Bill S-209

9/11 as a National Day of Service

C-CAT’s Full Legislative Proposal to Mark 9/11 in Canada as a National Day of Service and Remembrance

Executive Summary

1. C-CAT – The Organization

The Canadian Coalition Against Terror (C-CAT) is a non-partisan policy, research and advocacy body committed to seeking innovative legal and public policy strategies in the fight against terrorism.  C-CAT is comprised of Canadian terror victims, counterterrorism professionals, lawyers and other individuals dedicated to building bridges between the private and public sectors in the battle against terrorism and to assisting terror victims in rebuilding their lives. 

C-CAT speaks for a unique constituency of Canadians who have personally and directly experienced the horrific impact of terrorism. Some C-CAT members lost a single relative, others lost entire families, and several were injured themselves. Representatives of C-CAT have testified as witnesses before Senate and House of Commons committees. C-CAT also participated as an intervenor before the Commission of Inquiry into the Investigation of the Bombing of Air India Flight 182, and has been lauded by the leaders of all four major parties for its efforts and contributions to Canada. 


2. 9/11 – A National Day of Service and Remembrance

Unlike many countries in the western world, Canada has no national memorial for 9/11 and has no set protocols for recognizing the events of that day. C-CAT proposes that Canada declare 9/11 as “A National Day of Service and Remembrance,” that will include two separate but related components:

A Day of Service – C-CAT is proposing to reframe 9/11 in a positive Canadian context as “A National Day of Service” designated to celebrate the outpouring of kindness and unity that was witnessed in Canada, the US and other countries in response to the terrible tragedy of that day. The day will be marked by various projects across Canada that will generate further acts of goodwill within our communities as part of the creation of a broader legacy of 9/11.

A Day of Remembrance – C-CAT proposes that Canada designate September 11th as the date for an annual memorial ceremony at Beachwood Cemetery commemorating our losses in Afghanistan


The Proposal

1.  Introduction – The Unique Impact of Terrorism

Terrorism is not just a more pernicious form of organized crime. It is different than domestic crime in its scope, intent, method and impact. Whereas the primary interest of most criminals is not to destroy themselves or society as a whole, the objective of terrorist attacks is to inflict maximum death, damage and horror on society – for military and/or ideological purposes. And unlike organized criminality, terrorists are often proxies of nation states seeking to inflict damage on the citizens of other sovereign states.

While criminals for the most part avoid large-scale massacres of uninvolved persons, the primary purpose of terrorist activity is to create victims – the more the better – because victims are the vehicle through which terrorist goals are achieved. Crime can exist without mass murder and may in fact benefit from avoiding it; terrorism cannot.

Victimization of civilians goes to the heart of terrorism. And unlike other categories of victim, terror victims have not been targeted for economic or personal gain in a criminal sense – but as representatives of the broader society which is its target.

The power of this method has proven itself painfully effective. It has challenged our democracy, our judicial system, our tolerance and our resolve in a way that criminal behaviors, however loathsome, never could. It has become the definitive security threat to world stability in this century and a defining force in our culture that we experience in every trip to the airport, in contentious debates on the floor of parliament and in the sad ongoing spectacle of the repatriation of Canadian soldiers who lost their lives fighting terrorism in Afghanistan. Terrorism seems to have succeeded in invading our cultural superego, shaping our thoughts, fears and policies.

But we are not without choices – we can decide how we integrate our experience with terrorism into the fabric of our culture. And we must fully exercise that ability and right as part of our national strategy to overcome the impact of terrorism on our society. Therefore our challenge as a society is not only to find more effective ways to protect ourselves and our society, but to utilize our resources, our democratic institutions and our collective national memory to reclaim the right to self definition that terrorism seeks to undermine.

