Skip to main content Start of content

CHPC Committee Meeting

Notices of Meeting include information about the subject matter to be examined by the committee and date, time and place of the meeting, as well as a list of any witnesses scheduled to appear. The Evidence is the edited and revised transcript of what is said before a committee. The Minutes of Proceedings are the official record of the business conducted by the committee at a sitting.

For an advanced search, use Publication Search tool.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the accessibility of this publication, please contact us at accessible@parl.gc.ca.

Previous day publication Next day publication
Skip to Document Navigation Skip to Document Content






Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage


NUMBER 048 
l
1st SESSION 
l
42nd PARLIAMENT 

EVIDENCE

Thursday, February 23, 2017

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

  (1530)  

[Translation]

    I'd like to welcome our witnesses, Mr. FitzGerald, Ms. McNeill, and Mr. Geddes.
    We'll begin with the presentations. Each of you will have 10 minutes.

[English]

     It will be followed by questions from everyone on all parties.
    I will start with you, Ms. McNeill, if you are set.
     Thank you, Chair.
    I'm happy to be back in front of this committee. I was here two years ago when I spoke on behalf of Dan Harris. We thought we had the day, but it didn't go that way. They called an election, so we lost it.
    I'm back again to speak to you and I appreciate being able to be here.
    I have been working on making Remembrance Day a legal holiday for 27 years, and I'm not going away. My late husband, who passed away on September 17, 2013, was in the air force for 23 years. We lived all across Canada, in Comox, Winnipeg, Centralia, and then back to our own hometown in Summerside, Prince Edward Island. We had two sons: Lonnie, who served in the navy for 34 years, and Tim, who served in the army for 15 years and spent six months in Rwanda under Major General Roméo Dallaire. That was quite an experience for him.
    My brother was also in the air force for a very short time. My husband's family—six brothers and a sister—served during the war. They all came home safe and sound. We were some of the lucky people in terms of losing people in the war. Their picture hangs in the Royal Canadian Legion in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, along with my husband's sister-in-law, who did 10 trips on the Letitia, bringing war brides to Canada. She will be celebrating her 102nd birthday on June 29. She's still in her own home and she still talks about her service, although she doesn't want to say too much. She just enjoys it.
    Why I want to have this day is very simple. This year we're celebrating the 150th birthday of Canada. What better time to do things right in honouring our veterans the way they should be honoured? This year also, Vimy Ridge is celebrating 100 years of service, and I'm attending a dinner on April 2 in Sarnia, Ontario, where we live, to celebrate that occasion. We lost 5,000 young men there, just about, and we want them to be honoured properly.
    What we're here today to do, I hope and pray, is lift the level of Remembrance Day to a legal holiday. It's high time, and in this year it's the right thing to do. We have so many freedoms here in Canada that some of us may take for granted, and it's time, for sure, that the veterans have their due. We might say, what does this bill do? It's going to raise the status of Remembrance Day. That, to me, is very important. I have written to all prime ministers and all premiers as they changed office over these 27 years.
    This bill also provides consistency in the language for the Holidays Act and raises Remembrance Day to the same status.
    I could go on and on about my experiences, but I'm just so happy to be here to ask you to give Colin Fraser the Remembrance Day bill, and pass it and pass it quickly. It's hard to believe that we have such a problem for this very simple thing that we want to do. They just have to have the honour, and I'm going to ask you to please support it.
    Sometimes when we talk about Remembrance Day, we hear a lot from the Legion, but we must remember that we have other military groups—the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal Canadian Navy, the Merchant Marine, the Vimy Ridge veterans. Maybe they're not speaking out loudly enough, but I've had an awful lot of support from all of those people.

  (1535)  

    Another thing that we say is that we want it for the children in the schools. You can talk Remembrance Day any day of the year, from January to November, but we'll particularly stress it in the week of November 11. My husband, when he taught, had the service all the time in the school where he taught. He raised the situation for the school system.
     I know that sometimes the Legions want to have the children in the schools. Well, if they really and truly believe that, then they should be talking to the education department to open the schools on Saturday and Sunday so that the children can be in school if that's what they want. They should be getting an education. I've written and said, “Yes, do this education in the schools”, for sure, but the idea that they have to be in the school is not really a legal request. They should just join together and let us have the day.
    Our job here today, all of you, is to support Bill C-311 and advocate for veterans by showing respect for Remembrance Day. We need this bill. I want the veterans to have the day they deserve. Parliament needs to lead by example. This bill allows Parliament to lead the way for veterans.
    You parliamentarians need to show veterans and all Canadians that you think this an important step for Remembrance Day. I hope that this committee will help Mr. Fraser take this critical yet simple step by adding one word to the Holidays Act.
    Do you think we can do that? I hope we can.

  (1540)  

[Translation]

    Thank you very much, Ms. McNeill.
    I will now turn the floor over to Mr. Geddes, who is joining us via teleconference.

