remembrance Day the observance it deserves. After all, “lest we forget” means nothing if we’re all too occupied with work to pay our respects.