2.  A Need to Remember – as Canadians

Unlike many countries in the western world, Canada has no national memorial for 9/11 and has no set protocols for recognizing the day as anything other than ordinary. This is a mistake. In doing so Canada is tacitly casting 9/11 as strictly an American event as opposed to an attack of global import in which the citizens of 90 countries lost their lives including 24 Canadians. By ignoring the day on our official calendar we are rendering the events of 9/11 as a tragic aberration of only local American import, rather than a precursor to a broader global campaign of terrorist aggression which has touched every corner of the earth producing such horrors as 7/7 in London and 26/11 in Mumbai – to name just two. By refusing entry of 9/11 to the Canadian calendar we also ignore the fact that this day is the starting point for Canada’s war in Afghanistan – the only Canadian war that many in this generation have ever experienced. 9/11 is very much about us, as Canadians – and Canada needs to remember. 

3.   “9/11 – A National Day of Service and Remembrance”

Over the last few years major conferences have been held in various capitals, bringing victims together from across the globe to discuss issues of common interest and to explore avenues for coordinated action – the most recent of which was sponsored by the Secretary-General of the UN in September of 2008. This reflects the growing strength of a community of victims throughout the world that is becoming increasingly engaged in advocacy. The efforts of victims’ organizations fall into three basic categories:

1. Fighting and deterring terrorism

2. Addressing the needs and rights of victims of terrorism

3. Transforming the experience of terrorism into a positive force

C-CAT has worked with MPs and Senators of all parties on matters pertaining to the first two categories of deterring terrorism and victims’ rights. Now, Canadian 9/11 victims who are C-CAT members are focusing their efforts on the third item by seeking to reframe 9/11 in a positive Canadian context as “A Day of National Service and Remembrance.” It is a day designated to celebrate the outpouring of kindness and unity that was witnessed in Canada, the US and other countries in response to the terrible tragedy of that day. The day will be marked by various projects across Canada that will generate further acts of goodwill and kindness within our communities as part of the creation of a broader legacy of 9/11. Individuals, employees, students, members of organizations and others would voluntarily engage in service and remembrance through acts of good deeds, personal and organized service activities and reflection. It will be a day in which our neighbors, our communities, and our country will be the focus of a national effort to make 9/11 anything but an ordinary day in Canada – through creative acts of giving whose perpetuity will constitute the most lasting memorial to those who were the victims of such evil.

This concept does not entail declaring 9/11 a federal holiday, but it does require the leadership of our government and political representatives to ensure that this project receives the necessary resources and the profile to ensure it success.  Funding through the appropriate ministries should be made available to project applicants under guidelines formulated for this purpose.

4. “The Smallest Bit of Light Can Banish a Great Amount of Darkness”

Two other examples of fighting terrorism through the power of kindness:


U.S. Senate Joins House of Representatives in Passing Legislation
to Establish September 11 as a National Day of Service

 WASHINGTON, DC, March 26, 2009 – The U.S. Senate today joined with the U.S. House of Representatives in passing historic national service legislation (ServeAmerica Act S. 277) which, like the House GIVE Act, includes a key provision that would formally authorize federal support for establishing the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on America as a “National Day of Service and Remembrance.” U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) worked closely with U.S. Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), co-sponsors of the ServeAmerica Act, to include language supporting the 9/11 Day of Service observance, a program long advocated by the organization.

The 9/11 nonprofit organization was founded in 2002 with widespread support from the 9/11 family community to establish September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance.  Now passed, the House and Senate bills will proceed to conference to reconcile any differences. A final bill approved by both houses of Congress is expected to be delivered to President Barack Obama for his signature within days. “For more than seven years, we have worked along with many 9/11 families, first responders, volunteers, and rescue and recovery workers with the hope that one day we would be able to formally establish 9/11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance, “ said David Paine, founder and president of “Today we stand just a pen stroke away from creating a historic observance tha   t ensures that the lives of those lost are forever remembered in a constructive and compassionate way by millions of people for generations to come.”  “I could not be more proud to work to pass this important provision,” said Senator Schumer in a press release ( “September 11 should not only be a day for mourning – it should be a day to think about our neighbors, our community and our country. We can take a tragic day in our nation’s history and turn it into a force for good. “  GO TO to read more

b. “Partners in Kindness”

