Living in Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, Ontario, we are fortunate to be able to attend the Remembrance Day Service at our national cenotaph. Today was a cool, showery, somewhat snowy day yet the crowds came to Parliament Hill. There could be more people there though. In our native province of Saskatchewan, Remembrance Day is a statutory holiday. Everything pretty much shuts down.
When we moved here we were surprised to learn Remembrance Day is not a statutory holiday in Ontario. What? I’ll be working that day? In the nation’s capital? You don’t go to work on Remembrance Day! You go to the cenotaph in your town or city and you stand in the sometimes very cold morning and you contemplate the selfless sacrifice of so many of long ago and not so long ago. The first year we were here, there I was at work in a meeting and 11 a.m. we stood at our meeting table and bowed our heads for two minutes. Two minutes. And then we went back to our meeting.
While some employers (federal government, The Ottawa Hospital, for example) do give people a day away, most do not. Stores close till about 12:30pm and then it’s open season. Universities hold classes without skipping a beat, schools are open and life goes on.
Like many things in Canada, there is no one size fits all. Some provinces have deigned Remembrance Day as a holiday, some have not. We have the lives and the freedoms we enjoy in our great country because men and women laid their lives on the line for the greater good. Surely we can take a day and make that effort to pause and give thanks. After all, if they hadn’t done what they did, our lives would most decidedly not be what they are today. Seems to me that 24 hours set aside to consider not only to reflect what’s gone on before but to consider why humanity continues to inflect horrors upon its own kind is not too much to ask. In this great country of ours, we should all have time to pay tribute to those who have shaped our freedom. Lest we forget.
4 thoughts on “Remembrance Day 2013-Is One Day Off Too Much to Ask?”
Good on you Barb, we had our minute silence in a mtg in a Brisbane office yesterday. Coming from Saskatchewan it always reminds one of the day set aside. And the cold it seemed always on that date. Also brings back the memories of Uncle Arthur & his story. As much as I remember or ever knew of it or I suppose allowed to know as a kid at the time.
In airport waiting for flight back to NZ.
Have a good day & to all those memories.
Great to hear from you. Yes I always thought the bit of discomfort we felt on a cold stormy November’s day would pale in comparison to the sufferings of war. I recall a bit about Uncle Arthur’s story. I wonder if anyone has ever requested his records from Veterans Affairs in Canada. Those records would give the all the details of his years in service.
Modern communication is great. A blog posted in Canada has a response from Australia (waiting for a flight back to NZ) within minutes.
Thanks for the comment!
I must admit to having to plea mea culpa but I will share my/our rationale.
In my early days as CEO of Heart and Stroke, we gave Nov. 11th off to employees. When McGuinty then proclaimed Family Day, my executive committee met to decide whether, with this new statutory holiday having been added, we should continue our practice of giving employees November 11th off. We agreed to do a informal poll of staff in terms of how they spent Nov. 11th. They were very forthcoming, saying that they noted the importance of the day in conversations with family and friends, , very few attended any events and next to none either attended the ceremony at the Cenotaph downtown or in their local community or watched the coverage on TV. They treated the day simply as a day off and, they remarked, as not a very useful one, as it was a dreary month, the day did not often entail a long weekend and the public schools remained open so it was not really a family day. Several employees noted that it was also a busy time of year for us so they often had to work at home in any event.
Our solution? Based on a) the importance of marking the day, b) the impact for a small agency of giving another full day off and c) the feedback from staff on how they spent the day, including the fact that the schools were open, we decided to rescind the Nov. 11th holiday BUT, give all staff 2 hours off, from 1000 til noon that day to attend the ceremonies at the Cenotaph (which was walking distance away). The staff responded very positively overall. And each year most of walked down Sparks St. to the Cenotaph together to take part in the ceremony and to chat, on the walk back, about how fortunate we were to not be experiencing the horrors of war in our age and whether we would have been as brave as our fallen forbears.
Just to suggest an alternative.
On 2013-11-11, at 7:31 PM, Barb’s True Stories wrote
Thank you for sharing your experience Sally. Your approach provided an opportunity for people to observe and remember and balanced the needs of your agency at the same time. I agree that few people spend a whole day in remembrance even if they do have time away. Perhaps the heart of the issue for me (after reading your note) is to provide people an opportunity to honour those who have served our country. Wouldn’t it be something if there was a 2 minute silence (wherever possible) on 11/11/11-where the buzz and din died away. At the ceremony yesterday there were some yellow vested construction workers who stopped their efforts and observed the service. At the same time you could hear the beeping of trucks backing up somewhere and the rat tat tat of jack hammers. This morning there was an article about people who gathered at a war memorial on Richmond Road. There was no formal program, no agenda. Just people who walked over to the memorial and spent some time there at 11 a.m. to observe and remember in their own silent way. Thanks for taking time to comment. It helped me think about what the main sticking point is for me.