Opinion

Why Remembrance Day should not be a stat holiday

How does this next generation learn about our soldiers and the commitment they made to this country if they aren't in school?

Remembrance-Day-holiday

Photo: iStockphoto

Over the past couple of weeks, there has been increased discussion about making November 11 a statutory holiday in Canada.

It feels like Remembrance Day has taken on a different feeling this year, in light of the separate tragedies that took the lives of two soldiers on our home soil. News reports have indicated that more than 19 million poppies have been distributed this year, marking the highest total on record. And there is certainly a movement towards making sure our nation’s military and rich history is honoured and preserved.

Read more: How to explain Remembrance Day to kids>

A recent poll conducted by Ipsos Reid for The Vimy Foundation found that 82 percent of Canadians are in favour of making November 11 a statutory holiday in this country. As we speak, the House of Commons is debating a private member’s bill that would amend the Holidays Act to see Remembrance Day be given the same status as Victoria Day and Canada Day. That would make it a complete day off for everybody in this country.

But in my opinion, it would be a complete mistake to turn Remembrance Day into a statutory holiday. It has nothing to do with not giving our military their proper due and respect. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

If we turned November 11 into a stat holiday, that means all kids would be staying home from school. And the bigger issue becomes: How does this next generation learn about our soldiers and the commitment they made to this country if they aren’t in school?

Read more: Remembrance Day: Why schools should invite veterans to speak>

If kids were at home on Remembrance Day, the onus to teach them about the significance of this day on the calendar would fall onto the parents. And while a handful of parents would probably find an appropriate way to teach the kids about Remembrance Day, the majority of parents would not be able or willing to do so.

As parents, we don’t have the resources to put on the types of Remembrance Day ceremonies and activities that the school board does each year. Remembrance Day would just turn into Victoria Day, Labour Day or any other stat holiday on the calendar. Would you take your child to the local Cenotaph on Remembrance Day and try and teach them about the importance of this day? I’m better the answer is a resounding no. And the kids thought would be, “We don’t have school today. This is awesome!”

Read more: Talking to your kids about tragedy>

I can still vividly recall the Remembrance Day ceremonies I had at school when I was a kid. We had moving services inside the gymnasium with the entire school in attendance. There was powerful imagery and music and it hammered home the importance of Remembrance Day.

Our oldest daughter has been chosen to do a reading in front of the entire school today. Just prior to 11am, she will stand up in front of her peers and read the following words:

“Every November, it is our tradition to gather on Remembrance Day to remember those men and women who have spent their lives serving or paying the ultimate sacrifice of giving their lives to protect others. Remembrance Day is also a day to pray for peace, and to think about what we are doing as people of God to bring peace in our world today.

Everybody please stand for the laying of the wreaths, followed by two minutes of silence.”

My wife and I are going to walk over to the school this morning to take in this ceremony. And I shudder to think what we would be doing with the kids if today was a statutory holiday.

Follow along as Ottawa-based sports radio host Ian Mendes gets candid about raising daughters, Elissa and Lily, with his wife, Sonia. Read all of Ian’s The Good Sport posts and follow him on Twitter @ian_mendes.