House of Commons Hansard #19 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trade.

Topics

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, if transitional measures for unemployed people in eastern Quebec are not renewed by April 10, those workers will have to work two weeks longer to be entitled to three fewer weeks of EI benefits.

Can the government confirm that it will renew the transitional measures in order to avoid prolonging the spring gap for the unemployed in eastern Quebec?

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma
Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, I understand the Bloc Québécois member's concerns about this and, I must say, this is a very important issue for everyone from Quebec. It is very important for the cabinet as well.

As I was saying, we are currently looking into the matter. Of course we are talking about the Lower St. Lawrence and North Shore regions. This includes workers and people from the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region. I ask the hon. member to be patient. We would like to conduct the best possible analysis.

Pensions
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, Nortel workers now have a gun to their heads. A judge ruled the February deal on extending health and disability benefits could not be approved because a clause would allow pensioners to argue for a higher priority if the government changed bankruptcy laws.

Nearly 20,000 pensioners have three days to decide whether to accept the deal without the protection of future legislative changes or lose everything.

Will the minister act immediately and use the NDP bill, Bill C-501, to change these unjust bankruptcy laws now?

Pensions
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, we have an obligation to review this bill in the best interests of Canadians. That is precisely what the Minister of Finance announced, I believe, last week. We are consulting with Canadians and will get back to the chamber at the earliest opportunity.

Veterans
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

John Weston West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canada's contribution to World War I helped define us as a nation and shape the country we live in today.

On April 9 Canadians will mark the end of an era.

Could the Minister of Veterans Affairs enlarge on his recent comments in the House and tell us what our government is doing to commemorate the sacrifices made by our first world war veterans?

Veterans
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma
Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for again raising this important matter.

We know that 68,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders lost their lives in World War I and that the last Canadian known to have served in that war has passed away. I am talking about John Babcock.

In the next two weeks, there will be a number of events to underscore the significance of what happened. The values of democracy and freedom drove those who fought during World War I to give us a better life.

On April 9, a large commemorative event will be held in their honour.

Veterans
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will give the minister another chance.

Men and women are returning from Afghanistan with serious injuries and this government offers platitudes and hollow symbols.

The throne speech and the budget are not rooted in reality. These veterans are asking for changes to lump-sum disability payments.

Does this government have a single new initiative for these brave veterans?

Veterans
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma
Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to reiterate that the ombudsman is also reviewing this matter.

I will remind the member of the importance of giving the right message. Not only do veterans receive a lump-sum payment—they are not left to their own devices with just this amount—but they attend a rehabilitation program and receive 75% of their salary until they reintegrate into civilian life and find employment with a comparable salary. That is what we are doing.

The two measures are linked. I am not indifferent to their plight. We are currently examining this issue to see what people do with their lump sum payment.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Routine Proceedings

3 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Minister of Finance

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-9, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 4, 2010 and other measures.

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

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate term limits)
Routine Proceedings

3 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate term limits).

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

First World War Veterans
Routine Proceedings

March 29th, 2010 / 3 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma
Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, the passing of John “Jack” Babcock, Canada’s last known veteran of the first world war, in February reminded us of one of the most important chapters in our nation’s history and reinforced our duty to remember those who served.

When war broke out in Europe, an astonishing number of young Canadians took up the fight for freedom on distant shores.

Between 1914 and 1918 an entire generation of Canada's finest saw a threat to basic human rights. They volunteered to meet it and they defeated it in a magnificent and uniquely Canadian way.

More than 650,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders served alongside allied forces—fighting to protect the peace and freedom we enjoy today. Of those, more than 68,000 gave their lives and another 170,000 would be wounded. They were innovative and independent. Nothing was impossible.

Battling trench foot and shell shock, they led the events that captured Vimy Ridge 93 years ago this Friday, April 9. The victory at Vimy Ridge is considered Canada's coming of age as a nation.

Despite suffering the difficult hardships of trench warfare, they survived the horrors of Ypres and Passchendaele.

And despite the fact that casualties sometimes numbered in the thousands in a single day, their ideals and beliefs spurred them on so that they could later build a nation that is strong, free and proud.

They propelled Canada onto the international stage. They were known around the world for their unparalleled contributions and accomplishments during the war effort.

Winston Churchill once said:

Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarante2s all others.

The courage of this generation of Canadians guaranteed not only those other human qualities but also shaped the spirit of our great nation.

After the war, they came home, married and raised families. The started businesses. They returned to fields and forest, to factories and mines. These extraordinary Canadians returned to their daily lives and built a great country.

Their sense of duty and service laid the foundation for which Canadians have become known around the world. They changed the lives of a generation of Canadians and the lives of generations to come. Our economy progressed and grew. Our social fabric evolved and our population became more multicultural thanks to this generation.

They gave Canadians a stronger sense of national identity and pride.

