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View Dan Harris Profile
NDP (ON)
Thanks very much.
We would certainly support that amendment. It honours an agreement to eliminate that clause, which was made before the bill was brought forward for second reading. That's what helped us to get it fast-tracked through second reading.
View Dan Harris Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I wanted to quickly clarify one matter of confusion. Did the veterans affairs committee request that heritage study this bill or did heritage request that veterans affairs study this bill?
View Dan Harris Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you very much.
I'm going to start with Ms. Gallo. No offence to the witnesses here, but we have already spoken with you before.
Ms. Gallo, in the Peel board, with the 104 schools that observe ceremonies for Remembrance Day, what does the school board do when Remembrance Day falls on a weekend?
View Dan Harris Profile
NDP (ON)
Do you think the kids at that point miss out if the ceremony is taking place on the last school day before or after?
View Dan Harris Profile
NDP (ON)
Absolutely, and certainly it is legislated in the Ontario school curriculum that Remembrance Day be observed. I think it's important to do that whether it's on the day of or not. Obviously you won't have any statistics to this effect, but do you ever hear about kids going to ceremonies with their parents when it falls on the weekend?
View Dan Harris Profile
NDP (ON)
Absolutely.
Now, whether Remembrance Day was on a weekend or on a day off, do you not think the responsibility would fall to the parents to make sure their kids go to ceremonies?
View Dan Harris Profile
NDP (ON)
That's certainly possible if the malls are open, but do you understand that this bill doesn't actually create a statutory holiday?
View Dan Harris Profile
NDP (ON)
Absolutely. It doesn't create a statutory holiday so it wouldn't actually create a day off. It's interesting to look around the country because there are lots of different options. Currently six provinces and three territories have it as a statutory holiday. Ontario and Quebec don't have anything special, with the exception of the Ontario public service being off. But it's really interesting, in Manitoba and Nova Scotia they've done their own things. In Manitoba they've mandated that businesses be closed until 1 p.m. to give them a chance to observe.
Then, Nova Scotia—and one of my Conservative colleagues Scott Armstrong was here for the very first meeting at heritage—brought in their own Remembrance Day Act, which made it a day off for businesses but kept schools open. I thought that was a very novel approach because I find the best argument for not making it a statutory holiday is that kids be in school. But at the same time, even if that were to happen, I don't think we would necessarily lose out. I think there's an opportunity to actually gain something because more veterans and service members would be able to then come into schools and teach kids, and go to cenotaphs and services.
I think there are lots of options there, whether to make it a statutory holiday or not, but that power lies with the provinces. Certainly I think that would be where the push should be happening.
I'm going to go very quickly to Mr. White.
View Dan Harris Profile
NDP (ON)
Okay.
Is the Legion actively trying to discourage the provinces where it is a holiday to remove it as a holiday since that's the Legion's position?
View Dan Harris Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you very much.
I'd like to clear up a couple of things that Mr. Lemieux said. He said that adding the word “legal” was an amendment. No amendments have been made to this bill. The bill is in its original form that was submitted to the House. The current Holidays Act lists Canada Day and Victoria Day as legal holidays, and lists Remembrance Day as a holiday. That is where the interpretation that it could be seen as a lesser holiday than the other holidays...because it is worded differently in the Holidays Act that was passed in 1972.
I certainly agree with the Legion with respect to Victoria Day. Not many people use it to observe or revere our longest-serving monarch, but it also might surprise people to know that several provinces do not celebrate Victoria Day, or they celebrate by a different name and for a different purpose.
Canada Day is the only one that is universally agreed on by all the provinces and territories. Certainly, all the provinces can choose to do their own thing with respect to Remembrance Day because they're the ones that have the power to make statutory holidays.
I was very glad to hear Ms. Gallo, after questions from Mr. Valeriote, say that if it was clear that it didn't create a statutory holiday, their position would likely change because the reality is that this doesn't impact the school boards in forcing anybody to close. That was one of the primary reasons why I did not consult school boards across the country, because statutory holidays are at the provincial level.
