House of Commons Hansard #131 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

Main Estimates, 2007-08
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Provencher
Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, on behalf of my colleagues, part 3 of the estimates, consisting of 91 departmental reports on plans and priorities.

These documents will be distributed to members of the standing committees to assist in their consideration of the spending authorities already sought in part 2 of the estimates.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to six petitions.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-52, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2007.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Battle of Vimy Ridge
Routine Proceedings

March 29th, 2007 / 10:05 a.m.

New Brunswick Southwest
New Brunswick

Conservative

Greg Thompson Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the world has long known that it can count on Canada. Wherever there is danger, wherever there is need, Canada has earned an international reputation for generosity and compassion. Wherever peace is threatened, Canada's men and women in uniform have earned the reputation for courage and action.

We are a nation devoted to freedom, to democracy, to human rights and to the rule of law, and we see it today in Afghanistan and Canada's many other peacekeeping and military operations around the world.

On the eve of the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, we are reminded of where this proud tradition was forged. It was on a treacherous, sodden battlefield in the north of France that a young Canada came of age as a nation.

Every time I rise in this House I cannot help but mention that we only serve in this place because our veterans served our country with great courage and at great cost.

Such is the story of Lieutenant Colonel Sam Sharpe who was a parliamentarian. He sat in this chamber and, like all of us in the House of Commons, he earned his privilege to sit here. He took his seat as an elected member of Parliament but he was also a soldier, a soldier who served on that battlefield that the French came to call “the graveyard of France”.

He witnessed death and destruction on a scale that none of us can imagine: 800,000 casualties and 200,000 dead on the heavily fortified slopes of Vimy Ridge alone.

Lieutenant Colonel Sharpe knew what he was facing when arrived with his own troops just weeks before the battle began on a cold and miserable Easter Monday morning.

He felt “a sacred trust” to bring his men home alive, and he knew exactly how difficult it would be to honour that trust.

Writing to his wife, Mabel, he said:

We have very little protection there and I may not pull through. If it should be my fate to be among those who fall, I wish to say I have no regrets to offer. I have done my duty.

Seven months later, while still serving on the battlefields of Europe, the fields of France, he was re-elected to this House of Commons for the third time.

However, even in such victory, Lieutenant Colonel Sharpe was already succumbing to the ravages of war. He never returned to this House. His life ended tragically, shattered by what he had seen. He had survived the bullets and the bombs but, sadly, he died at a Montreal hospital in May 1918 of complete mental and physical exhaustion. He was heartbroken by the loss of so many young men placed in his sacred trust.

We must never forget our Sam Sharpes or the Woods family of Winnipeg, in fact, Mrs. C.S. Woods, the Silver Cross mother who lost eight sons in that great war.

When we speak to such families that have paid the ultimate price, they often tell us that they were only answering their call to duty.

We need to cherish and honour them and we need to cherish and honour our last living links to what has been called our “greatest generation”. We need to celebrate men like John Babcock and Dwight Wilson who represent our last known surviving Canadian veterans of the first world war, two remarkable men who remain as proud of Canada today as when they wore the uniform back then.

Their stories are of great sacrifice and great achievement. They remind us of who we are and where we are from. And they remind us of the great debt we continue to owe.

British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, explained it very simply in a speech he gave just days after the great war had ended when he said, “What is our task? To make Britain a fit country for our heroes to live in?”

I know all of us here are committed to this challenge and we accept this responsibility. I see it every day in this House and I am always comforted by it. When the passions and rhetoric of question period have subsided, members from every side of this House, from all parties, approach me, as Minister of Veterans Affairs, not for political advantage or personal gain, but on behalf of their constituents, their veterans, Canada's veterans.

All of us want Canada to do the right thing for our veterans. It speaks highly of all members in this House. And so, this is what we will honour next month in France, in Ottawa and in every region of this country.

Canadians of all ages will come together in our largest cities and our smallest villages to pay tribute to our veterans' heroic efforts and to remember: to remember that our victory at Vimy Ridge came with a steep price. More than 10,600 Canadian soldiers were wounded in the fighting. Among them were 3,600 Canadians who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, for freedom and for peace.

Their names are inscribed on the beautifully restored Canadian National Vimy Memorial, the same memorial that Queen Elizabeth II, the Prime Minister and thousands of ordinary Canadians will rededicate next month. There are 11,285 names etched on this powerful monument, a lasting tribute to the Canadian soldiers who died in France and a lasting tribute to the 600,000 Canadians who stepped forward to serve our country in the war to end all wars.