Their personal sacrifice led to the greater good of humankind and gave this country the beginnings of the cohesive, modern military we have today. And although we mourn the passing of the last living link to this generation, we must take a moment for reflection and then look forward.

Nearly a century after the First World War ended, Canada is a strong and vigorous nation.

It is the duty of all Canadians to appreciate, really and truly appreciate, the freedoms we are blessed with today.

Today, together with the Prime Minister, I had the opportunity to sign the Book of Reflection in a tribute to the men and women who played a role in the Great War, and add these few words, “In homage to the 68,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders who made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives so that we might live to see better days.”

These books are located in many areas of the country for Canadians to sign, as well. They are part of a larger commemoration that honours and remembers those who have gone before us. On April 9—Vimy Ridge Day—commemorative services will be held at the National War Memorial here in Ottawa, as well as in many cities across Canada. These ceremonies offer Canadians the opportunity to take a moment and salute all those who died in service to this country so that we may enjoy the values of a democratic society.

Let us not forget that freedom must not be taken for granted. It is still under threat. One only need watch the evening news to know that conflict continues around the world and that, in every instance, freedom is threatened.

It is my sincere hope that our citizens mark this important milestone in this nation's continuing history and heritage by signing a book of reflection.

That is the very best tribute we could ever pay to what I would call “Canada's greatest generation.” I say to my colleagues on both sides of the House of Commons today, that I am very proud to be part of a Canada that remembers the First World War.

First World War Veterans
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, we heartily welcome the government's intention to mark the passing of John Babcock, the last known veteran of the first world war, with a tribute to all those noble Canadian men and women who gave their lives either for a time or for eternity during the Great War.

On April 9, long known as Vimy Ridge Day, we will gather in our nation's capital and in cities across the country to pause in remembrance. This remembrance and every future remembrance of the first world war, the war that shaped both the Canadian Forces for a generation and our country for a century, will be different now that Mr. Babcock is no longer a living reminder of the sense of duty and the call to sacrifice that shaped his generation. Yes, it will be different, but as member of the House knows, remember we must. We remember for several reasons.

The sheer magnitude of the effort staggers the mind. Over 650,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders, mostly men, volunteered for service. With a population of only eight million people, this represents close to 20% of the male population. One in five or six men were overseas fighting for the freedom, the dignity and the peace that we enjoy in our country today.

There was not a village, a town or a city unaffected by this wartime effort. Of these, almost 70,000 were killed in action, their bodies buried in foreign soil. Over 170,000 were wounded in body, all were wounded in spirit. A generation was changed and would never again take for granted the cost of peace and we must never forget.

We remember not only because of the numbers of men and women killed in service. We remember also because of the nature of that war effort and the challenge it offered this young country of ours. We remember because of the maturity with which that challenge was met.

It is not trite to say that the efforts of the first world war were efforts that shaped not only our military but our place in the world. Young Canadian soldiers and their officers became known for their courage, their fortitude, their dogged tenacity. This was a war of direct and personal consequence for the soldiers who fought for Canada. While comrades fell to their left and their right, our forces soldiered on.

Our efforts in the first world war informed our contributions in the second, in Korea, in the Cold War, in peacekeeping operations, in failed state initiatives and they continued to inform and inspire our soldiers in Afghanistan today.

This is the reputation of our military forces that endures to this day, both in conflict and in disaster relief, such as in our recent operations coordinating and delivering aid in Haiti. It is why we are valued partners in multilateral bodies minding borders, patrolling hillsides and city streets in areas of conflict. It is why we continue to be acknowledged as a small but significant armed force, bringing our intelligence, our strength and our compassion to the military work in this country and around the world.

With the minister, I encourage all members to sign the Book of Reflection. As we cast our minds to those we might forget in the past, we also cast them to the future, remembering new veterans who will be coming home in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.

First World War Veterans
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, by the time the roar of the machine-guns had died away, this war was known as the war to end all wars. We rise in the House today to commemorate the 93rd anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge.

Previously, the French and British had tried in vain to conquer what was called the ridge of death. But where the French and British failed, Canadians and Quebeckers succeeded. Between April 9 and 12, 1917, they mounted the ridge and conquered it in the face of 20,000 German soldiers, who pounded them with fire throughout the three long days of battle. It was a great honour to have succeeded in such an exploit.

Many did not survive, though, despite their courage. Of the 30,000 Canadians and Quebeckers who ascended that ridge of death, 7,000 were killed, or nearly 25% of the total. It was an enormous sacrifice. Sadly, these 7,000 soldiers did not live to taste victory.

These Canadians and Quebeckers were among 619,000 of their fellow citizens who fought in the first world war. Of these 619,000 Canadians and Quebeckers, 66,000 never returned to this side of the Atlantic.

It was the veterans who called it the war to end all wars. This was a heartfelt call to the ensuing generations, warning them against the folly of war, which brings only death and destruction. It is a cry we should never forget—never again.

