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Remembrance Day, a public holiday for some, memorial day for others

Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day falls on Monday, November 11, in 2019. Although Remembrance Day was declared a legal holiday like Canada Day and Victoria Day under the federal Holidays Act on March 1, 2018, provinces and territories determine which days are public holidays in their regions.

Where is Remembrance Day a public (statutory) holiday?

Remembrance Day is recognized as a public (statutory) holiday for federally regulated workers under the Canada Labour Code. In Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan and Yukon, Remembrance Day is a statutory holiday under their respective employment/labour standards law. Employees receive a day off with regular pay 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).

Under Manitoba’s and Nova Scotia’s Remembrance Day Act, Remembrance Day is not a public holiday, but most industries are not allowed to operate on Remembrance Day, with exceptions. For instance, in Manitoba, the following industries are allowed to operate: hospital employees; hotel and restaurant employees; workers who do emergency repairs; and workers who supply heat, gas, light, water or electrical services, just to name a few. Employees who do not work on November 11 do not get paid for the day, unless the employer offers pay as an added benefit.

In Ontario and Quebec, Remembrance Day is not a public holiday. While some employers give their employees a holiday on Remembrance Day, they are not required to do so under employment/labour standards legislation.

Every employer carrying on or engaged in an industry to which the Remembrance Day Act public holiday 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.

Will the provinces (ON, QC, MB and NS) that do not observe Remembrance Day change their respective employment/labour standards legislation and join the federal government and the other jurisdictions to make Remembrance Day a public holiday? Only time will tell.

The change to the federal Act follows a popular request to make Remembrance Day a national public holiday across Canada without removing any existing public holiday.

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.

November 11, Remembrance Day (it may also be commonly known as Armistice Day), is a time for Canadians to remember and honour the fallen on both sides in the ‘Great war’, and men and women who have served and continue to serve the country in times of conflict and peace. More than 2,300,000 Canadians have served and more than 118,000 made the ultimate sacrifice (source: Veterans Affairs Canada).

Remembrance Day also allows Canadians the opportunity to be more in tune with the reality that war and conflict still continue to be a large part of the lives of many people, irrespective of age, social class, race and/or gender.

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 dependants. 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.

Commemorating Remembrance Day in the workplace

The following are a few suggestions of how Remembrance Day can be commemorated in the workplace:

  • At 11:00 A.M. on November 11, pause for two minutes of silence.
  • Provide employees the opportunity to wear a poppy. The distribution of poppies to the general public begins on the last Friday in October and runs until November 11.
  • You can donate to the Poppy Campaign. The money raised is used for the care and support of veterans and their dependants.
  • Share your thanks on social media #rememberthem #remembranceday #LestWeForget
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Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B. Managing Editor

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 18 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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