How Can We Remember Them?
This Remembrance Day, let us remember and honour the sacrifices of thousands of Canadians, who, for over a century, served and gave us the country we have today. Let us also honour the families still dealing with the scars of war and remember the members of the Canadian Armed Forces deployed today, serving us abroad.
Since 1919, Canadians have recognized Remembrance Day, originally called Armistice Day, to mark the end of hostilities during the First World War. In 1921, the Canadian Parliament passed a bill to observe this event on the first Monday in the week of November 11th, but at that time, the Thanksgiving Day holiday coincided and little was done to observe Armistice Day as it was intended. After veterans lobbied, the federal government moved Thanksgiving Day to a different date and declared November 11th to be ‘Remembrance Day’, in 1931. Until then, Armistice Day had emphasized the commemoration of military and political events associated with the victory in the First World War; Remembrance Day would now commemorate the memory of fallen soldiers.
Throughout the decades, there has been much debate over the observance of Remembrance Day. There has been an ongoing debate as to whether it should be a statutory holiday across the country. Provinces like Nova Scotia and Alberta treat November 11th as a statutory holiday, whereas provinces like Ontario do not.
The issue has been brought before government many times and most recently again via a private member’s bill (PMB), Bill C-311, an act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day). The present Bill before the House of Commons on the issue is very similar to a bill from an NDP MP in the last Parliament.
I support this Bill going to Committee as we should have a fulsome debate on the issue once and for all. It is being opposed to by the Legion and some other key stakeholders and I think it is important to get them on the record so people will understand the issue. I have had the opportunity to live in two provinces where the perspectives on this issue are on opposite ends of the spectrum: in Nova Scotia, Remembrance Day is a holiday where schools and employers have the option of giving Remembrance Day or an alternate day off – and in Ontario, where they do not. It goes without saying that Remembrance Day is important to everyone. This is not a debate to challenge whether or not Canadians agree with that statement. If the Bill gets passed second reading and if key stakeholder groups come to committee, it would allow a proper discussion of this issue, rather than waiting for another PMB every few years.
My personal view is that if kids are not in school attending the ceremonies and assemblies related to Remembrance, there is a likelihood that a majority of children would not get the same level of education and appreciation for the service and sacrifice the day represents. Therefore, I favour my Ontario experience. In Nova Scotia, the cenotaphs were much more crowded for the era than ones I attended in Ontario, but clearly most kids were not at ceremonies and it was just another day off school. I know that some municipalities and some businesses allow their employees to take time away from work to attend or be part of Remembrance Day services and I think this should be something we encourage and this could also come out of proper committee review of the issue.
We also show our remembrance and respect in other ways and I am so proud to see this represented throughout Durham. Uxbridge and Port Perry have both worked very hard with their respective Legions to introduce the Veteran Banner Program. It brings goosebumps to travel down the main streets in town with the sponsored banners carrying the names and faces of beloved veterans on display. In Bowmanville you are greeted with a ‘Support Our Troops’ banner, paying tribute to those who still serve. Recently, we unveiled a Highway of Heroes Durham Park of Remembrance in Clarington, that will be a place for the community to reflect and pay respect to those who served, to the families who carried them and to the members of the community who supported the men and women who were killed in the Afghanistan mission. Initiatives such as the Memory Project, school trips planned to Belgium to mark Vimy Ridge’s 100th Anniversary, and Veterans Speaker Series in schools are all ways that we not only remember, but we educate younger generations about the sacrifices made by those who came before them.
I welcome you to share your thoughts on how you think we can Remember Them. Lest We Forget.