With 5,000 students travelling to France next month, we will ensure that those Canadians from our past are remembered for generations to come and that they are remembered for more than just numbers or finely etched names.

They were fathers, sons, brothers and uncles who answered the call of duty, the call of their country in its greatest need.

They were soldiers cut down in their prime before they could realize their own dreams. They sacrificed what they could have been so we could know a better tomorrow. It is the most unselfish act we can ever know. These soldiers remain a source of pride and inspiration today.

We know that soldiers, in moments of reflection, often wonder why they were spared and not their fallen comrades. They wonder, in moments of silence and solitude, why fate chose their comrades. They often struggle with the question of why they were allowed to return home to their loved ones while other brave Canadians were laid to rest in foreign soil.

That is why I am so honoured and so privileged to be leading a Veterans Affairs contingent to Vimy next month to join some of our traditional wartime veterans and special guests on a six day pilgrimage to France.

We will pay tribute to those men who accomplished, through courage and ingenuity, what other allied forces could not: to capture and hold Vimy Ridge.

We will mark the true birth of a nation when the four divisions of the Canadian Corps joined together for the first time on April 9, 1917, and began what was termed “months of unending triumph”.

But more than anything, we will be going back to France to keep the promise of those who returned home, the promise of those who vowed never to forget their fallen comrades.

I am sure that in the silence of our solemn ceremonies, our veterans from all generations will hear the voices of those they left behind. Those voices will be saying, “Thank you. Thank you for today. Thank you for your gift of Remembrance”.

Battle of Vimy Ridge
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Albina Guarnieri Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker:

There they stood on Vimy Ridge on the ninth day of April 1917, men from Quebec stood shoulder to shoulder with men from British Columbia and Alberta and there was forged a nation tempered by fires of sacrifice and hammered on the anvil of high adventure.

These were the words of General Byng, the commander at Vimy Ridge, who led Canadians from every province and every background in a battle that changed our nation like no other. It was a battle for more than a summit, for more than even the summit of military achievement. Vimy was the triumph of a new nation united at home and respected abroad.

It was at Vimy that all Canadian units in the war would fight together and it was at Vimy that Canada stood alone in victory for the first time.

Their victory kindled our national pride and earned them a place of honour at the peace table at the end of the war.

The heritage of Vimy would see the Canadian Forces take part in World War II, the Korean war, the Gulf war and all our peacekeeping missions around the world. Every Canadian has to be aware of the magnetic power of Vimy.

It is a legacy and a history that each successive government has inherited, preserved and honoured with ever greater care and even higher purpose.

I commend the Department of Veterans Affairs for continuing that tradition by connecting many more Canadian children to perhaps our most inspiring source of national pride, identity and confidence.

At Vimy, these young Canadians will walk through the trenches, the tunnels, and stand on the summit where the most outstanding Canadian work of art reaches for the sky in the very place where thousands of Canadians fell to earth.

Perhaps they will visit the town of Arras, very near Vimy itself, where there is one of the most stunning signatures of Canadian soldiers preserving their memory for later generations to find.

A restaurant constructed in recent years has sub-basements that go down several stories. At the base is a small dugout and on the stone is etched a single word “Toronto”. No one knows who was there or whether they survived.

But what does survive is a message from the soldier of the day. A message that I am Canadian and I want the world to know that Canadians were here, and we made our mark.

The young Canadians on this month's journey will learn that at Vimy, Canada fought as one, French, English, aboriginal, Canadians of every origin. They will learn that what mattered at Vimy was backbone, not background.

On April 9, aboriginal soldiers emerged from the trenches alongside thousands of other Canadians. They stood devoted to each other with a unity welded in battle.

Private George McLean was one of the soldiers who scaled the walls of history that day. He was a rancher from the Head of the Lake Band in British Columbia. At Vimy, he would earn a distinguished conduct medal for launching a solo attack against a group of enemy soldiers, thus saving a large number of casualties. Private McLean was far from the only aboriginal soldier whose valour is part of the history of the soil at Vimy Ridge.

Henry Louis Norwest, a Métis marksman would become one of the most famous Canadian snipers in the first world war. He earned the military medal in 1917 at a peak on Vimy Ridge dubbed “the Pimple”. Henry Norwest would never again know peacetime. He was killed by a sniper's bullet just three months before the war ended.

On the memorial at Vimy are engraved the names of other aboriginal veterans who would never make the journey home, but whose journey into history would change their homes forever.

