Should the Government Make Remembrance Day a Public (Statutory) Holiday?

When World War One ended, (or the Great War, as it was known at that time), an armistice agreement was signed between the Allies and Germany which took place in Paris, France, at 5:00 a.m. (Paris time), on Monday, November 11, 1918. Upon signing this agreement, hostilities ceased at 11:00 a.m. The poppy represents the symbol of Remembrance.

Remembrance is the cornerstone of The Royal Canadian Legion’s work in Canada.

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. Lieut-Col. 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, 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 the Remembrance Day Act. 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 Act, requires 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 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 o’clock on the forenoon on Remembrance Day.

After Ottawa-area MPP Lisa MacLeod introduced a private member’s bill submitting that Remembrance Day be made a public (statutory) holiday in Ontario, several news and other organizations have been polling the public to see whether Remembrance Day should be turned into a statutory holiday in the province, or in Canada.

However, the Ontario private member’s Bill would see the Remembrance Day statutory holiday replace February’s Family Day.

Several of the poll results have so far shown great support for this initiative. A commentator to one of those polls stated:

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.


  1. I absolutely think this should be a National Public Holiday! We too often become complacent with the fact that our brave men/women have fought to give our entire country freedom. This freedom wasn’t meant for just some provinces and territories, but for all. I don’t understand why a government would want to take away another stat day to offer this one?! We need to take the day and be thankful for the men and women who were in WW1 & WW11. Now we have some new veterans who have gone to war to fight for the freedom of our country again!

  2. Make Remembrance Day A National Holiday –

    We must unite for our solders as they have done for us.

  3. The children at my daughter’s elementary school where she teaches had a very moving ceremony in the school yesterday. It was organized by a former naval officer. They would not have had the opportunity to participate had yesterday been a holiday. Had the school been closed, I suspect that many, if not most of the parents—many being new Canadians—would not have taken their children to any ceremony.

    We honour those who served—not just those who died—by going to the various Remembrance Day ceremonies all over Canada. What we need is not a day-long holiday but a two-hour break, like the time off to vote, so that people can go the ceremonies.

  4. Gary P. Rodrigues

    Surely, the important point to to take time to remember. It is not to have yet another excuse for a day off.

    As Angela Swan comments, 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 and/or an opportunity to attend a Remembrance Day sale at a shopping mall.

    The focus should be on the Remembrance and not the holiday.

  5. Do people who work on Remembrance Day really have the time to remember to honour those who served when 11 o’clock comes around; or even take the time to remember, when 11 o’clock comes around?!

    Do the employers really encourage a time of silence when 11 o’clock comes around?!

    I hardly think so!

  6. When I first moved to Ontario to go to school after living in the Maritimes, where Remembrance Day is a stat. holiday, I was shocked and horrified that it was not a stat holiday. This seems like a slam dunk to me. I can’t understand why it hasn’t happened already. It is taken very seriously here where it is stat and ceremonies are very well attended.

  7. Gary P. Rodrigues

    My experience has clearly been different from Mark and Josie.

    Throughout my entire working career, Remembrance Day has been acknowledged and respected by my employer. At the minimum, there was a moment of silence. In some years, there were poems and prayers acknowledging the occasion. One year I visited The Scotsman newspaper in Edinburgh and attended a very grand and moving ceremony in the foyer of the building which was decorated with memorials to those who died in the great wars.

    For me, a holiday is beside the point.

  8. I have just recently moved to Ottawa, I am originally from Victoria, BC where Remembrance day is a holiday. I am so shocked that Remembrance Day is not a national holiday – It just doesn’t make any sense! All these years I assumed that everyone had the opportunity to attend remembrance day ceremonies across Canada, to pay their respects. I assumed wrong. For the first time, I have to work instead of attending a remembrance day ceremony as it is not a holiday in Canada’s capital city. I was embarrassed as a fellow Canadian to read that people would rather have family day then recognize those men and women who fought and died for our country – those men and women served Canada so that we can be with our families. It SHOULD be a statutory holiday so that we as Canadians can pay our respects to those who protect our rights and freedom. Period.

  9. I work in a brokerage firm in alberta. This will be my 6th Remembrance Day that I have worked for this company and I will have had 3 off and worked 3. This includes me taking this year off. Our office is open because the markets (TSX is in ON) are open. I can tell you my experience of both working and not working.

    When I am at work we do not shut everything down for 2 min. Usually, 11am passes and noone has really notices. It is not that my company isn’t sympathetic to the day it is just that missing a call could have very negative outcomes. My office does a lot of fundraising for veterans and families of veterans. I feel that I cannot reflect in a way that I would like to on this day when I am at work.

