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<Make Remembrance Day a national holiday >

Make Remembrance Day a national holiday

By Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B., Managing Editor, HRinfodesk.com---Canadian Payroll and Employment Law News, November 2010

After Ottawa-area MPP Lisa MacLeod introduced a private member's bill that would see Remembrance Day become a public (statutory) holiday in Ontario, several news and other organizations polled the public to see whether Remembrance Day should be turned into a statutory holiday in the province, or across Canada.

However, the Ontario private member's bill would see the Remembrance Day statutory holiday replace February's Family Day. Several polls have shown great support for this initiative.

We also polled our readers and asked them, Should the federal government make Remembrance Day a public (statutory) holiday? Out of 238 respondents to the poll, 79 percent stated yes, the federal government should make Remembrance Day a public holiday. However, a commentator to our poll stated, and several others concurred:

I too would say yes, of course, I want another holiday. However, should you have put in “at the expense of losing Family Day in February”, which is what the Gov't is stating they would like to do, I wonder if so many would have hit the yes button ?

I agree, I would love to see Remembrance Day become Ontario's next statutory holiday but not if it means taking away our Family Day in February.

Details of the poll can be found in the table below:

Why Remembrance Day?

World War One ended (or the Great War, as it was known at that time) on Monday, November 11, 1918, at 5:00 a.m., when the Allies and Germany signed an armistice agreement in Paris, France. Upon signing this agreement, hostilities ceased at 11:00 a.m.

Remembrance is the cornerstone of The Royal Canadian Legion's work in Canada, and the poppy represents the symbol of remembrance.

The Poppy Campaign is a major source of funds used to assist veterans, ex-service people and their dependents. A writer first made the connection between the poppy and battlefield deaths during the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century, remarking that fields that were barren before battle exploded with the blood-red flowers after the fighting ended. Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, the Canadian doctor who wrote the poem “In Flanders Fields”, made the same connection 100 years later, during the First World War, and the scarlet poppy quickly became the symbol for soldiers who died in battle. In November 1921, the first poppies were distributed in Canada.

In Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories, Yukon, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador, Remembrance Day is a paid public (statutory) holiday under employment/labour standards legislation. Employees get a day off with regular pay and/or holiday pay. If the employee is required to work on the holiday, the employee must be paid regular wages and get a substituted day off with pay at a later date (depending on the province or territory of employment). Federally regulated employees also have a holiday on Remembrance Day.

In Manitoba and Nova Scotia some employees get a day off under their respective Remembrance Day Acts. Employees who do not work that day, do not get paid for the day, unless the employer offers pay as an added benefit. In general, the Acts require that all businesses close in observation of Canadian contributions and sacrifices in wars and international conflicts. Retail businesses that sell or offer to sell goods and services, tradespeople or professional services, rental companies and businesses charging admission to performances must close, but are allowed to open to the public prior to 9:00 a.m. and after 1:00 p.m.

Every employer carrying on or engaged in an industry to which the Remembrance Day Act does not apply must relieve all employees from duty, and suspend the operations of the industry or sector, for a period of three minutes, at one minute before 11:00 a.m. on Remembrance Day.

As one commentator said, the point of Remembrance Day becoming a public holiday is not just to have another day off, but to take time to remember; taking some time during the course of a day to actually honour those who served and those who died would be far more meaningful than having an excuse to sleep in or an opportunity to attend a Remembrance Day sale at a shopping mall.

In other words, the focus should be on the remembrance and not the holiday.

I totally agree, but if you don't get the day off, do you really take the time to stop working at 11:00 a.m. to remember and honour those who serve? I don't know if many do.