[English]

Mr. Geddes, just for verification, did you hear what I said in French?
    Did you hear it translated?
    Yes, there was no problem.
    Perfect. Please go on.
     First off, I would like to thank you people for the opportunity for me to say a few words on Bill C-311.
    I spent 42 years working for the Department of National Defence, 30 years in a military uniform and 12 years working as a civilian with the naval people. I also would like to tell you that today I'm talking as an individual supporting this bill. I'm not speaking on behalf of the Legion.
    I joined the Royal Canadian Legion in 1964 in North Bay, Ontario. I have served the Legion in many positions in the last number of years. I'm presently on my ninth year as president in Kingston Legion branch 98 in Nova Scotia.
    Why is this day so important to me? I think, as a speaker before me mentioned, we owe it to the men and women who made the supreme sacrifice for this great country of ours, and that sacrifice certainly gives us the opportunity to be speaking here today in freedom. Without it, it may have been be different.
    We do have a remembrance service every day in the Legion, but the week before Remembrance Day, we all go to schools with the children and discuss with them what remembrance means to them. They have a small remembrance service in the schools before the 11th, and all or most of them attend our service. Our service is at the Legion every year, and I must say that in the last few years, the numbers have gone up. I attribute that to more than one issue. With the conflict in Afghanistan, when we brought all our people home who made the supreme sacrifice, you could see the difference it made in the people in Canada by the way they paid their tribute on the Highway of Heroes as they moved from Trenton to Toronto.
    There's no doubt that the schools are a very important part of the program, because we must pass the torch on to the youth so it will not be forgotten, and it's not just because it has been many years since the First World War, the Second World War, Korea, and the latest conflicts that our men and women have been involved with and in which they laid down their lives for this country. There is no doubt that this, the 150th birthday of this great country of ours, could not be a better time to give this to the veterans, showing them that the government really does care, making this holiday legal for the federal government, and allowing the provinces to make their decision as to how they would want to respond to that as well.
    There is no doubt that this bill is a modest measure that adds consistency to the language used in the federal Holidays Act in that the word “legal” will be added before the holiday of Remembrance Day. It would make the language the same as for Canada Day and Victoria Day. While it does not give anyone a day off from work or school, the schools are very good at portraying to the young students that they must take up the cause and hold the torch high as we go forth year after year.
    It also raises the importance of Remembrance Day and affirms Parliament's commitment to Remembrance Day as being an important day for Canadians who solemnly remember and honour those who have served our country.
    The answer, of course, is that, yes, I think you people can do this, and we all understand that, no, we won't have 100% behind it, but I think it is the proper thing to do for our veterans and I think the time could not be better, and as we all know, anyone can choose to be at a Remembrance Day service if, in fact, they are allowed time off from work.

  (1545)  

     I agree with your saying that we should leave it to the provinces to decide that. I think it's a great gesture on the part of the federal government to show leadership for those who may want to go down that road.
    It does not give anyone a new day off. Other people say, “It's just another holiday and it's a day off.” I don't think that's true. I would think that if in fact it became a federal holiday, you would likely see the numbers at the Remembrance Day services in all provinces grow dramatically. Right now, people would like to take time off from work, but they can't afford to. That is what I think. There's no sense in my repeating anything that's been said before me, because you people know all about that.
    That would be my suggestion to you. Thank you very much again.

[Translation]

    Thank you very much, Mr. Geddes.
    We will now hear from John FitzGerald.
    If I'm not mistaken, you are wearing a forget-me-not.

[English]

     Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
     Indeed, I am wearing a forget-me-not. Perhaps I can speak about that after my comments, if one of your members of Parliament would wish to ask me a question.
    Thank you for your kind invitation to speak.
    First I would like to make a brief comment about the bill in general; then I would like to speak about the language of the bill for a moment, and third, I would like to speak about some of the general understandings that I and my fellow Canadians here in Newfoundland and Labrador share as a society about the importance of honouring and remembering the sacrifices that are made for our country
    First I would say that of course I agree very strongly with and support the idea of standardizing and in fact mandating across Canada the observance of Remembrance Day. It makes, I believe, a great deal of sense. It recognizes and honours the sacrifice, the commitment, and the history of those who have sacrificed for us, and it would indeed be a wonderful legacy to have done this in the year of Canada's 150th birthday.
    Second, as a historian who has generally read in the field of war history—though my particular specialties are Newfoundland and Labrador history, constitutional history, the history of the 19th and 20th centuries of Canada—particularly as a Canadian and a private citizen who has visited Vimy Ridge and Beaumont-Hamel, I wish to make one brief observation about the text of the bill here. It's in clause 1, which replaces section 3 of the Holidays Act. It's the phrase, and I quote, “triumphantly concluded by an armistice”. This strikes me in a slightly odd way, and perhaps even in almost a discomforting or maybe even a jingoistic way. Kindly let me explain.
    As you will know, Canada's sacrifices, and the sacrifices in my own province of Newfoundland and Labrador, which at the time was a British colony, were very heavy in World War I. Among other engagements, Canada obviously endured the terrible, horrible, cataclysmic, and, as the historians have argued, the nation-forging experience—the crucifixion—if you will, known as Vimy Ridge in April 1917, with 10,600 casualties, among them 3,500 fatalities.
    As a fellow dominion of the British Empire at the time, Newfoundland's—Newfoundland and Labrador today—equivalent to Vimy was Beaumont-Hamel, in the Battle of the Somme. Our day occurred on July 1, 1916, when 801 went over the top of those trenches, and the next morning 68 answered the roll call.
    That war—the sacrifice, the loss of life, and, in fact, the cost of that war—changed the very nature of life in Newfoundland and Labrador. As much as we might want to think of it today as being triumphant, blood sacrifices of this nature endured by Canada, and Newfoundland and Labrador, are hardly or very rarely ever triumphant.
    The Great War, in fact, as we know, was a vicious, brutal, mechanized slaughter of a war, the likes of which had never been seen before in human history.
    From my reading of that, I'm cautious about using the word “triumphant”. Yes, Canada was on the winning side, thank God, but at what price? We had to engage in a slaughter, and it was a brutal war. That whole concept of war and loss is very difficult to describe as a triumph.

