The Case Against Making Remembrance Day a Holiday

Canadian attack of Vimy Ridge, April 16, 1917 – Library and Archives Canada

In an op-ed piece in the National Post Matt Gurney argues that Remembrance Day (November 11) should not be made a statutory holiday in Ontario . There are good arguments on both sides of this debate, but generally I agree with Gurney.

His point is that pausing for “two minutes of silence” at 11am is an effective way to encourage Ontarians to reflect on the horrors of war and the sacrifices that our war dead have made on our behalf. Turning the day into a holiday would completely change the character of the day. As he says, “A day off with the kids, a chance to sleep in or take the dog for a long walk, are things rightly relished, and it would be wrong to deliberately associate Nov. 11 with relaxation and pleasure.”

I would add that it gives Ontarians a rare opportunity to unite at precisely the same time for a common, meaningful cause. If the entire day was made a holiday the significance of the 11am pause would be watered down, and, as Gurney suggests, simply lost for many of us.

Those of us who have grown up with this tradition consider it almost a sacred duty to pause and reflect in whatever way we can, because we know we are sharing that experience with millions of other Canadians. It is this communal “pause” that gives Remembrance Day a unique character that no other “holiday” has.

Just one more thought: for the cynical among us it is also significant that most government agencies close on November 11 while the rest of us (in Ontario) continue to work. What better reminder that governments make the decision to start wars while ordinary people like you and me are expected to fight them.

BTW, as many of those who commented on Matt Gurney’s piece point out, Remembrance Day already is a statutory holiday in much of Canada – only Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba are the exceptions.

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