Their courage and the courage of thousands more at Vimy caused Canadians of all origins to look at each other with greater respect, greater promise and far less distance.

That is the reason so many historians look back at Vimy as a defining and unifying moment in our history.

Our nation captured a key summit, a Canadian stamp had been placed on world history, and Canada had earned a separate signature on the Treaty of Versailles, a right reserved for only the great powers, the most powerful nations on earth.

The identity of every nation is shaped by the great battles that marked its history. For the Canadians, Vimy Ridge stands as a monumental achievement, a place where Canadians have left their mark for eternity.

The victory at Vimy may have forged a nation out of the mettle of our men in arms, but it came at a terrible price.

When the machine guns were finally stilled three days into the battle, over 3,500 would lie forever still on French soil. The total casualty count for Canadians at Vimy in the months leading up to the final battle approached 20,000.

The scaling of Vimy Ridge, the scale of the victory, and the scale of the sacrifice would bond Canadians together like never before.

Just a decade later, visionaries of the day transported the original Vimy memorial back to Winnipeg to honour the men of the 44th Battalion. They knew that what was achieved and what was sacrificed at Vimy was a memory worth casting in stone for centuries to come.

Long before the great memorial was officially dedicated, Prime Minister Arthur Meighen stood at Vimy and made a promise to the men who died yards away. He said:

Across the leagues of the Atlantic the heartstrings of our Canadian nation will reach through all time to these graves in France…we shall never let pass away the spirit bequeathed to us by those who fell.

That is the promise we keep today in this House. We cannot know all the great feats and awful fates that are kept secret under the soil at Vimy. We cannot know all the missions accomplished or the futures lost.

But we do know that each of these Canadians rests in the peace they earned for a grateful nation. We will forever struggle to be worthy of their sacrifice.

Battle of Vimy Ridge
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with emotion and sadness that I rise this morning. I could talk for two hours or more, but sadly, I have to deliver my speech within ten minutes. Sadly, it will focus on history.

Sadly also, many of us do not remember World War I. Let us remember that, in midsummer 1914, our adversaries—I will not use the word “enemy” because it is against my religion—namely the Germans, the Austrians and the Italians, declared war.

Moments after war was declared, the French, the British and the Russians engaged our adversaries. What was our adversaries' strategy? To fight on three fronts.

The first one, known as the northern front, allowed them to move through the north of Belgium and France to seize the seaports in Panne-Adinkerke, Dunkirk and Calais to make it easy to go across and invade the mother country at the time: England.

The second front, the central front, included Pas-de-Calais, South-Pas-de-Calais, North-Pas-de-Calais and the Somme, which ran from Germany through the middle of France, to seize the ports of Boulogne-sur-Mer and Le Havre.

The third front ran from Germany to Paris and was designed to bring about the surrender of France and win the first world war. Such were our adversaries' plans.

Unfortunately, the allies woke up a little too late. Shortly before the end of 1914, the Germans were 94 km from Paris. The Germans and our adversaries had almost a free run at crossing Belgium, which was neutral at the time. The English declared war because a neutral country had been invaded. What did the English colony—since it was a colony—do to help England and France prevail and preserve democracy, freedom of speech and liberty? Our ancestors went to war.

Let us now look at Vimy, through the eyes of the first commander of the 22nd French-Canadian Battalion, commander Thomas-Louis Tremblay, a little guy from back home, a little guy from Chicoutimi. Commander Thomas-Louis Tremblay went to university in Kingston and became a military engineer.

I would like to provide some background on the 22nd French-Canadian Battalion. Toward the end of 1914, few Quebeckers were enlisting in the army and people were trying to figure out why.

There are three reasons. First, remember that in spring 1917, an Ontario law prohibited French from being taught in school. Second, the majority, if not all, of the combatants or residents of Quebec did not speak English. The only pocket of anglophones was in the Montreal area. The militia, which existed throughout the country, was very limited in Quebec since orders were given in English and Quebeckers did not understand English. I am telling this story not as a Quebecker of 2007, but as a Quebecker of 1917. Third—and this is the main reason—contrary to the people from Upper Canada or English Canada, for Quebeckers, the mother country was France.

Dr. Mignault, a wealthy doctor from Montreal, invested some $50,000 of his own money to create, with approval from this House, a francophone battalion called the 22nd French-Canadian Battalion, under the command of Thomas-Louis Tremblay. The 22nd Battalion was part of the 5th Brigade, which consisted of the 23rd, 25th, and 26th Battalions. These battalions were mostly francophone, since they came from the same region as my friend from Nova Scotia, from New Brunswick, and from the Ottawa area, where most of the soldiers were francophone.