Shmuel Greenbaum’s wife Shoshana was killed in the terrorist attack at Jerusalem’s Sbarro restaurant in August 2001.  More than 100 people were killed or injured in the attack. Shoshana was pregnant with their first child. Shmuel was devastated. One month later, terrorism touched him again when New York was attacked on September 11. Shmuel continued to grieve but in contrast to other mourners, he did not get angry. Rather than feeling paralyzed by fear, he decided to empower people to move past their fear and help each other. He found a way. His response to the terror attact was to launch projects which teach people how to increase their “kindness skills”. 

Greenbaum is the founder of Partners In Kindness, a non-sectarian organization that inspires the general public to do acts of kindness, and is also founder of Tradition of Kindness, which is Jewish. He began sending uplifting emails filled with stories of how people can help each other and approach life optimistically. Now more than 25,000 subscribers of all faiths on six continents receive his e-mails.After hearing him speak one student wrote, “Listening to that man speak, your heart lifts. Hearing of all the good that he has put into the world, in the wake of such a horrible catastrophe, you cannot help but adore him.”

 He does all this in his spare time. He is a computer specialist for New York City Transit.5.  A Day of Remembrance

For the foreseeable future, Canada’s mission in Afghanistan will be the quintessential frame of reference for Canadian thinking on Canada’s military role in international affairs, and it imperative that our nation find appropriate modes of remembrance for those who fell in this campaign. As an eighteenth century mystic poignantly commented: “In Remembrance is the secret of salvation.” Remembrance is not just recalling a fact or summoning an emotion from the recesses of our minds. It is the key to our growth. Remembrance is the distinctly human capacity for the organization of our personal and collective histories into patterns of meaning that allow for the possibility of a different future. To go through the rituals of remembrance without fully appreciating the cause in which the losses were incurred is to undermine the meaning of memory itself, and does no honor to those who fight on our behalf.

This is particularly important for many Canadians too young to have had any first-hand connection to the terrible wars of the 20th century, who now have fresh graves to ponder in a war that can seem very far away from Canadian concerns. If these losses are to have any lasting meaning for this generation and those that succeed it, they must be framed in terms of the values for which these Canadian laid down their lives – values which go to the heart of virtually all “Canadian concerns” right here in Canada. These lives were lost to an enemy whose ambition is the destruction of the entire value system upon which Canada and other democracies are founded. These lives were lost to the same Taliban and al-Qaida terrorists that murdered close to 3000 people including 24 Canadians on 9/11; that have sown death and destruction across the globe; that have promised to inflict further damage on Canada and other Canadians for our role in Afghanistan; and that are searching for access to WMD to commit atrocities of extraordinary proportions.9/11 then is very much about us – as Canadians. Therefore there could be no more appropriate a day for establishing an annual ceremony commemorating Canadian losses in Afghanistan than 9/11. C-CAT proposes that Canada designate September 11th as the date for an annual memorial event to be held at Beachwood Cemetery, forever placing our losses in the context of the values for which these soldiers gave their lives.

6. Conclusion

Canada has not been merely a spectator in the events of 9/11 and its aftermath. We have been deeply involved abroad in the military campaign to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaida, while domestically our society is still struggling to find appropriate measures and balances in coping with the security environment of a post 9/11 world. We therefore cannot view 9/11 simply as a day for diplomatic platitudes expressing sympathies and condolences for the losses of our neighbors to the south.  9/11 is about us as well – not only as members of the international community but as Canadians.  And it is incumbent upon us as a society to craft a Canadian lens through which to view and engage the very Canadian issues pertaining to the 9/11 experience. C-CAT’s proposal, an initiative of Canadian 9/11 victims, seeks to do precisely that. It is designed to address the imperative of remembrance while also facilitating its transformation into a building block for a better Canadian future.  We hope our elected officials and representatives in Ottawa will assist us in this endeavor.

Click here for PDF of Legislative Proposal

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