Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to speak to the bill introduced by the member for Algoma—Manitoulin concerning the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
However, before speaking directly about this bill, I would like to take a few moments to pay tribute to the memory of Lieutenant Lucien Olivier Larocque, who died a few days ago in Sorel-Tracy and whose funeral service will be held Thursday morning of this week.
Mr. Larocque was the co-founder of the Sorel-Tracy branch of the Canadian legion, branch 117, in 1954. He devoted many years of his life to hosting and chairing the legion. He was a upright and honest man, dedicated and proud of his military background; he had served overseas. He was admired by all for his outstanding leadership and organizational abilities. He was the life and soul of the Sorel-Tracy branch of the Canadian legion and was its inspiration for many years. The legion's reception hall was named after him, in recognition of his talents.
In addition to his deep involvement with the legion, he was also very proud of his family. Personally, and on behalf of all of the members of the Royal Canadian Legion of Sorel-Tracy, of which I am a member, I would like to offer my condolences to all of his family, especially to his three children. I would also like to tell them how much we owe him for preserving, for so many years, the memory of those who shed their blood or who fought to defend peace and freedom.
In the words of the great French author, Alexandre Dumas, “Those whom we have loved and lost are no longer where they were, but they continue forever to be wherever we are”. Farewell, Lieutenant Lucien Olivier Larocque. We will always remember you.
The members of the Bloc Quebecois are happy to vote for Bill C-403, now before the House, to designate April 9 as a national day of remembrance of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
The Battle of Vimy Ridge, in France, where 60,000 Quebecers and Canadians lost their lives in 1917, was a turning point that led to the final allied victory.
Vimy Ridge was central to the German defence system. One hundred thousand Quebecers and Canadians took part in this historic battle.
I would like to salute all of the soldiers, but especially those from Quebec, the Royal Montreal Regiment, the 22nd Regiment of Quebec City, the Victoria Rifles of Canada from Montreal, the Black Watch from Montreal and the 87th Battalion of the Grenadiers from Montreal, which were all present during the battle. Following the battle, a historian wrote:
They are too near to be great. But our children shall understand, when and how our fate was changed, and by whose hand.
After more than 85 years, we still remember the heroism, the self sacrifice, the abnegation and the will to vanquish of these valiant soldiers.
We therefore support this bill presented by the Liberal member, and we also hope that his government will consider the need to financially support our legions, as I asked of the parliamentary secretary a few months ago, during another debate.
What would be the use of commemorating battles if, in each region, there was no one in the legions to lead the celebrations, plan them, make people aware of these historical acts and tell them that if they are living in peace and freedom today it is because others made the ultimate sacrifice and fought as heroes so that we could be free.
We need people in the legions to remind us of this event, and the legions must be financially sustainable. This is probably what Mr. Larocque had in mind when he founded our legion. Today, if he could, he would certainly tell the government “Help us carry out this mission we have been resolutely carrying out for the past 50 years.”
We now have a Standing Committee on Veteran Affairs. It seems to me it should deal with the issue and review the financial situation of our legions so that they can afford to remind us of our soldiers and of the battle of Vimy the Liberal member and the Canadian Alliance member just talked about. .
Our founders are leaving us, as Mr. Larocque did, but their work must be continued. The government must support their work, namely the founding of the legions, so that they can keep alive the memory of our soldiers' heroic actions during the various wars they took part in.
In conclusion, I would say that people in the various Canadian legions who are listening to this debate on the battle of Vimy and who remember and want us to remember this battle, which was a turning point in the history of the World War I, are sending an urgent appeal. Our legions are experiencing financial difficulties. They do not need millions, only a few thousand dollars a year to survive and keep on raising the awareness of young people and the population at large. I would be very happy to again take part in the consideration of this bill.