This 22nd Battalion, or the 5th Brigade, should I say, landed in France on September 15, 1915. Their first mission was to stop the adversaries in Ypres, in northern Belgium. The route ran through Panne-Adinkerke, Dunkirk and Calais, the seaports, because the adversaries wanted to stick close to the coast of the English Channel so as to be able to easily cross to England and invade it. Our men vigorously defended Ypres. Brave soldiers were needed.

I would like to lighten things up a little this morning. Did you know that the most popular battalion in France was the 22nd French-Canadian Battalion? They were known to the French as the beavers, because their emblem was just that—a beaver. Also, because they were fighting under the British flag, the French wondered why these soldiers were speaking a kind of French they were not familiar with, but that they understood just the same. From then on, the French—from France—took a liking to and respected the 5th Brigade, which included the 22nd Battalion.

Things were heating up. The 5th Brigade started to march. It left Ypres, returned to Boulogne, and followed the Atlantic down to defend Vimy.

I am being signalled that my time is running out. I will try to go faster, or I will ask for unanimous consent to continue my speech for another five minutes if people are interested. Do I have unanimous consent to continue for another five minutes?

Battle of Vimy Ridge
Routine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Does House consent to the hon. member continuing his speech for an additional five minutes?

Battle of Vimy Ridge
Routine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Battle of Vimy Ridge
Routine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friends.

This brings us to Vimy. Vimy had been taken by our adversaries, early in the war, in 1914. Both the French and the English, the imperial troops of the British Empire as they were known at the time, had lost a lot of men as they tried, again and again, to retake Vimy, but with no success.

But General Currie, who was in charge of the army, had decided to change the way the war was fought. It was that new approach that led to the 5th Brigade, which was entirely on the right, setting off from the little village of Thelus at the foot of the south side of the hill, the one that could be seen in front of the mountain, on April 9, 1917, Easter morning. They moved out and they engaged in a new kind of warfare.

Since April 18, the 5th Brigade had drilled using sketches. They took aerial photographs. Every soldier was therefore familiar with the lie of the land, and every battalion, or rather every platoon, because a battalion was divided into four platoons, A, B, C and D, had specific objectives.

We must remember that throughout the war, the 22nd Battalion had only once failed to take its objective, and that was in the battle of Regina Trench. The 5th Brigade, I should say, to be more honest, never failed to take another objective throughout the entire war, from 1915 to 1918. This demonstrates the strength of those soldiers, people from our hometowns in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec, as I mentioned.

So they left Thelus on Sunday about five in the morning. The first small problem they encountered was the village of Farbus. It cost them dearly. There were 40 dead and 90 wounded in the 22nd Battalion. As an aside, in 1920, a year after the war, the battalion was made into a regiment. The following year, King George V allowed the 22nd Battalion to call itself the Royal 22nd Regiment, which is where the name of our 22nd Regiment comes from. The soldiers of today's Royal 22nd Regiment should be very proud of their forebears.

To come back to my account, they arrived at Farbus and used the same tactic. They fired, they launched, they bombarded all of the barbed-wire emplacements and all of the defences on the other side of the no man's land, and they pounded the trenches on the other side with shells. While their adversaries stayed in their trenches, the soldiers swarmed out, like ants, moving to the next trench and hiding in shell craters. And so they moved up, gradually, and on the evening of April 9, Easter Sunday, they reached the crest of Vimy Ridge. The soldiers of the 5th Brigade were the first to reach the top of the ridge.

I have spent over 200 hours reading about the first world war. To me and to historians, Vimy was the turning point of the war. Our enemies' morale was crushed. Beginning on April 10, 1917, we advanced again and again, and we drove our adversaries back with incredible speed. And finally, on November 11, at the 11th hour, in Mons, the 5th Brigade was there when the Armistice was sounded. This was a tremendous achievement by men.

I am very proud of the 5th Brigade and also of the Royal 22nd Regiment. I wish them good luck; my heart goes with them.

Battle of Vimy Ridge
Routine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, the words Juno Beach and Dieppe conjure up images of brave battles in World War II, but before those battles there was the Battle of Vimy Ridge where, it is known, Canada became a nation and came out of its infancy at that battle of Easter 1917. Thirty-six hundred Canadians paid the ultimate sacrifice. Thousands of other Canadians were casualties through either mental or physical disabilities suffered in the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

What made Canadian soldiers leave the fish plants, the farms, the factories, the small towns and the larger towns of Canada to go overseas and fight an enemy they knew very little about? What drove young Canadians to lie about their age to get into the service to risk their lives for king and country?