  (1550)  

    My mind went back to when, in fact, I walked across the Douai Plain at Vimy. When we, as Canadians, visit there and we look at that profound monument—at least, the several times I did that—my reaction wasn't one of triumphantly concluding an armistice. Rather, personally, very privately, and frankly, I would have to say I had to do all that I could to avoid bursting into tears because of the emotion of that site and the profound, profound sacrifice by our fellow Canadians. At Beaumont-Hamel I was in tears because I found my great-grandmother's brother's name listed on the plaque in front of the caribou memorial as among those who were lost in battle with no known grave.
    I believe that Vimy and Beaumont-Hamel are sacred places, if you will, almost holy places for Canadians, just like—and you'll be very familiar with this—the Memorial Chamber in our wonderful Peace Tower where the Books of Remembrance are kept. As Canadians raised in Newfoundland and Labrador, where our experience in World War I and World War II had such a profound influence on our identity and where so many of our citizens know those sacrifices so well from their family experiences, we even find it hard to say we celebrate. “Celebrate” is the wrong word for Remembrance Day; rather, we observe it, and perhaps I will say more on that shortly.
    I would just speak for a moment, and perhaps this might be a little bit useful to you, on the mechanics of Bill C-311. I noted from reading the Hansard debates on this bill in the House of Commons that it was recognized by MPs in the debate that the provinces of Canada indeed do have the competence to declare Remembrance Day a public holiday, a legal holiday. Some have already done this, as you've noted.
    In this province, Newfoundland and Labrador, that was formally accomplished in the Labour Standards Act of the Revised Statutes of Newfoundland. It was amended in 2001 to formally add Remembrance Day to that list. The mechanism for doing that is the act, of course, but it also enables the Lieutenant Governor in Council to proclaim days as holidays.
    It's worth noting that in this province we actually have two separate statutory days or holidays, if you will, on which our war sacrifices are commemorated. They are, of course, the armistice anniversary day on November 11, as Remembrance Day, and the anniversary of Beaumont-Hamel on July 1—at least in the forenoon—which we celebrate as Memorial Day. Most people in my province are very happy to be celebrating Canada Day, but of course, we also have that dual thread of being quite aware of our history in the first war.
    This brings me to my final formal observation, that of how, and I guess why, I'm predisposed to believe the intent of Bill C-311 is laudable.
    As I say, I've grown up in a province, in a country, and in a community where the warp and weft of the fabric of our society was, in fact, our wartime experiences.
     I was a student at Memorial University of Newfoundland, a memorial built in memory of our great war dead in World War I. While I was there as a graduate student, I read primary source documents, letters of people talking about the impact that Beaumont-Hamel had on their families. As a student, I walked through the downtown of St. John's with my late father, who was born in St. John's in 1923. He pointed out to me, when I was a young child, our national war memorial on Water Street, commemorating the people who had died in the Great War—the First World War—and in fact the Second World War and other conflicts. Even Afghanistan is there now.
    That memorial—just to digress for a moment—was completed by Thomas Nangle. He was a padre to the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, and it was unveiled in 1924. That memorial, Mr. Chairman, was the first war memorial we can find that was completed in what is now Canada, and in fact in the British Empire. It was inspired directly by the poem In Flanders Fields, by Nangle's friend Colonel McCrae.

  (1555)  

     You'll see, if you visit St. John's, that there's a statue of a lady holding high the torch. Of course, this is a direct reference to the line in the poem:
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.

    If ye break faith with us who die—
    Mr. Fitzgerald, we've reached the 10-minute maximum. If you want to conclude and wrap up in a minute, we'll have questions for you.
     I certainly will.
    I guess I would like to leave the impression with the committee that my culture, community, my province and country, are saturated with the history and the need to remember the sacrifice of Canadians in the wars. I think it's very important, even down to this current time when we have people like Nathan Cirillo and others like Samearn Son who have put themselves in harm's way for our country, that we are grateful and we commemorate especially those who make the sacrifice.
    Mr. Chairman, with that, I'd be happy to attempt to answer any questions.

[Translation]

    Thank you very much, Mr. FitzGerald.
    We will now move into questions. During the first round, each of the members will have around seven minutes.
    I will now turn the floor over to the members of the Liberal Party.
    Ms. Dabrusin, we are all ears.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'm going to share my time with my colleague Mr. Breton.

[English]

    I want to thank all of you for coming and speaking with us about your own personal experiences and the importance of Remembrance Day, and taking the time to truly think about our veterans and about the sacrifices they've made. It's important.
    I'm a member of my Legion, Todmordon Branch 10. They do an amazing job every year of organizing a Remembrance Day at our cenotaph that brings out many young people, people from all generations. It's a great event to get people out, and to stop and to think.
    A few years ago, I brought my daughters to Vimy. It was important to me personally as well to take the time to see and to learn about our history. I appreciate what you're doing in taking the time today to talk to us about how important it is.
    I want to ask a few questions that came to me as we were talking. I have not forgotten about the forget-me-nots, so I will get to that as well.
    Ms. McNeill, you said that there were other military groups that had opinions about this type of bill and recognizing Remembrance Day as a legal holiday. Have you had a chance to reach out to them—or example, the Merchant Marine—and have you heard what they think about this?

