The Conservative government has thrown its support behind an NDP MP’s private member’s bill (C-597), which would make Remembrance Day a statutory “stat” holiday across Canada, although each province would still have to enact their own legislation. It passed second reading by a margin of 258 to 2 and is now in the hands of the Senate.
The passing of this bill may seem like an excellent way to honour our veterans and demonstrate national pride in the face of previously unthinkable acts of terror. However, we present three possible reasons why our politicians should give some sober second thought prior to making this decision.
First, some background:
Remembrance Day is an annual memorial day that commemorates the end of hostilities during World War I, which ceased “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” in 1918. Currently, 6 provinces and 3 territories mark the day as a paid general holiday. The provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Nova Scotia (which collectively make up more than two thirds of Canada’s population) do not recognize it as an official paid statutory holiday. Federal workers and those in the banking industry within those provinces do receive a paid day off. (Source)
#1: Let the dust settle
The quick passing of this bill’s second reading is understandable, but perhaps emotional and political reasons played too large a part. Who wouldn’t want to be seen as supporting the troops after two of our own were assassinated by extremists? How can we expect our MPs to be clear-headed on an issue like this when there are literally still bullet holes in the doors and hallways of our Parliament building?
Changes to legislation should be made after careful consideration, a healthy debate, and perhaps feedback from those affected. If we do wish to make this change, it may make sense to have a “cooling off period” rather than rushing it through. Hopefully, the Senate will slow down the process a bit and bring some much needed reflection to the potential change.
#2: A stat holiday is Not the best way to honour our veterans
As a comparison, when was the last time you used the Victoria Day holiday as a chance to reflect on the accomplishments of the longest serving monarch in Britain’s history?
Our politicians seem to believe that a paid day off work for adults and a day away from school for kids will be a way to honour our veterans and lead to increased attendance at local Remembrance Day ceremonies. But isn’t it just as likely that people would use it as an excuse to go to the mall for Christmas shopping or seize the opportunity for a long weekend away?
Columnist Christina Blizzard recently wrote in “Kids Belong In School on Remembrance Day” that making Remembrance Day a Stat holiday for workers and students would be a terrible idea. She emphasized that schools have done a terrific job honouring the day and teaching kids about Canada’s military history. Removing that opportunity for education and participation would be a disservice to the students and our soldiers.
She also makes a key point about the benefit of being together, whether it be at school or at the workplace, when we mark this occasion (referencing an important line from the famous poem In Flanders Fields.
The act of remembering is not something we do on an individual basis. It is a collective activity where many congregate as one to keep the faith with those who died — as we pledged we would. Christina Blizzard, “Kids Belong In School on Remembrance Day”
#3: Why should business owners absorb the cost of everyone’s patriotism?
Stat holidays are not subsidized by the government. They are a legal requirement imposed on businesses and the cost is entirely absorbed by the business itself.
Changing November 11th into a mandatory paid day off would require business owners in Ontario to coincidentally add an 11th day (on top of New Year’s Day, Family Day, Good Friday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Civic Holiday*, Labour Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and Boxing Day) where they have to close their doors, reducing the revenue they can generate that month, while they pay their employees anyway.
*It is interesting to note that the Civic Holiday is not a mandatory holiday in the province of Ontario but an optional one. If Remembrance Day becomes a Stat holiday, will businesses reconsider the August holiday out of necessity?
Advocates for small business owners can list a number of recent expenses that have made surviving in a challenging economic environment even tougher, including:
- Addition of Family Day in 2008
- Increases in minimum wage (that will now be increased annually since it will be linked to the CPI)
- Increasing costs from the WSIB
- The upcoming Ontario Retirement Pension Plan
- New obligations related to accessibility for people with disabilities and preventing workplace violence
Is it unpatriotic to question why businesses should be required to take on the cost of this holiday as well?
Are there better ways to honour our veterans?
It is unlikely that any business owner would disagree that honouring our veterans and those who have given their lives for our freedom is a critically important tradition we must fight to uphold. They might suggest that there are more productive and meaningful ways businesses can mark Remembrance Day rather than giving everyone a paid day off work, including:
- Gathering up all employees at 11:00 a.m. on Remembrance Day for a moment of silence together
- Encouraging workers to watch a live stream of the War Memorial ceremony in Ottawa on the Internet
- Allowing employees to attend a ceremony at a local Cenotaph (whether paid or unpaid)
- Inviting guest speakers from your local Legion to visit your business
- Making the hiring of veterans a priority for your organization
- Supporting local veterans and their families
- Donating to organizations such as Wounded Warriors, True Patriot Love, or the Canadian War Museum
What is your business doing to mark Remembrance Day this year? Whatever it is, let’s always remember that without these brave men and women we would not be able to even have this conversation.
Lest We Forget.
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