OTTAWA, ON, April 28th, 2015 – The Royal Canadian Legion was on Parliament Hill today to speak to members of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs about Bill C-597, An Act to Amend the Holidays Act.
Please see below for the Brief to the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Honourable Chairman and members of the Committee; Good morning and thank you for the invitation to The Royal Canadian Legion to appear before the committee to speak on Bill C-597, An Act to Amend the Holidays Act. On behalf of Dominion President Tom Eagles and our 300,000 members, it is our pleasure to be here.
I am Brad White, Dominion Secretary of The Royal Canadian Legion. For the last 17 years, I have been involved in every major commemorative activity that the Legion has participated in as well as being the former Director of Canada’s National Remembrance Day ceremony. Accompanying me today is Mr. William Maxwell, Senior Program Officer and Committee Secretary for the Dominion Command Poppy and Remembrance Committee.
It is the Legion’s position that November 11th not be a legal or statutory holiday, therefore, I will be speaking against the proposed amendment to Bill C-597.
As background information, such positions and other matters of Legion policy result from resolutions passed at a Dominion Convention following consultation and debate at all three levels of the organization.
This procedure for enacting change in the Legion starts at the branch level, where any member can propose a change in policy or administrative procedure that could affect the entire organization. Following review and discussion by all members within the branch, the resolution passes to the Provincial Command level. It is at the Provincial Command Convention that delegates from within that provincial jurisdiction further consider and discuss the proposed resolution. If the delegates concur, the resolution is submitted for consideration at the Dominion Convention, the third and final level of consultation and debate. If passed by the Dominion Convention, which is attended by delegates from all branches and Provincial Commands in the organization, the resolution becomes an adopted policy or approved procedure. As you see, such matters receive thorough consideration and undergo debate throughout all levels of the organization.
The holiday status of Remembrance Day has been debated at numerous Dominion Conventions throughout the Legion’s history, in fact, 13 times since 1970 and most recently at our 2012 Dominion Convention. It was at this 2012 Convention that the Legion’s position against Remembrance Day being a statutory holiday was re-affirmed.
We remain concerned that Canadians, if given the time off as a legal holiday, may not take the time to remember; that it may simply become a mid-week break or just part of another long weekend. The latter situation relates specifically to discussion at the 1978 Dominion Convention which focused on how government departments of the day treated November 11th as a floating holiday for the purpose of giving their employees a long weekend. This must not be allowed to happen again.
We have heard an interpretation of what is a legal holiday, that making Remembrance Day a legal holiday would not designate it as a statutory holiday. The semantics of such interpretations are subjective; one only need look at the news media reporting on the progress of the bill to see how it is a commonplace position that statutory holiday status is exactly what the bill would achieve.
This perception is further validated by association, as the bill would serve to designate Remembrance Day the same as Canada Day and Victoria Day, both of which are a legal holiday in the Holidays Act with each also being a statutory holiday. If it is not the intent of the bill to make Remembrance Day a statutory holiday, if designating it a legal holiday only would not change its current status according to the interpretation provided by the Library of Parliament and reported to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, then why propose the bill?
Perhaps what is needed is to raise the awareness and understanding of Remembrance Day, which could be achieved through an education strategy. It is paramount that the significance of Remembrance Day is instilled in our youth and to the general population to show their respect for the sacrifices of our Fallen. To honour this day, many schools hold assemblies where they organize their own commemoration; some teachers take their students to collectively participate with their peers in ceremonies at local cenotaphs, thereby strengthening the impact of the significance of November 11th. The Legion works very closely with schools throughout the country to provide an educational component about Remembrance Day. In addition to welcoming classes at ceremonies, the Legion’s Teaching Guide is another excellent educational tool, which has been viewed or downloaded from our website more than one million times.
In a letter last fall to Mr. Dan Harris, the Ontario Federation of Home and School Associations expressed strong support for the Legion’s position on Remembrance Day. The association noted, “In the 1960’s, Ontarians did observe Remembrance Day as a school holiday. Children remained at home to play, watch television and enjoy a day of rest. Few were involved in events recognizing the significance of the day. At that time, veterans’ groups, school boards and other organizations such as the OFHSA petitioned to have schools remain open on Remembrance Day… so that suitable Remembrance Day services can be held in schools to provide students with a better understanding of the purpose and tribute paid.”
So, too, are we encouraged to hear of organized commemorations in workplaces on November 11th. We need to make honouring and remembering an important part of our regular routine on November 11th and not simply provide a day off from school or work. Take Victoria Day, for example, a legal holiday, and question what observances are held across the country to honour Canada’s longest serving monarch. For most, it just provides for a long weekend in May. We must not let Remembrance Day suffer this same fate.
We thank you, again, for this opportunity to the Legion to express our views on Bill C‑597.
For further information please contact Bruce Poulin at Dominion Command, at (613) 591-3335 ext. 241 or by cell at (613) 292-8760 or firstname.lastname@example.org .