  (1600)  

    Do you mean the air force and the...?
    You mentioned that it wasn't just the Royal Canadian Legion that we should think about, but that there were others.
    Yes, I said the Royal Canadian Air Force, the navy, the army, the merchant marines. They all support it, but sometimes I don't think they all speak loudly enough about it.
    I'm sure they would support doing what we're trying to do today. At least having Remembrance Day up with Canada Day and Victoria Day would be a start. Many of them in the Sarnia area have supported me, and I know they want to see the day looked after so that it never goes away.
    That's great. You've clearly been a tireless advocate on this issue. You talked about your history of having come many times to talk about it.
    I was wondering about what types of conversations.... We heard at our last meeting that there were some reservations on behalf of the Royal Canadian Legion about this bill. I am wondering if you have any specific examples about other organizations that may be supportive.
    I'm not getting everything that you're saying. Can you speak a little louder?
    Okay,
    At our last meeting, the Royal Canadian Legion shared with us that they had concerns about this bill. You've mentioned that there are other groups that may be supportive of the bill. You listed a bunch of them. Have you had a chance to talk with them about this bill and creating a legal holiday?
     I have spoken to the Royal Canadian Air Force Association president, and he was to be in touch with the national president, but he didn't get it done before I came. I was preparing to get more information, but we ran out of time. When I got the call to come, I didn't have time to reach all of them, but I'm sure we can get support from them as well.
    When you talk about the Legion, I place a wreath every year for my brother, and now for my husband, and I always attend the services in Sarnia at the Legion, the air force, the navy. I pray. You visit those clubs on Remembrance Day.
    When I talk about the Legion, it's just that I know the importance of being in school, and we want them to be in school. We know that everybody's not going to go to the service on November 11, but that's no reason for us not to have the day. Everybody doesn't celebrate Christmas, but we're not going to eliminate Christmas. The biggest halt is that they want the children in the schools. I want them in there too for their education, but they have the program, and if they so desire they can go with their parents to the service on November 11.
    We know attendance is improving. Each year more people come out because they're realizing just how much the veterans sacrificed, but if we can get this bill the same as Canada Day and Victoria Day, then we'll be able to move and keep it in there and we won't every lose it.
    That's wonderful. Thank you.
    I can't pass up the opportunity, although I think I'm going to be taking away my friend's time.
    You spoke quite eloquently, Mr. FitzGerald, about Beaumont-Hamel and the history of Newfoundland and Labrador, but you also invited us to ask you about the forget-me-not you're wearing. Do you have anything else you wanted to add?
    It's simply that they grow on the graves of the Newfoundland soldiers in France. They were among the first of the memorial flowers to be adopted, along with, of course, the poppy, but they have a tremendous significance to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and they are recognized throughout Canada. It is a memorial flower, and that's why I'm wearing it.

  (1605)  

    Thank you for that.

[Translation]

    Mr. Brassard, the floor is yours.

[English]

    Thank you very much.
    First of all, I want to thank you all for being here today. As the official opposition critic for Veterans Affairs, I've certainly seen, over the course of the last four months since I assumed this position, just how important recognition and remembrance is to our veterans. Nobody around here underestimates the value of the way we honour those men and women who sacrificed for us in the past to give us the freedoms, the democracy, and the rule of law that we currently enjoy. Certainly, as I tell often people, when I sit in the House of Commons, I think of those sacrifices that have been made, the blood that's been spilt, the people who have died, families who've lost loved ones, as I'm sure my colleagues do. To allow us to sit in the symbol of democracy is pretty overwhelming, to be quite frank.
    However, on the bill itself, Mr. Geddes and Ms. McNeill, the other day we had Brad White from the Dominion Command of the Canadian Legion here. Since 1970 they've dealt with this issue 15 times at their convention, most recently in 2016. Mr. White explained to us how the process of any resolutions come to the floor, and every one of those times, as recently as 2016, the resolution on a similar type of issue that we're dealing with here today has been defeated. I know Mr. White was here on behalf of the 275,000 members of the Legion.
     Mr. Geddes, were you at that convention? Perhaps you can share with the committee some of the discussion that went on with respect to the resolution and let us know how you voted on it.
     I voted for it, but let me just digress a little.
    I've been to the Legion conventions for the last 10 years, yet when that came to the floor, it was never brought forward like this bill is—that it would be a federal one, and it would be up to the provinces to enact it as they see fit. I think that if it had been brought in that manner, you would have seen a different vote. When things come to the floor, they're not necessarily the same as what we're hearing here today.
    You have all kinds of things that come to the convention. Over the years, as they proceed, some of them come back, because people feel so strongly about them. They bring them back in a different manner that explains the idea much better, and you'll see them pass.
    One of the things we heard about the other day is something I've certainly seen in the role that I currently have. As active as I was during Remembrance Week, the elevation of the prominence of Remembrance Week in leading up to Remembrance Day, in every community—I think we can all agree—has really shown to elevate itself into the honour and respect it deserves.
    I want to ask all three of you—and I know our time is short here—do you really think that adding “legal” to the term “holiday” would actually change the way we honour our veterans in this country, those who've made the ultimate sacrifice? If so, in what way would it do that?
    I will answer first, if you allow me—
    You'll need to be short, because I want all three of your opinions.
    First, I think it would show our veterans that the government really does care. I understand that you people do, but to do this on our 150th birthday, for the veterans.... I think you would get 100% support from them.

