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e-3978 (Holidays and observances)

Initiated by Rachel Dunleavy from Edmonton, Alberta

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

  • A civilian married to, or in a common-law or committed relationship with, a military member experiences more hardships and life stresses than a civilian relationship;
  • In 2017, there were 51,635 civilian spouses of Regular and Reserve Canadian Armed Forces members;
  • 84% of civilian spouses of Regular Forces members, living in Canada in 2017, were female;
  • The Canadian Military Family is the "strength behind the uniform" and the civilian spouse or partner of a military member is the strength behind the uniformed family;
  • Civilian spouses or partners of military members are enlisted to support combat operations through their relationship;
  • Their service and sacrifice include frequent relocations and separations, under or unemployment, increased risk of injuries and illnesses, intimate partner violence, separation or divorce, caretakership, and widowship, and identity loss, thereby impacting their physical, psychological, spiritual, and financial well-being;
  • Their resiliency is challenged by and depended on for domestic and international security;
  • Precedence was set in 1984 when President Ronald Reagan proclaimed a Military Spouse Appreciation Day; and
  • The orchid is a unique and adaptable flower, with over 20,000 varieties that bloom in austere environments.
We, the undersigned, citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to recognize and increase awareness of civilian spouses or partners of military members':
1. Service and sacrifice by proclaiming that the Friday before Mother’s Day shall be known as “Civilian Spouse or Partner of a Military Member Appreciation Day”; and
2. Resilience by proclaiming that “The Orchid” shall be known as “The Symbol of the Civilian Spouse or Partner of a Military Member”.

Response by the Minister of National Defence

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Bryan May

National Defence recognizes that military families are the cornerstone of support for Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members. Canada’s defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE), underscores the Government of Canada’s commitment to military members, and their families. Family members of CAF personnel share in the stresses and strains resulting from deployments of their loved ones into dangerous operational duty, and the prolonged separations they entail. They also make important sacrifices and face challenges associated with frequent relocation such as finding new family health care providers, re-establishing child care, moving children between school and education systems, professional licensing, and dealing with the inconveniences of moving between provinces.

As such, National Defence offers support mechanisms and a comprehensive package of benefits to support our members and their families, such as family and compassionate leave options, and increasing the time required to move.

Additionally, to recognize the important contributions of military families, the House of Commons unanimously adopted a motion on June 19, 2019, to establish the third Friday in September as Military Family Appreciation Day. Indeed, the goal of Military Family Appreciation Day is to raise awareness of the unique challenges of military family life, and to recognize the resiliency and sacrifices of our military families as they support their loved ones serving in the CAF.

Seamless Canada

In support of SSE, National Defence and the CAF launched Seamless Canada in 2018 to improve services to CAF members and their families when they move across different provinces or territories. Since its launch, the forum has led to several improvements in all jurisdictions and enabled discussions on CAF families’ key challenges, including:

  • Improving access to health care by waiving the 90-day waiting period for CAF families to enroll in provincial health care systems;
  • Securing essential worker status of CAF members; ensuring CAF members can fulfill their duties and receive services during the pandemic;
  • Launching discussions on education barriers for students relocating between jurisdictions; and,
  • Leveraging employment and training support services for military spouses.

The most recent Seamless Canada Conference, held on June 14, 2022 in Ottawa, represented an important milestone in strengthening the partnership with provinces and territories and laying the ground work for further cooperation, including in areas such as labour mobility and CAF families’ access to health care, and child care in different jurisdictions. The next Seamless Canada Conference is expected to be held in fall 2022.


A military member has a comprehensive compensation package that is also of benefit their family. For example, this includes relocation support, compassionate travel assistance, as well as maternity and parental benefits. Moreover, should a military member be posted outside the country and the military spouse wishes to remain in Canada in order to provide consistency for a dependant student’s secondary education, the family will not have to pay for the member’s rent and utilities for the outside Canada residence.

In addition, a range of leave options, including short leave and compassionate leave, are available to CAF members in order to help them fulfil important family obligations.


Finally, military spouses are supported by wide-ranging networks. This includes the Military Family Services Program (MFSP), a CAF-wide community-based support program that delivers coordinated, consistent national services for families, as well as a framework for families and communities to influence and manage local priorities and services. In fact, the MFSP is delivered through Military Family Resource Centres (MFRCs) in Canada, Europe, the United States, and around the world. MFRCs provide military families with access to a wide range of support programs including child care, financial, psychosocial, employment, education, tailored relocation and transitions services, emergency, community engagement, and more. These services support the military family community who are most vulnerable and adversely impacted by the conditions of military life. That is why the bulk of the services offered through the MFSP are focused on spouses, children, and parents.

In addition, through the Military Spousal Employment Network, military spouses have access to virtual career fairs, employer profiling, and employment counselling. They are able to leverage national and community employer partners, tools, programs and resources to connect with employers directly, search the online job bank, seeks assistance to transfer professional certification, and access entrepreneurship training. 

Ultimately, National Defence and the CAF recognizes that frequent relocations of CAF members and their families can impact their ability to find a family physician. For example, the Calian Military Family Doctor Network is a program that aims to improve access to quality health care for CAF families. Since 2015, the program has helped over 3,000 military families get connected with family physicians.

National Defence and the CAF recognize the valuable contributions of military families and the sacrifices they make, and we continue to look for ways to appreciate military spouses and the support they provide. Military service places unique demands on members’ families, and it is National Defence’s aim to alleviate those demands through our package of benefits and support programs.

Open for signature
April 25, 2022, at 3:29 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
August 23, 2022, at 3:29 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Anita Vandenbeld (Ottawa West—Nepean)
September 21, 2022 (Petition No. 441-00667)
Government response tabled
November 4, 2022
Photo - Anita Vandenbeld
Ottawa West—Nepean
Liberal Caucus