As Nov. 11 draws near, one question pops up in many Canadians’ minds: Should Remembrance Day be a statutory holiday in every province across Canada?
While the federal government does acknowledge Remembrance Day as a statutory holiday, Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec, and Nova Scotia do not.
Nearly 61,000 Canadians died in World War One, with many more veterans serving in other conflicts since. Some of them were killed in action, others returned home alive, but none of them were left unscathed by their experiences.
It is their sacrifices that we honour each and every 11th day of the 11th month on the 11th hour–the time that marked the formal end of the fighting in 1918.
And just as Canada committed to joining its allies and fighting for the greater good more than 100 years ago, we’ve also committed to commemorating the sacrifices made by our ancestors and their allies every Nov. 11.
So why not make it a statutory holiday? Surely Remembrance Day, and the soldiers who fought for our freedom, deserve respect more than, say, Boxing Day.
Boxing Day was traditionally a day off for servants and the day when they received a “Christmas Box” from their master. The servants would also go home on Boxing Day to give “Christmas Boxes” to their families.
Nowadays, many people enjoy a day off after Christmas Day to eat leftovers, nurse their hangovers, and possibly spend yet more money on items they want but rarely need. Sure, it’s nice and all, but is Boxing Day really more deserving of its statutory holiday status than Remembrance Day?
The same goes for statutory holidays such as Victoria Day (named for a long-dead monarch who never even visited Canada during her lifetime), Thanksgiving (a time to be grateful for what we have or just an excuse to gorge ourselves on turkey?) or Family Day (a stab at curing cabin fever which has taken place every third Monday of February since 2007 yet still leaves many Ontario families flat-footed when it arrives; they end up having no plans for the day at all).
On the other hand, maybe there’s a case to remain status quo.
If Remembrance Day were a paid day off work, would most Canadians simply treat it as just another chance to leave town, stay at home, or otherwise not take part in the Nov. 11 ceremony at the cenotaph?
Right now, students go on field trips to the cenotaph or host their own Remembrance Day ceremonies at school. If they had the day off, would their parents actually take them to the cenotaph? Would they go on their own?
Over the decades, politicians have intermittently advocated for Nov. 11 to be a national holiday observed in every province. But, believe it or not, this has been opposed by members of the Royal Canadian Legion.
Canadian veteran J.L. Granatstein wrote last year that “November 11 is and should be the most solemn day on our calendar,” adding that “if Remembrance Day were to become a statutory holiday, schools might discard even the perfunctory observances many do now.
“November 11 can never be allowed to become merely another day off work.”
“Our stance is that it should never be a holiday; you take away the uniqueness of being able to educate the younger generation of the horrors of war,” echoed Rob Larman, a director with the War Amps of Canada.
While the topic of whether or not to make Nov. 11 a statutory holiday will no doubt be debated again in the future, the bottom line remains: Remembrance Day is a time to pay our respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Whether you can make it to the cenotaph on Monday or have to work or study, please take a moment to reflect on the true meaning of Remembrance Day.
Bringing our busy lives in a fast-paced world to a standstill for two minutes of silence is the least we can do.