  (1610)  

    Mr. FitzGerald, go ahead.
    I agree. Yes, I think changing would help. It gives it prominence. It gives it an importance and a weight—or I can use the word “gravitas”—that it deserves, and that our history and our duty to remember and honour our veterans and those who put themselves in harm's way even today in our Canadian Forces deserve.
    That's my short answer.
    Mrs. McNeill, go ahead.
    Yes, I agree that putting it up in the status with Canada Day and Victoria Day will help. Maybe it will wake up some of the provinces and they'll come on board. I think it's very important that we have it, and then it will be there forever. It won't be taken away.
    This is the time to do it, as everybody is making celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the birth of Canada. Wouldn't this be a great way to honour our veterans once and for all for the sacrifice? When we think of what they did for us.... We live in a democracy, free, and we can do whatever we want, and it's because of the veterans.
     It's just a pity that it was ever taken away. We need to have the federal government step up to the plate and set an example. As I say, I have written to every prime minister and every premier in this great Canada of ours. I didn't want to get into the provinces, but when the Association of Municipalities of Ontario brought it, Prime Minister Chrétien said, “Forget it.” He said, “We can't tell the provinces what to do.”
    You're not going to tell the provinces what to do. The provinces, I know, can do it. This is not the time to talk about the provinces. Today is to get this here, and then we'll work on improving it.
    Would it be safe to say, then, that this is more of a subjective change, just to reflect...? It doesn't have any legal bearing or legal status; it's just a subjective change to give our veterans the reverence they want.
    Give them more—
    In your view, it's just subjective, then. Is that correct?
    I believe that it gives it.... I think the veterans deserve the same status as Canada Day and Victoria Day. I think that this bill will do that. We talk about the veterans, and we know all of the things from Afghanistan. I talked about Cirillo. Canada came together when that man was killed on the Hill. I went to the press and said that. Wouldn't it be great if we could get Remembrance Day? We all feel the same way, and I think this bill will be a good start to doing that.
     Thank you.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Ms. McNeill.
    Thank you, Mr. Brassard.
    Over to you, Mr. Breton.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    Thank you to the witnesses for being with us today.
    My riding is also home to a legion. We have just one, but the members are good people, and they are, of course, very involved in commemorating Remembrance Day. They put on the only major event in my riding marking the occasion. Many people participate.
    My question is for Mr. FitzGerald.
    I'd like you to tell us, in your own words, the difference between a legal holiday and a holiday in terms of how Remembrance Day is observed. What we are trying to do at the end of the day is commemorate our veterans and military members.

  (1615)  

[English]

    Thank you.
    If I may, I would interpret the word “legal”, as you've drafted it here in proposed subsection 3(1), proposing a legal holiday—and I stand to be corrected, please—as meaning a holiday established by statute, because you asked about “statutory”. Statutes of Canada say that in and for Canada, throughout Canada this will be observed, and then it becomes the law of the land.
    In the Labour Standards Act of Newfoundland and Labrador, we call it a public holiday, but obviously it's a piece of provincial legislation. There may also be orders in council, minutes of council, or minutes of the Lieutenant Governor in Council that establish that, as well as Victoria Day and other days throughout the year.
    I would just make one general comment to the committee, and it would be this. We can establish everything by law, but you cannot legislate this into the hearts of Canadians.
    I'm quite aware that we talk about doing this in the schools. That's not a federal competence under the division of powers in our Constitution. The school system, the education system is the jurisdiction of the provinces.
    However, the Government of Canada can set the tone. For parts of the country where there may be different ways of doing this, I think it's an important statement of where the hearts of our parliamentarians, the Parliament of Canada, and the Government of Canada are.
    Certainly you can ask your clerks and your legal experts. I have a good education, but it's not in law. I've read a fair bit of Canadian history and the history of Parliament, and in fact political and constitutional history, but I'm not a lawyer. The definition of “legal” is of, related to, or established by law.
    To get what this will exactly mean by using the word “legal” in this sense is perhaps something that your committee could ask the legislative drafters, or, in fact, you could ask the proponent of the piece of legislation as to what was intended there.
    I can't speak of what your intent was, but I can say that I believe this will go a great distance towards putting this front and centre and helping Canadians to think about this and to take it into consideration in a way that may not have been done before.
    It may indeed, of course, have ramifications for holidays, time off, and allowing people to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies, all of which in my view are very good things.

[Translation]

    Thank you.
    My second question is for Mr. Geddes.
    I'm going to pick up on the question Mr. Brassard asked you earlier about what a high-ranking national official from the Royal Canadian Legion told the committee at the beginning of the week. The organization has had a number of resolutions on the issue. I don't remember the exact details, but further to the 2015 or 2016 resolution, the legion had opposed the idea of making Remembrance Day a legal holiday. Some 24 months have gone by, and not everyone is on the same page.
    I know you are speaking as an individual, but are you able to tell us whether the legion people are firm in their position or whether they would consider softening their stance.

[English]

     Yes, I will. Thank you very much.
    My feeling is this. As I mentioned before, the legion's Dominion Convention is only held every second year, because it's on the even years. There are many things that come to the floor year after year, but they're not put to the membership in a manner that they fully understand, because, as you well know, when you get 1,500 or 2,000 people in a room and you bring a motion for them to vote on and it's not very clear, some go one way and some go the other.
    I do know that some of the same motions have come back year after year, but worded in a manner that people fully understand, which may not have been done in the first place. I think there would be no problem on this Bill C-311. It would pass if it were explained to them in the manner in which it is printed today.

  (1620)  

[Translation]

    Thank you.
    It is now over to Kevin Waugh, of the Conservative Party.

