moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
He said: Mr. Speaker, how befitting that we should engage in a slight bit of time travel to end this Parliament. That brings me back to a quote from the veterans affairs minister when he spoke in favour of this bill at second reading and said:
The specifics of the bill before this House are to correct a drafting oversight from the 1970s, when the Holidays Act treated Remembrance Day slightly differently from the way it treated Victoria Day and Dominion Day, now Canada Day. I am proud that it seems most members of this House will support the member for Scarborough Southwest in rectifying this oversight to ensure that as a federal holiday, Remembrance Day is treated in the same way as those other days that are important to our country.
I would now like to thank my colleague from Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier for seconding my motion today and for her excellent work on the military file in her role as deputy national defence critic. I would also like to thank my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue for seconding my motion at second reading and for having served in the Canadian Armed Forces.
Remembrance Day has always been a very important day for my family, and the reason I wanted to bring this bill forward is to rectify that drafting error from the 1970s so that Remembrance Day would stand on an equal footing under the Holidays Act with Canada Day and Victoria Day, the other two legal holidays that we observe in Canada.
Yesterday I had a very touching moment when I took part in a special ceremony at my father's elementary school, Donwood Park Public School in Scarborough. My father is retiring this year after 28 years as a teacher in Scarborough, the last 25 of them at Donwood Park Public School. During the ceremony at the school yesterday, one of the other teachers, Shane Matheson, said that when he joined the teaching family at Donwood Park, he asked the principal and other teachers which of them took care of the Remembrance Day ceremonies, because usually one teacher is designated. All of the teachers immediately shouted out that it was Mr. Harris.
Of course I mean my father, David Harris, who has taken care of the Remembrance Day ceremonies at the school for years and years. He had a talk with my father to find out how he could help to further improve the ceremonies. They actually got a letter from the current Minister of Veterans Affairs to thank my father for the tremendous work he has done over the years in teaching the next generation about the importance of Remembrance Day here in Canada. It is particularly important work for communities that have a large number of new citizens.
The veterans affairs minister wrote the letter, and it was a very touching moment for us. As I have said in the House before, my family has a long-standing military tradition. My great-grandfather served in the both world wars; my grandmother was in the Canadian Women's Army Corps; my great-uncle, Bill Riley, was in the service in the Second World War and served in Europe. Last weekend, for the very first time, we were able to find and visit his tombstone in Pine Hills Cemetery in Scarborough. My father just happened upon the tombstone. He was there for a memorial service for a friend of his and happened to walk by the tombstone. That was certainly a very sombre but important moment for my family.
This bill went before committee. It went before two committees, in fact. It was there for 205 days before it was reported back to the House. Witnesses appeared multiple times both in the heritage committee and the veterans affairs committee, and there seemed to be some confusion about what the bill would actually do.
Let me clear that up now.
Just as the Minister of Veterans Affairs said, this bill would correct a drafting error from the 1970s. It would elevate Remembrance Day to the same status as the other holidays.
This does not create a statutory holiday. We in Parliament cannot impose holidays on the provinces. That is provincial jurisdiction. The provinces get to decide which holidays to observe, and of course, every province does it a little bit differently.
With respect to Remembrance Day in particular, six provinces and three territories treat it as a statutory holiday. In Manitoba, businesses have to be shut down until 1 p.m. so people have the chance to go to ceremonies, and Nova Scotia has its own Remembrance Day Act. There are lots of models to follow. Ontario and Quebec do not do anything special with respect to a holidays act or changing the normal course of business.
I would like to quote my colleague from Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley in Nova Scotia. He said:
I want to thank you for bringing this legislation forward. I think it is a very interesting discussion.
I'm from Nova Scotia. We have the Nova Scotia Remembrance Day Act. It means a day off school. Businesses are closed. It's a really big event. It's become bigger over the years. I think your legislation is timely, considering the age of our World War II and Korean War veterans. I can remember, as a child, watching the World War I vets. All of them are gone. My grandfather was in World War I. I have military history in my family that is very similar to yours.
As a former elementary school principal, I can tell you that the local legions, in the 19 cenotaph services in my riding, are very active in all the elementary schools, the junior highs, and the high schools in the area, but particularly in the elementary schools. The schools embrace the legions. There's a really strong partnership.
That is the important point. Everyone who works towards honouring and remembering our veterans and the brave service and sacrifice they have all made works together so that we can continue to impart to future generations the importance of that sacrifice and so that we never forget.
Regardless of what different provinces do, whether it is a day off school or not, that relationship between the kids and all the other groups that participate in Remembrance Day is what will help keep the spirit of that day alive for us so that we never forget.
I am certainly hoping today that we can actually end the 41st Parliament on a high note; more than likely we will not be coming back here until the election. We all came together as a Parliament on November 5 to vote on this bill. It was indeed fast-tracked through second reading. It passed second reading with a vote of 258 to 2. We were all able to come together in November to move the bill forward, and I certainly hope that now, in the waning hours of this Parliament, we will be able to do so again and get the bill through third reading before we all rise for the summer.
Some of our colleagues, and you, Mr. Speaker, are not coming back. I would like to thank you for the wonderful job you have done in that chair over the last four years I have been here. I am certain that you did a great job in your previous capacity, but I was not witness to it.
I just want to thank all the people who make Parliament work on a day-to-day basis: the clerks, the folks at the table; the pages and the incredible work they do; and the constables and security services here that work to keep us safe every single day. We would not be able to do the work we do on behalf of Canadians without all of them, and I just want to say thanks to them before we rise for the summer.
I am going to cut my remarks short, because I want to make sure that we get to the other speakers and that we actually have a chance to wrap up debate and move things forward. If we do not horse about here today, the bill will get through. I am certainly hoping that my colleagues, in particular those across the way, will agree to wrapping up the debate.
Again, I quote what the Minister of Veterans Affairs said:
The specifics of this bill before this House are to correct a drafting oversight from the 1970s,
He went on to say:
Bill C-597 would make it clear where the federal government stands with respect to the importance of Remembrance Day to our country. It would give provinces the opportunity to revisit whether they want to make it a statutory holiday as well.
It would not force them to do so.
That is what this bill does. It clarifies Remembrance Day within the Holidays Act by according it the same status as Canada Day and Victoria Day. It changes exactly one word by adding the word “legal” in front of Remembrance Day so that it matches what is says for Canada Day and Victoria Day.
I think it is a simple change that we can all get done today.
I want to thank all my colleagues and everybody who has been a part of this 41st Parliament. It has truly been an honour and a privilege to sit here and to represent the constituents of Scarborough Southwest, where my family has lived for almost 90 years.