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Remembrance Day should be a national holiday!

The request to make Remembrance Day a national public holiday across Canada without removing any existing public holiday continues. It would make sense to make this a statutory holiday in every province and territory—even in Ontario and Quebec.

As we mourn the death of two soldiers killed in separate attacks on home soil, Canadians were reminded of the importance to understand and appreciate what those who have served Canada in times of war, armed conflict and peace stand for, and what they have sacrificed for their country, including the relevance of the Military in the 21st century.

Dan Harris, a New Democrat MP has introduced a private member’s bill that would make Remembrance Day a paid holiday.

Bill C-597, An Act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day) to make Remembrance Day a public holiday and give it the same status as Canada Day received first reading May 14, 2014. Members of Parliament gave the Bill second reading on November 5, 2014, and sent to committee for review. The Bill is expected to pass with support from the Conservatives.

Contrary to my colleagues at Clear Path, I hope the Bill passes. The arguments of needing kids to be in school to learn about Remembrance Day is poppycock. Schools lead you to this day by teaching you about Remembrance Day before the day. On that day, it is business as usual with a pause at 11 a.m. and maybe some minor activities, and that depends on the school. The day would be better served for parents to get involved in their kids education and go to an event organized by their community or the government and honour our veterans and soldiers. It is not only up to the schools to educate our kids about what Remembrance Day means!

The other argument about employers absorbing the cost… really! Many business owners mistakenly believe they cannot afford to offer days off with pay to their employees. But while going without benefits may boost your bottom line, in the short run, the penny-wise philosophy could strangle your business’s chances for long-term prosperity. Also, it is not up to the employers to decide how days off will be used or not by employees. If some choose not to use the day for the purpose it is given, that is not the employer’s business. The day is still spent with their kids (who also have the day off) and that benefits the family.

If the Bill becomes law, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Ontario would have to change their individual Employment Standards and Labour legislation in order to recognize Remembrance Day as a public holiday.

In Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Yukon, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador Remembrance Day is a paid public (statutory) holiday under their respective Employment/Labour Standards Acts. Employees get a day off with regular pay and/or holiday pay; if the employee is required to work on the holiday, the employee must be paid regular wages and get a substituted day off with pay at a later date (depending on the province or territory of employment). Federally regulated employees also have a holiday on Remembrance Day.

Currently, in Manitoba and Nova Scotia some employees get a day off under the Remembrance Day Act. Employees who do not work that day, do not get paid for the day, unless the employer offers pay as an added benefit. In Ontario and Quebec, Remembrance Day is a memorial day and not a public holiday. There are other variations/exemptions and for specifics for your jurisdiction, consult the Library section of HRinfodesk.

Every employer carrying on or engaged in an industry to which the Remembrance Day Act does not apply must relieve all employees from duty, and suspend the operations of the industry or sector, for a period of three minutes, at one minute before 11 o’clock on the forenoon of Remembrance Day.

In the United States this day is called Veteran’s Day and is also observed on November 11.

What is Remembrance Day?

When World War One ended, (or the Great War, as it was known at that time), an armistice agreement was signed between the Allies and Germany which took place in Paris, France, at 5:00 AM (Paris time), on Monday, November 11th, 1918. Upon signing this agreement, hostilities ceased at 11:00 A.M.

Every person in Canada is called to take a moment of silence on November 11 at 11:00 a.m. every year to commemorate Canadian contributions and sacrifices in wars and international conflicts.

The poppy represents the symbol of Remembrance.

Remembrance is the cornerstone of The Royal Canadian Legion’s work in Canada. The Poppy Campaign is a major source of funds used to assist veterans, ex-service people and their dependents. A writer first made the connection between the poppy and battlefield deaths during the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century, remarking that fields that were barren before battle exploded with the blood-red flowers after the fighting ended. Lieut-Col. John McCrae, the Canadian doctor who wrote the poem In Flanders Fields, made the same connection 100 years later, during the First World War, and the scarlet poppy quickly became the symbol for soldiers who died in battle. In November 1921, the first symbolic poppies were distributed in Canada.

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Yosie Saint-Cyr

Managing Editor at First Reference Inc.
Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B., is a trained lawyer called to the Quebec bar in 1988 and is still a member in good standing. She practiced business, employment and labour law until 1999. For over 15 years, Yosie has been the Managing Editor of the following publications, Human Resources Advisor, Human Resources PolicyPro, HRinfodesk and Accessibility Standards PolicyPro from First Reference. Yosie is one of Canada’s best known and most respected HR authors, with an extensive background in employment and labour across the country. Read more
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