[English]

     I want to thank all three of you here today, especially Dave for your service, and certainly Wilma also for your service as a military spouse.
    Oddly enough, this past weekend in Saskatoon, my hometown, I talked to Jean Fells. She has been a war bride since 1946. She's coming to Ottawa for the 71st national convention in May. We had a good chat on just where things were falling.
    Oddly enough, today at 11 o'clock I was at the Peace Tower. I saw the changing of the pages, the Books of Remembrance. Mark and Vanesa Vanstone from Saskatoon were there with me, and it was a touching moment for us today. For Mark in particular, because he had many relatives who did participate, unfortunately, in the wars, it was a time of reflection. We spent a long time up there today.
    I was a school board trustee for 10 years before I became a member of Parliament. I want all of you to realize that in Saskatoon we have the largest indoor Remembrance Day service in the country. It has been getting bigger each and every year. The numbers are moving in the direction of 9,000 to10,000.
    In every school in my city and surrounding area, and I would say in the province of Saskatchewan, the whole week is dedicated to veterans. I just want to put on the record that it is very important in our province, and MP Anderson, from Swift Current, would back me up on this,
    From some of the things I've heard today, how does the change in wording in this bill really affect Remembrance Day, or people's observance, if it is remembrance? I think that's the first one—you know, “legal” or “holiday”. To be honest with you, I don't see the change at all, but I do see in my city and in my province more and more Canadians accepting Remembrance Day and all the other days associated with the military.
    I'm going to leave it at that. I'm just going to ask you this, Wilma. Who do you represent? You're here today, and I know you've had these motions with the Dominion Legion, and we've heard that they've had these votes maybe 15 times since 1970. I'm trying to find out from the RCAF and the Canadian Forces, and I don't see anywhere that they've had a vote on this.
     I'm really trying to absorb this, because we did have the Legion here on Tuesday. I've spent the last 15 to 20 minutes trying to find these other organizations that you have eloquently talked about, and their service to this country, but I haven't seen any documentation that says they would like this change.
     I have been talking to the RCAF Association and the navy, although not so much the navy, but the point I was making is they are all veterans. Some of them have probably been members of the Legion over the years. When I spoke with John Stewart, the president of the Royal Canadian Air Force Association in Sarnia, he supported it, and he was to get hold of the national for me.
    That didn't happen, as I said, but I know they support it. The reason I'm speaking about the Legion is that the Legion is always mentioned. I'm only trying to point out that there are other military people who would support this idea, and I think this bill is a good start to get more people involved.

  (1625)  

    That's a good point.
    Dave or John, do you have comments to make? I don't see it has been brought up anywhere if they do have associations or AGMs. I don't see what was brought up with the air force or the forces.
     I sit on a committee called Veterans Organizations Services Committee of Nova Scotia. It's only one province, I agree, but 13 different veterans organizations are represented on this committee, and we have talked for years and years. No, I did not ask them specifically if they would like to see a change, but I would almost want to bet that out of the 13, 10 or more would likely agree.
    I spoke to the Royal Canadian Air Force Association in Niagara Falls a few years ago, and it passed there. They would send a letter and talk about it and get something done with regard to Remembrance Day.
    Thank you. I think I'm out of time.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Waugh. You are very understanding.
    Unless I'm mistaken, I think the entire committee would be favourable to hearing Mr. FitzGerald's answer to Mr. Waugh's question.
    You may answer, Mr. FitzGerald.

[English]

    For example, I worked with our Legion in this province, most recently at a ceremony when the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. gave a national historic person recognition to Padre Nangle. He built the Beaumont-Hamel monument and our war memorial here in St. John's. The provincial command of the Royal Canadian Legion has the 11th of November. We have the first of July. I don't wish to speak for them, but I would be very surprised if they were not already quite pleased to see a formalization of a recognition of Remembrance Day, if you use that word, legal or otherwise.
    When November 11 is a Saturday or a Sunday, a mechanism is used in this province to hold the public holiday, the day off, on the Monday. If Remembrance Day falls on a Tuesday or a Wednesday or a Friday, the ceremonies have been held on those days. According to my memory, in the last 10 to 15 to 20 years, the crowds have been enormous, and they're only growing larger, with many families, many students, many veterans, and service people from across Canada.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. FitzGerald.
    We have five minutes, time for one last member.
    Darrell Samson, of the Liberal Party, has the floor.

[English]

    Thank you very much, all three of you, for being here today and sharing your experiences and your opinions on this important bill.
    Mrs. McNeill, you must be quite active if you've written a letter to every prime minister since you've been around. That's impressive. It reminds me of my dad. Whenever he wasn't happy, he just wrote an article or wrote to someone. That's pretty impressive, and I thank all of you for your participation.
     I always ask myself, “What does it do, and what does it not do?” The legalization of it, if you want, is going to put it on the same level as Victoria Day and Canada Day. I wouldn't mind it being there. It's nice to have a fair field.
    That's right.
    It does do that.
     Is it symbolic or not? I'm not sure, but it shows that for the 150th anniversary, we are now legalizing it and it's going to be up there with the rest of the important dates for us.
    What doesn't it do? I can't see that it's going to take away anything. I've been listening, I've read it, I've been part of this discussion for a while. It doesn't take anything away at all, but it adds. As a former educator, I can tell you that this day and the week running into Remembrance Day are being celebrated unbelievably in Nova Scotia. It's an important celebration and it brings out a lot of people, and all of you have mentioned that more and more people are coming out.
     I have a quick question for each one of you that will take 30 seconds. Why do you think that lately more and more people are coming out?

  (1630)  

     Well, it could be that in our area I'm trying to push them to come out and comment on it. They know I'm not going away.
    It's very important that we honour the veterans and have this day. I mean, I thought we were going to have it two years ago, but an election is always called, and that can happen. I can give you other examples, but I don't want to talk about the problems. We're here today to get the federal government to do this, and I commend them for doing it.
     I called Colin Fraser when it happened and said I'm there to support you, and he said that's great.
    Actually, there will be no election for almost three years now, so we're safe on that front.
    That's right, and when they have the opportunity to do it, I think they should do it. If they don't, I'll have to start some more letters. I have stacks of letters that I have written over 27 years. I have never given up. Some people don't answer, but I write again.
    Well, we thank you very much for that.
    We have to have the day, and I'm asking this committee to do what they have the ability to do. If I was sitting there I'd be—
    We know how you would vote. Thank you.
    Could the other two make a quick comment?
    I'll make a comment from my perspective. I'm not saying I'm right.
     I think that when we started to bring our veterans home, as you could see by the media and all the people paying their respects on the Highway of Heroes, that raised everything. Before, most of our veterans were buried in foreign lands. It's not so now. That's when we saw a spike in everybody attending a service.
     I think that was the catalyst, and I think we should continue it.
    Thank you, Mr. Geddes.
    I have one final word, Mr. Chair.
    Every generation has the responsibility to write our history and to study and teach and share our history. What has happened in the last generation, as you know, is that we have instant access to everything across Canada with social media, with Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The tweeting that comes out of all corners of Canada is brilliant, because we now know this country and we know our cultures and history in a way that we've never had it before before.
    What's happened as well across the country is that people have access. We're only several clicks away on the computer from the military and the service records. I'm not necessarily a believer in complete unbridled progress, but we have gotten better at knowing our Canadian history. That will only improve. This is a mechanism for helping that.
    You asked for the downside. Respectfully, I suggest to the members of the committee that I don't see a downside. This can only help our identity as a country and in sharing our experiences and our diversity with all Canadians.
    Thank you.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. FitzGerald, Ms. McNeill, and Mr. Geddes.
    Mr. FitzGerald and Mr. Geddes, we're going to have to say goodbye.

[English]

    Thank you very much, both of you.
    We invite Mrs. McNeill to stay in the room if she wants, to observe the deliberations we will have in clause-by-clause review of the bill.
     I will call on Mr. Philippe Méla.

[Translation]

    Mr. Méla is the legislative clerk, and we can consult him on all of this.
    Mr. Brassard has the floor.

[English]

    Do we do clause-by-clause study in camera when we deal with a bill? No?
    Okay. Thank you.

[Translation]

    Mr. Méla is going to join us. We can check with him if we have questions about the procedure.
    We will take a short break to give people time to take their seats.

  (1630)  


  (1635)  

    Good afternoon.
    We will now proceed with clause-by-clause consideration.
    I have been informed that the Liberals have an amendment to clause 1.

[English]

     I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.

[Translation]

    You have a point of order, Mr. Brassard?
    You may go ahead.

[English]

    Thank you.
    I just want to bring to the committee's attention that the notification to go clause-by-clause came to us at 12:06 this afternoon. I don't sit on this committee, but it's my understanding that on May 3, 2016, the committee voted to allow for 48 hours' notice whenever clause-by-clause consideration was going to be initiated. It does require unanimous consent to break this committee rule as per the motion.
    Through you, Mr. Chair, I'm wondering why we just had notice at 12 o'clock. How did that come to be?

[Translation]

    Thank you for your question.
    I am going to check with the clerk on that, because I don't know what to tell you.

  (1640)  

[English]

    I received instructions from the chair's office this morning to make arrangements for clause-by-clause consideration. It took until noon for all the arrangements to be put in place and to get out a changed notice to the members. I don't think at this point I can comment much about the 48 hours' notice. As I understand it, it is in relation to those members of parties who have no representation on the committee. They received notice approximately two minutes after I issued the changed notice of meeting.
    That's right. It was at 12:06 p.m.
    Yes, it would have been around 12:06 p.m., sir.
    Thank you.
    Through you, Mr. Chair, is my interpretation of the motion that was passed by this committee on May 3, 2016, correct? I would ask the clerk that.

[Translation]

    I'm going to give the clerk time to check those communications. It won't be long.
    Thank you.

[English]

    Can I ask as well if the committee is technically in violation of this rule that was passed?

[Translation]

    I will check that with the staff.
    That said, Mr. Brassard, I am perfectly comfortable telling you that, overall, normally anyways, the atmosphere in this committee is very collegial and so we don't have issues like these arising very often. Nevertheless, you certainly have the right to raise the matter, and I will ask the experts to provide a clear answer to your question.

[English]

    If I may, Mr. Chair, I'm certainly not trying to cause any grievance here. There are rules in place. They are intended to be followed. The committee did unanimously, as far as I understand, pass this motion, so I think clarification is needed.
    Thank you.
    If I may, I will read from the appendix that was circulated to the independent members. It is an extract of the minutes of Tuesday, May 3, 2016. It reads:
That, in relation to Orders of Reference from the House respecting Bills,
(a) the Clerk of the Committee shall, upon the Committee receiving such an Order of Reference, write to each Member who is not a member of a caucus represented on the Committee to invite those Members to file with the Clerk of the Committee, in both official languages, any amendments to the Bill, which is the subject of the said Order, which they would suggest that the Committee consider;
(b) suggested amendments filed, pursuant to paragraph (a), at least 48 hours prior to the start of clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill to which the amendments relate shall be deemed to be proposed during the said consideration, provided that the Committee may, by motion, vary this deadline in respect of a given Bill; and
(c) during the clause-by-clause consideration of a Bill, the Chair shall allow a Member who filed suggested amendments, pursuant to paragraph (a), an opportunity to make brief representations in support of them.
    It makes no reference to the members of the committee, only to those members who are members of parties not represented on the committee.
     Can I ask another question, then? Have the amendments been given in writing? Have you received any?
    I have one.
    Just to make sure we have the same thing, you're referring to the amendment I have for clause 1.

