Most of Canada already takes Nov. 11 off work, so why not Ontario?
If you grew up in Ontario, chances are you remember the bugle of “The Last Post” blaring over the school speakers at 11 a.m., a precursor the moment of silence as you stood at your desk — you might even remember poppies being handed out at the annual Remembrance Day assembly.
But what about those who grew up in Alberta or British Columbia?
Longtime critics of making Remembrance Day a nationwide federal holiday have said that respect for the holiday diminishes if you’re able to stay at home – if you spend your day off at the mall, would you still take the time to pay respects?
Bill C-311 amended the Holidays Act last year to include Remembrance Day as a statutory holiday, but it’s not binding and provinces aren’t required to follow. Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Manitoba are the only other provinces, along with Ontario, that do not observe Remembrance Day as a stat holiday, though Nova Scotia has taken steps towards giving workers time off on Nov. 11.
When it comes to Ontario, it seems like it’s only a matter of time. Former Nova Scotia MP Colin Fraser, who proposed Bill C-311, told The Chronicle Herald that “there is a movement afoot to get those provinces who don’t have it as a day off so people can have time off work.”
Despite critics who argue that youth will lose the meaning of Remembrance Day if they don’t attend morning ceremonies and recite In Flanders Fields on Nov. 11, it doesn’t seem to weigh heavily on Canadians. Students in Nova Scotia and Alberta, for example, just commemorate Remembrance Day before the holiday, which frees up time for them to attend their community’s Remembrance Day events on the day of. In provinces that observe the holiday, Canadians arguably have more opportunities and time to respect Remembrance Day.
A Maclean’s article says that “90 per cent of Canadians support Nov, 11 being a national statutory holiday.” The question, it seems, is not about why Remembrance Day isn’t a holiday in Ontario, but rather, when will it become one? Government employees in Ontario already get time off on Remembrance Day. With the overwhelming support and structure in place, it seems like a no-brainer that the rest of Ontario should also get the day off.
The Royal Canadian Legion, a strong advocate against making Remembrance Day a holiday, sees it as an issue with youth engagement. The non-profit Canadian veterans organization recently partnered with hit video game Fortnite to ensure youth were more informed about the day. They created “Remembrance Island,” an in-game map that’s decorated with symbols of Canadian war history and recreations of monuments and locations like the First World War trenches and the Vimy Ridge Memorial. Players can visit Fortnite’s in-game map to pay their respects and learn about Canada’s history.
Regardless of how Canadians choose to observe Remembrance Day – with or without staying at home – the lesson is clear: lest we forget.