Remembrance Day should be a legal holiday in Canada, says a Nova Scotia Member of Parliament, despite some opposition.
The Royal Canadian Legion opposes such a move on the grounds it could turn the day into "just another long weekend."
Colin Fraser, MP for West Nova, said his private member's bill, Bill C-311, would make Remembrance Day a legal holiday in the Holidays Act.
"It doesn't make it a national holiday, but elevates it to the same status as Canada Day [and Victoria Day]," he said Friday.
"The main purpose is to give it the recognition I think it deserves in federal legislation, but also to get the provinces and territories who don't have it as a statutory holiday to revisit it."
Provinces and territories decide which days are non-working holidays. The date is a statutory holiday for federal workers. Three territories and six provinces — Newfoundland & Labrador, New Brunswick, P.E.I., Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. — make the day a statutory holiday. Nova Scotia and Manitoba have local regulations for business openings on the day. Ontario and Quebec do not.
NDP bill died last year
The idea has been mooted before. The last effort from NDP MP Dan Harris had passed a second reading, but died on the paper when Parliament dissolved ahead of the 2015 election.
Fraser said his Liberal Party's government supports the bill, and he's heard positive reaction from other parties.
His bill would also make Monday a holiday when Nov. 11 falls on a weekend, and would make it law to fly the Canadan flag at half-mast at the Peace Tower. Fraser said he now realizes those two provisions could cause wider problems, so he's open to seeing them deleted by the standing committee on Canadian heritage, if it gets that far.
He said local legions support the move, but the national line is against it.
Not just 'another long weekend'
Bruce Poulin, spokesman for the Royal Canadian Legion, said the group's position has not changed since they opposed the last move to change the day's status.
In April 2015 Brade White, dominion secretary for the legion, spoke to the standing committee on veterans affairs. He said legion members across the country had debated the issue many times.
"We remain concerned that Canadians, if given the time off as a legal holiday, may not take the time to remember; that it may simply become a mid-week break or just part of another long weekend," White said at the time.
The legion also said having young Canadians in school that day is important. "To honour this day, many schools hold assemblies where they organize their own commemoration; some teachers take their students to collectively participate with their peers in ceremonies at local cenotaphs, thereby strengthening the impact of the significance of November 11," White said in 2015.
Fraser hopes to find a way forward. "They'll have an opportunity to testify at the standing committee on Canadian heritage if it gets past the second reading and we'll hear their position," he said.
He suggested Canadians could follow the Nova Scotia example, where many schools spend the days leading up to Nov. 11 learning about the wars and having veterans visit. "And then have the 11th as a day off to mark the occasion with their families and go to ceremonies."
Fraser worked as a tour guide at Vimy Ridge years ago. That sparked his interest in the history and how the service of veterans is remembered. He's on the standing committee on veterans affairs.
"In a small way, this is a modest measure to help remember those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom," Fraser said.
His bill is moving through the parliamentary process, but it could be a year or more before it gets to a vote in Parliament.