The war traumatized all those who took part. They thought it would be a snap and it would be over in a few days. But the war bogged down and the armies faced each other in a new kind of war, called trench warfare or a continuous front.

It was an absolutely horrible experience. Thousands of men went to the front to end up in a trench a few metres away from an enemy trench. Historians say they did not fight very much but died a lot. Men who emerged from their trenches were killed on the spot. Their living conditions were worse than dreadful.

The soldiers in the trenches were called tommies, doughboys, poilus or G.I.s. Their lives consisted of hunger, fear, thirst, rats, mud and worst of all, a terrible new weapon that had just been invented, gas, which killed many thousands. That is what their daily lives consisted of and they could remain there for weeks under appallingly unhygienic conditions.

Never again barbed wire under the feet instead of grass. Never again families in tears, torn apart forever by the loss of a loved one to bombs, machine-guns or bayonets. Warfare was quite barbarous at the time.

Our soldiers may have fought with courage and valour and have been on the side of the victorious allies, but the first world war was nonetheless a great human tragedy. We have a duty to remember those who gave their lives so that we can live in peace and enjoy freedom.

Freedom does not always come easy, and at that moment in time, people had to fight to achieve freedom. That is what these individuals did, and it would be terribly ungrateful of us to forget that.

That is why we are pleased to see this appeal being made to the House today. I, too, urge all my colleagues to go and sign the Book of Reflection.

After the horrors of the 1914-18 war, a moral imperative emerged, which seeded in many the desire to achieve peace through means other than war. Countries got together to create the League of Nations, the forerunner of the United Nations.

Out of these four nightmarish years of war came a breakthrough. Now we try to the bitter end to avoid war through diplomacy, talks and agreements. That was not possible before. Indeed, it is a positive outcome of that war.

Another outcome was the end of empires. Empires had to go so that legitimate democracies could be created. The attention of nations was called to these issues and, as a result, we at least have these forums now to discuss amongst ourselves.

So, we say, may the people forever have the freedom to decide their future, may nation-states forever be free, sovereign and independent.

Finally, my gratitude goes to those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could enjoy such freedom and democracy today.

I will conclude the way I always do, “At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”

First World War Veterans
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, we thank the hon. minister and the government for recognizing April 9 and for honouring the motion that was passed unanimously in this House to have a commemoration on April 9 for the last World War I veteran who, unfortunately, passed away.

As we all know, the great Mr. Babcock passed away in February of this year at the young age of 109, which is absolutely remarkable. There is a saying in military and historical collections that a mission never ends until the last person who serves that mission has passed away. The visual mission has ended but now the remembering begins.

It is our collective responsibility to ensure that not only this Parliament but our Senate and collective legislatures across the country, in the provinces and territories, working with schools and various veterans' organizations, ensure that what those brave men and women did on the battlefields during World War I is never lost in the memory of all of us and those who will follow us in the years to come.

It is our collective responsibility to ensure that we never forget what Mr. Babcock did and 650,000 other Canadians have done. We also must ensure that we never forget the war effort at home where millions of Canadians collectively sacrificed, through food rationing and a variety of other programs, to ensure the war effort went well.

World War I and Vimy Ridge gave birth to our nation but many people forget that World War I also gave birth to another nation, the Blue Puttees of Newfoundland and Labrador. We also must not forget the sacrifice of the St. John's trench when more than 800 soldiers went over the top in 1916 and less than, I believe, 40 answered the roll call the following day. That gave rise and recognition to the Dominion in Newfoundland and Labrador of what a great nation that small island country was, along with Labrador and we consider their population and sacrifice and the fact that in 1949 we were given permission to join Newfoundland and Labrador to make it an even greater country.

This is the sacrifice and the unbelievable tenacity of these people. Can anyone imagine being like Mr. Babcock and lying about our age in order to go overseas and fight an enemy we do not know very much about?

On a gravesite in Passchendaele it states very clearly, “My son left his home so that you can live in yours”. On another World War II gravesite, it states, “He gave the greatest gift that anyone can give and that is an unfinished life”.

Our business is not finished, which is why I encourage, as others have, all members of Parliament, their staff and any visitors who come into the House of Commons to sign the Book of Remembrance in the great Hall of Honour, as well as legislatures across the country. We encourage all Canadians to take a moment out to sign the book and reflect for just one moment on the great sacrifice that so many Canadians made for us.

If we do that, then quite possibly we will be able to educate our children and their children on the great sacrifices that all Canadians have made. For those of us not born in Canada, we have always believed that Canada is one of the greatest countries in the world. However, that country was built and it was bred and it was done on the sacrifice and the blood of so many who went before us.

We are very pleased that on April 9 there will be a national commemoration ceremony across the country. We in the NDP and many of our colleagues across the country will be participating from coast to coast to coast. As we say in the Legions:

At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

May God bless their memory.

Scrutiny of Regulations
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations.