NDP MP's private members bill aims to make Remembrance Day a national holiday

Andy Radia
·Politics Reporter
A woman places a poppy on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier following the Remembrance Day ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa November 11, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Wattie (CANADA - Tags: MILITARY ANNIVERSARY)

Every November, it seems, a debate ensues about whether or not Remembrance Day should be a national holiday currently Ontarians, Quebecers, New Brunswickers and Nova Scotians have to work on November 11th.

Well Dan Harris, the NDP MP for Scarborough Southwest, hopes to put an end to that debate once and for all.

Harris is the latest member of parliament to introduce a private members bill to make Remembrance Day a national statutory holiday to be treated just like Canada Day.

That bill Bill C-597 will be debated in the House of Commons for the first time on Monday evening.

In a telephone interview with Yahoo Canada News, Harris argued that all Canadians should have the opportunity to go their local cenotaphs, on November 11th, to pay their respects to the veterans who have risked and lost their lives in service to our country.

"Every year at the cenotaph in Scarborough there’s always some people who can’t make it because they have to work," he told Yahoo Canada News.

He notes that the recent deadly attacks against two Canadian soldiers in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa have certainly given the issue more profile.

"I think it brought it home for a lot of people. In particular [with] Cpl. Nathan Cirillo being a few hundred metres away…at the War Memorial,” he said.

"I think it would be hard to find an MP that doesn’t support our veterans and the tremendous sacrifices they’ve always made. And I do think the last couple of weeks has really brought it home for people."

[ Related: Remembrance Day ceremonies to see bigger police presence ]

One of the arguments against having Remembrance Day as a national holiday is that instead of using it as a day to commemorate our veterans, many Canadians will use it to sleep-in, to shop, or go skiing: war becomes the furthest thing from their minds.

The dissenters ask a valid question: do Canadians really think about the labour movement’s sacrifices on Labour Day?

Perhaps to appease those concerns, Harris’ bill is different from past bills on the subject in that it doesn’t include weekend substitutes. In other words, if November 11th falls on a weekend, Canadians won’t get the Friday or Monday off.

Harris is cautiously optimistic that his bill will pass with only minor minor.

"It’s looking very good…it looks like it will have government support," he said.

If the bill, currently at Second Reading passes, Remembrance Day 2015 will be a national holiday.

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