That is a question that has been asked and debated in Canada for many years. And, just as it has proven to have caused a lot of debate for members of parliament, it has also proven a topic this writer has had to spend a large amount of time thinking about before writing this column. However, I have come to the conclusion that it should be a holiday in every province in Canada.
Currently, only Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Manitoba do not recognize Remembrance Day as a statutory holiday. Just on that fact, it must be working for the other provinces and territories recognizing it as a holiday, for many years.
For some background on this issue, in 2014, an NDP MP introduced a private member’s bill seeking to make Remembrance Day a country wide statutory holiday. However, that bill later died.
Changing Remembrance Day to a statutory holiday has been opposed by the Royal Canadian Legion, who are concerned the move would make the day just another holiday, and thus there would be far less people going to ceremonies at cenotaphs. While I understand this concern, and it was something I weighed heavily while thinking about this, I don’t think making it a holiday would cause a large drop off in ceremony attendance.
From going to Remembrance Day ceremonies the last couple of years, I have seen a lot of people in attendance that are there to remember, honour and recognize a member of their family who fought for our country. I think a lot of families have someone who fought in one war or another, who would still end up going to ceremonies on Remembrance Day because of that.
Noting the growing nature of families honouring family members, through the veteran banner programs in Scugog and Uxbridge, recognizing those who fought for our country, seems to be something ingrained in the Canadian culture, and is not something that would go away quickly because the official recognition day is changed into a holiday.
Another possible issue, debated on this topic in the past, is how this would impact young students.
Under the current circumstances, schools hold Remembrance Day ceremonies, usually the day of, unless, as it does this year, it falls on a weekend, and then students get to listen to stories from the war, and are taught to remember those who fought for our country, in the school setting. I don’t think this would change much if it was made a holiday either.
Just like a lot of schools are doing this year, because the day falls on a Saturday, Remembrance Day ceremonies could be held at schools on the day before. This would also put the onus on parents to educate their kids about their own family history, and bring them to a local Remembrance Day ceremony.
By coming out to ceremonies in local municipalities on their own initiative, this year is the perfect time for people to illustrate the significant importance of Remembrance day, proving to those who are concerned about possible negative impacts of making it a holiday that it's importance will not be minimized.