Saturday, 8 November 2014

November 11 Should Not be a Stat Holiday

Right now there is a suggestion that November 11th should be declared a statutory holiday in Canada,
a sentiment no doubt fueled by the killing of two Canadian soldiers on Canadian soil just weeks ago.  It would be offensive to suggest that this NDP backed bill is calculated to ride this wave of sentiment, but not beyond the pale to acknowledge that the timing couldn't be better for those who agree, and uncomfortable for those who don't.

Here me out and don't question my patriotism.  Don't you dare.  I would suggest that not speaking against this misguided move to declare November 11th a statutory holiday, if one believes it shouldn't be, is unpatriotic and counter to what our soldiers died to defend in the great wars and conflicts since; freedom to think and speak; to be heard.

I have celebrated November 11th every year of the last 50 or so, but not always at the Cenotaph.  Many years it had to suffice that I was part of an entire workplace or school that stopped for a moment of silence at 11 am.  Just last year a conference I attended and helped organize gave one of the most moving tributes to Remembrance Day that I have seen in five decades.

If November 11th 2013 had been a stat holiday, that conference would not have happened over those dates and that tribute would not have happened at all.  I don't think I'm reaching to say that most, if not almost all of the participants would not have had any such experience had they been enjoying a day off, hiking, raking leaves, or at an American mall shopping; the usual Canadian Stat holiday experience.   A November 11th stat holiday actually has the opposite effect of what is presumably intended.

Pausing to Remember
A statutory holiday on November 11th will lead to a watered-down and soon forgotten celebration of what must never be forgotten, and what better way to drive home the importance of our soldier's sacrifice than to pause commerce, school, traffic; to reflect on 2 minutes of inconvenience to our modern lives and perhaps to feel just a bit of guilt when it slips by unnoticed, unintentionally.  To think of kids in uniform...(kids dammit!) who died on foreign lands so our cash registers could ring the other 1438 minutes in the day.  To watch the grade 7s at a Remembrance Day assembly start to internalize the truth that in a different time it would have been their older brothers off to war, perhaps never to return.  To be 18 and think, "it could have been me."  For some in my generation it was about a grandfather they never met.

Effect on the Economy
Secondly, and this is important, the loss to the economy is estimated to be in the billions.  Don't kid yourselves folks, our soldiers died defending not only democracy, but capitalism and commerce.  In my own business right now I am looking at trying to accommodate a major piece of business that will be lost to our destination if we can't find alternate dates that don't include a mid-week stat holiday in November.  These are union folk, I guarantee none of them is going to miss a paid day off no matter how important the conference or meeting.  I say that without judgement - it is how it is.

I urge Members of Parliament to pause and have a complete and thorough debate at a time when emotions have subsided, and to consider the cost vs benefit of Remembrance Day being declared a Statutory Holiday in Canada.  It may not be what it may seems.

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