    This Friday, as I mentioned, I have off. I will be at my Grandparents Legion with a TON of other people, young, old and everything in between. My daughter, who is in cadets, will be part of the 2hr ceremony along with half of her core. The other half will be at the military museums. The turn out at the legion is amazing and from what I see on TV the turn out at the other events are also quite impressive. It is most definately not thought of as a ‘shopping day’ or ‘free day’ for the majority of Albertans. Although there will always be people who do not feel it is important. That will not change whether you give them a holiday or not. But does that mean we should take away Christmas since more and more Canadians are not Christian? I’m sure THAT would get a response from people.

    We give a whole day for Christmas, but 2 minutes for Remembrance? If that.
    Other full days we get are: New Years – Hangover, Family – How many things do you do with family on this usually cold feb day, Easter – Why do we have monday off again?, Victoria – Camping (that is why we have this day isn’t it?), Canada – One of the few days that is actually widely celebrated for what it is even if you are camping, Heritage – Camping(this should be switched wih fam day), Labour – camping again, Thanksgiving – 2nd well celebrated holiday, Christmas – 3rd well celebrated holiday of the year (unless you live anywhere other than ON&QC, then it is the 4th after Remembrance Day)

    My daughter is in grade 8 and every year they have a beautiful ceremony at school the day before. I am pretty sure if ON added this day as a STAT it would be the same. But my daughter in Alberta participates in two ceremonies and knows very well what the day means. They also have this course in school called Social Studies. It is very interesting. They cover a lot about past wars and what they mean/meant.

  10. Whether it’s a statutory holiday or not, let us beware of turning “Remembrance Day” into “Support Our Troops Day”, which would be a horrible perversion of what the memorial. Many of this year’s newspaper articles equate wearing the poppy with patriotic support of our armed forces, and anyone who doesn’t wear the poppy is suspect.

  11. I am from a province where Remembrance Day is observed as a holiday. Our school ceremonies always took place the day before Remembrance Day; so for those who think students wouldn’t attend a ceremony, they would, just a day earlier. And then the students would also have an opportunity to attend community events surrounding Remembrance Day.

  12. I think that it should be a statutory holiday. We do not have very many of them to begin with.
    Our office shuts down for Remembrance Day. I think that is a something left over from the days when legal aid was run by the Law Society. Sometimes it is nice to have a holiday when nobody else does (except the post office, etc.) but it would be fair to extend it to everyone.
    Remembrance Day is an significant component of ensuring that we maintain a national memory of important parts of our history. For me, it is time to reflect on the sacrifices of the many people close to me who served in the armed forces and to remember those who are making similar sacrifices today.
    The closest I got to the military was having half of my salary at York University paid by DND. That was a long time ago when pride in the military was low and military personnel who came to work at York were instructed to do so in civilian clothing because of concerns about the negative reactions that their uniforms would arouse. I hope that we are long past those days and that anyone in uniform would be given the respect she or he deserves for serving Canada.

  13. I have never really understood the phrase ‘support our troops’. It certainly does not necessarily mean ‘support any war that our troops happen to be in.’ I am happy to support our troops, in giving them respect, in wanting them to be properly equipped (which does not mean giving them everything that the brass or the politicos ask for), in wanting them to be as safe as possible, in wanting them to be taken care of when out of service to a reasonable degree. I am not happy to support whatever enterprise our troops happen to be engaged in them because they are decent people.

    I wear a poppy to honour the memory of people who have served, in the hope (dream) of no more wars – which is what most of them fought for. It certainly does not mean that I support any particular current war, and I doubt that most people take it to mean that.

  14. Buffy Sainte-Marie – Universal Soldier – I suspect some of us around here remember it the first time around

  15. As a youngster in Winnipeg I learned the significance of Remembrance Day and the world wars in school. We did poppy-related arts and crafts, wrote poems, and attended a special assembly. I don’t quite remember whether we had a day off (I believe we did) but it was the lead-up to it that left an impression.

    Over the years I observed the 2 minutes of silence in workplaces that largely were oblivious. It was not enough to close my door and turn off my phone, though, as someone would often come a-knocking. Over the years I learned to post a “Do not disturb, observing 2 minutes of silence” note on my door. It saddened me to have to do this. Now that I work from the home office, I watch at least some of the ceremonies on TV and feel I am observing silence with others across the country.

    I would be in favour of it being a national holiday, and to continue teaching others the significance of this day. Lest we forget.