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EDITORIAL: Make 'lest we forget' statutory

Remembering in Wolfville. 
There should be a national, statutory observance for Remembrance Day to ensure that all Canadians have the opportunity to give veterans the respect they deserve. - FILE

 

Every year on November 11, Canadians are encouraged to attend cenotaph and memorial services to remember those who made the supreme sacrifice in defence of our country, our rights and freedoms.

There are eloquent services at nursing homes and manors in the days leading up to Remembrance Day for our aging and diminishing numbers of veterans. Age is catching up on them.

School children come out in large numbers with poppies and flags to place them on veterans’ graves in cemeteries across the land as a mark of respect. They ensure that no one who served is forgotten.

But many Canadians are unable to attend a cenotaph service. They have to work. It’s a disgrace. There is a national will to treat Remembrance Day with the respect and reverence it deserves. Sadly, this is not reflected by many provincial governments.

The federal government recognizes Remembrance Day in the Holidays Act as a national holiday, but not all provinces treat it as a paid statutory holiday. Its status varies by province. Why?

Surely, we can sacrifice an hour for one day a year to remember them?

We can give thanks in October for our nation’s bounty. We recognize the important contributions of labour in September for their efforts in building this great country. We can take a holiday in May because of some long forgotten British queen who died more than 100 years ago.

Yet we cannot formally recognize the supreme sacrifices made by tens of thousands of Canadians who fought and died on battlefields across the world in defence of country and our cherished liberties. And who continue to die or suffer physical and mental scars in faraway lands such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Nova Scotia don’t observe Remembrance Day as a statutory holiday. If one lives in the nation’s capital or in our largest city, Remembrance Day is a day like any other when Nov. 11 falls on a weekday – classes are in session in schools and universities across the province, stores are open and provincial government offices are busy.

This year, because it falls on a Saturday, P.E.I. and the Yukon will observe Monday Nov. 13 as a holiday – while holding usual observances on Saturday. Monday, Nov. 13 is a government-only holiday in Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

There should be a national, statutory observance for Remembrance Day to ensure that all Canadians have the opportunity to give veterans the respect they deserve.

Remembrance Day this year holds special significance for Canadians because of milestone anniversaries involving historic battles which helped shape this nation. We will reflect on heroic deeds involving the 75th anniversary of Dieppe; the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge and the 100th anniversary of Passchendaele.

When we fail to honour our war dead and forget their sacrifices, it increases the risk of ignoring the horrors that war brings. Surely governments can act in solidarity to formally recognize our veterans.  Surely, we can sacrifice an hour for one day a year to remember them?

 

 

 

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