When the sirens of war were echoing throughout the world, Canadians from coast to coast to coast signed up. There were no distinctions among English Canadians, French Canadians or aboriginal Canadians. They were all Canadians. They all fought as brothers in arms to protect the integrity of the free world.

When our allies valiantly did everything they could to free Vimy Ridge from the clutches of our enemies, the leaders of that day said, “Send in the Canadians and see what they can do”. The Canadians went and they were successful, but at a very heavy price. It is that price that we honour here today and every day.

On Remembrance Day on November 11 we gather at cenotaphs and in halls across the country to pay tribute to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and to those who have served. To the families of those who lost their sons and daughters in conflicts and wars, especially at Vimy Ridge, Remembrance Day is every day for them. For their descendants who are here today, many of whom will be travelling next week to Vimy Ridge, they will be paying an honourable tribute to those who have fallen.

As the hon. Minister of Veterans Affairs has said so often in the House, we will be hearing the echoes of thanks from those who passed the torch to us. Ninety years later, Canadian soldiers are still serving in conflicts around the world, doing what the premise of Vimy Ridge was, which was to free people, to free them from the tyranny of aggressors and to sacrifice their own lives so that future generations can know the freedoms that we know in this country.

The beauty of April 9, which is coming up, is that so many young people from this country will be going over there so that they in turn can understand, feel and see what Vimy Ridge is like, so that they can touch the monument and understand why it is there and in turn can pass on to their children and their children's children many years from now the continued legacy of honouring the bravest of them all, those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

It goes without saying that this has nothing to do with politics. These brave young men and women from all backgrounds left this country to serve. We can imagine them sitting in a trench on a cold, muddy day, sharing a cigarette with a comrade or maybe the last can of bully beef, something they detested, and borrowing a pencil to write that last letter home. We can imagine a young soldier writing to his mom and saying that he did not know if he was coming back, but that he was there to serve and he was praying he would get through it, and if he did not, he was asking his mother to please keep his memory alive.

That is exactly what we are doing here today. It is exactly what a contingent of thousands of Canadians will be doing very soon.

With that, I say on behalf of all of us in the House of Commons to all of those families who remain, who remember the ultimate sacrifice that was paid, that it is a tribute to them that we are able to serve in the House of Commons and pay the ultimate homage to their sacrifice with regard to a tribute that they so rightfully deserve.

We pray for a safe voyage for all those who travel to Vimy. We also pray for their safe return. We pray for all the Canadian military personnel around the world who are doing what their government has asked them to do: serving their country in the noble effort of freeing the world from tyranny and aggression.

Those who have had the opportunity to travel to Vimy Ridge know this, and in the Railway Room here, we have a beautiful picture called Ghosts of Vimy Ridge, so I encourage all of us to once again reflect upon that picture and understand the artist's rendition of what it must have felt like when our soldiers were there. On behalf of our party, the residents of my particular riding and Canadians right across the country, and for those of us who came to Canada as immigrants and call this country home, I can only say that it is because of their sacrifice that we now live in what we call the greatest country in the world.

We make the pledge to always honour all of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice and all of those who are willing to risk everything to serve our country. May God bless their memory and may God bless our current military personnel.

Battle of Vimy Ridge
Routine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

If I might be permitted a personal note, I would like to thank hon. members for their statements today in tribute to the Vimy vets and the great battle that happened on April 9. I would like to say how grateful I am for these statements in tribute to the generation of my Grandfather Blaikie, who fought at Vimy Ridge with the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles, a regiment raised in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour today to present the 39th report from the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which was submitted by the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business.

Pursuant to Standing Order 91.1(2), this report contains an item added to the order of precedence under private members' business that should not be designated non-votable.

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Pursuant to Standing Order 91.1(2), the report is deemed adopted.

Environment and Sustainable Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development in relation to requesting an extension of 30 sitting days under Standing Order 97.1(1) to consider Bill C-298, An Act to add perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) to the Virtual Elimination List under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

Environment and Sustainable Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Pursuant to Standing Order 97.1(3)(a), a motion to concur in the report is deemed moved, the question deemed put, and a recorded division deemed demanded and deferred until Wednesday, April 18, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.