  (1645)  

    I'm asking in general if any amendments have been received?
    One has been submitted.
    Go ahead, Mr. Anderson.
    I'm not normally a member of this committee, but this is unusual. I guess we're asking the chair if he can assure us that the members who are not part of the committee have had this opportunity. The reason to give 48 hours is so that people do have that opportunity to respond. Can you assure us that they have had the opportunity? If they haven't been notified, how would anyone know, on a Thursday afternoon, that if they have an interest in this matter, they have the opportunity to participate?

[Translation]

    You are absolutely right. My understanding is that the other members who are not here did not receive 48 hours' notice. Therefore, if I heard correctly, the government members would like to postpone the clause-by-clause study to a future meeting. That way, we would be in compliance with the rule. If you are of the same mind, then that is good for you.
    I don't have any experience in this kind of situation, but I am inclined to consider and grant the request of the party in power.
    May I make that decision? I am asking the legislative clerk.
    According to the sage advice I have received, I'm going to ask Mr. Brassard, Mr. Waugh, or Mr. Anderson to move the motion that the clause-by-clause study be postponed, a motion the government members will, I'm sure, support.
    Mr. Picard has a question.
    Before the motion is moved, I would like to know whether it is even necessary to move a motion in light of the procedural problem. How can anyone oppose a motion provided for in the standing orders?
    That's an excellent question.
    Mr. Brassard, did you have something to add?
    I missed the interpretation of Mr. Picard's comments.

[English]

    I'll do it in both languages. How can we oppose a motion that was already stated in the procedures? Do we need a motion to do that?
    Do we need a motion to do that?
    Go ahead, Madame Dabrusin.
    My understanding of what's just happened is that we need unanimous consent to proceed. We don't need a motion to do the reverse. What we need is unanimous consent to proceed. If we don't have unanimous consent, then it gets pushed over to another meeting. Why don't we just ask if we have unanimous consent?
    David, do you want to explain it?
    Before you request that, to be fair to our other colleagues, if they have not had the opportunity to respond the way that your routine motions suggest they need to, I think the best thing to do is postpone it until whenever the next meeting is. To me it seems that you have to abide by your own routine motions. I'm not prepared, unless I'm assured that everyone's had that opportunity, to agree to go ahead.
    I don't think we need a motion to do this specifically. I guess we just need a motion to adjourn, if that's what we're going to do.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Anderson.
    Ms. Dabrusin, you have the floor.

[English]

    Is it fair to say that you're registering that you do not consent? That's all we need. If we all consent, we can go ahead. If you're registering that you do not consent, that's what brings it—
    I think that given the concerns Mr. Anderson has brought up, we don't consent. It's as simple as that. We have to make sure that all the other members are aware of what's coming.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Brassard.
    Given the discussion, I'm going to ask for advice.
    Mr. Clerk, do you have to resend the notice for the next meeting the committee is available? That would give more than 48 hours. Although we can put everything on hold right now, everyone has to be notified that the bill will receive clause-by-clause consideration at the next meeting.
    Can you do that?

  (1650)  

    If we don't do it today, the chair will have to tell me when it will be done. Regardless, since the next meeting is at least 48 hours away, I will contact the independent members as soon as I receive instruction from the chair.
    Are you referring to the acting chair, in other words, me, or the actual chair?
    I am referring to Ms. Fry.
    As soon as the meeting is adjourned, she will have to tell me when it will happen.
    Mr. Brassard, you may go ahead.

[English]

     Thank you.
    I want to make it very clear, I want to put it on the record, that we're not trying to stall this clause-by-clause consideration. The rules were in place. The chair of the committee, the normal chair of the committee, is fully aware of what those rules are. We expect the rules to be followed, and that's why we're in this position.
    To be frank, I would place the blame on the chair for instructing the clerk to send this out at 12:06 this afternoon, knowing full well what the rules were and what rules were agreed to unanimously by this committee, as far as I understand, on May 3, 2016.
    Thank you.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Brassard.
    Mr. O'Regan, you may go ahead.

[English]

    Mr. Chair, when we do clause-by-clause study, it's not in camera, right?
    I think it would be great if Mrs. McNeill could attend the clause-by-clause review, as she's worked so hard for this and written so many letters.
    Mrs. McNeill, maybe you can come back.
    When?
    We are about to let you know, Madame.

[Translation]

    I am going to turn the floor over to the clerk so that we can suggest Tuesday, March 7 as a tentative date to Ms. McNeill.
    If the committee wishes to settle on that date and have it appear in the Minutes of Proceedings, a motion needs to be brought forward and adopted.
    Very well. Otherwise, we leave it up to the chair, whom you are still in contact with even though she is not in Ottawa.
    We will therefore move the motion for March 7.
    We can do that.
    Is the committee in agreement on proceeding that way?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Very good.
    Who is moving the motion, then?
    I can do it.
    Would you like me to take care of the wording?
    Please help. It is, after all, my first life motion.
    It is therefore moved by Mr. Picard that the bill receive clause-by-clause consideration—
    —on Tuesday, March 7, 2017.

[English]

    Thank you.
    A voice: I guess it's in the books.

  (1655)  

[Translation]

    Good job. That's very good.

[English]

    The chair should direct the clerk.

[Translation]

    Are you going to put the question in the motion to the committee?
    Yes, all right.
    Shall Mr. Picard's motion carry?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    (Motion agreed to)
    The motion received unanimous consent. That's wonderful.
    Can we invite Ms. McNeill?
    Yes, of course, you are quite right, Mr. Picard. I will see to it that Mr. Chaplin, our clerk, invites Ms. McNeill, who is listening, to the meeting on March 7.

[English]

    Thank you very much.

[Translation]

    Since the motion has been adopted, shall we end the meeting?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Very good. The meeting is adjourned.
Publication Explorer
Publication Explorer
ParlVU