There were wide attempts to get in touch with the Legion. My office wrote a letter to every Legion branch in the country. We sent letters to different veterans organizations. We were out on the Internet asking questions and consulting with people all over the place. I even spoke to Canadian Forces members while I was on my honeymoon on a ship in Alaska. I found it very interesting that serving members of the navy were choosing to go on cruises for their vacations. It just shows how much they love the sea.
Certainly, there were many attempts to get in touch with Dominion Command. Mr White asked me last week if I could forward him some of those communication attempts, and I do have some emails. They're not going to be submitted to committee because they're not in both official languages, but the communications started on September 6, 2013, and they were primarily through Bruce Poulin. I don't have ready records of the phone conversations that took place, but there were several attempts over a six-month period to speak to Dominion Command before the bill was tabled.
Mr. Blais, you've spoken about the equality of other federal holidays. Maybe the word “legal” is one of the big, confusing things that exist here. My proposal in the bill is to add “legal” to Remembrance Day. On the flip side, we could remove the word “legal” from the other two, and then they'd all just be listed as national holidays. Do you think that would help alleviate confusion?
View Dan Harris Profile
NDP (ON)
I think Mr. Lizon's point, that most Canadians don't know that there is a distinction in the Holidays Act, is certainly true. I would say that's true for about 99% of the laws that are passed. What the analyst said was exactly our interpretation in bringing this forward: there is no legal consequence; there is no legal change.
I wish I could talk to the original author of the Holidays Act in 1972, who actually put the distinction in there, to understand why they were listed differently. Most Canadians don't know, but for anybody who looks at our Holidays Act—because it will come up in random searches when people are looking for what the holidays are and when they might be—there can be confusion as to why Remembrance Day is listed as a national holiday and the other two are listed as national legal holidays.
My purpose was to get rid of that confusion in order to make sure that nobody could ever say that one is more important than the other, because if you see the word “legal” in front of it, certainly it looks as if it might be more important.
I certainly wouldn't want anyone to think of Remembrance Day as a lesser holiday. The generations of my family who served in the forces, from my great-grandfather who served in both World Wars, my grandmother and my great-uncle, and a continued level of service in peacetime and in every conflict that Canada has been a part of, right through to two cousins who served in Afghanistan.... Mr. Opitz said it. All of us around the table have a great respect, and we all want to see the tremendous sacrifices that have been made honoured.
That was why I brought it forward, to at least visually level the playing field within the Holidays Act, knowing full well that there was no legal consequence to it and that it wouldn't force schools to close. Now, I personally support its becoming a statutory holiday, but I was very clear from the beginning, including in my speech when I said that this power lies with the provinces and that it's not up to the federal Parliament to try to do it because that would be unconstitutional.
Maybe, there being no legal consequence, if we add the word “legal”, all three of them are the same. If we were to remove “legal” from all three of them, then they would all be the same as well. Maybe that's a way to also get away from the confusion.
View Dan Harris Profile
NDP (ON)
Maybe one of the comments this committee could decide to add and send back to the heritage committee would be exactly what the analyst said in his remarks, because I think that was clear, concise, and very exact.
As to—
View Dan Harris Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you very much.
Mr. Lemieux brought up unintended consequences, and there is always that potential with the bills and laws that we pass. If this bill, after being fully supported by all but two members of Parliament at second reading, ends up dying before Parliament ends, whereas it was fast-tracked through second reading, that could have unintended consequences with respect to what people think about what happened and why, so that's another thing to think about.
Actually during the little break I lost part of my train of thought so if it comes back to me I'll ask to speak again.
View Dan Harris Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Nantel.
Thank you to all the witnesses for your presentations and for coming today.
Thank you, Ms. McNeill, for coming here.
I'll start very quickly with Mr. Stewart.
It's a fantastic community at Sunnybrook. Certainly, the spirit will never be lost there. My great-grandfather, Harold Riley, and my great-uncle, William, or Bill, Riley, were both among Sunnybrook's earliest patients when it opened shortly after the Second World War.
Mr. Stewart, you said you support a statutory holiday for Remembrance Day, but you do understand that this bill doesn't, in fact, do that. Is that correct?
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