moved that Bill S-213, An Act respecting a national day of remembrance to honour Canadian veterans of the Korean War, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and join my colleagues in support of Bill S-213, an act to establish Korean War veterans day.
I would like to offer a special thanks to my colleague the hon. Senator Yonah Martin, who proposed this legislation, and thank her for her tireless work on this initiative and for bringing Bill S-213 forward. I share her desire to recognize the thousands of Canadian men and women who have served our country and made a significant contribution to international peace and security.
I would also like to thank our Minister of Veterans Affairs for declaring 2013 the Year of the Korean War Veteran. I was encouraged to hear that the minister recently travelled with 36 veterans to South Korea on a commemorative trip. The minister's work ensures that the Korean War will never be thought of again as the forgotten war. I stand alongside the minister as he continues to stand up for Korean War veterans and all veterans.
I would like to thank the representatives of the Korean War Veterans Association for their support of this legislation.
I can assure all members of the House that this government, more than any in recent history, is committed to giving every possible support to the members of the Canadian Armed Forces. We are also committed to ensuring Canadian veterans are treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve. They have brought honour to Canada and we in turn will honour them.
On November 11, Canadians pause to remember their brave countrymen and women who have given their all in the service of Canada. Through this national act of remembrance, we honour all veterans. We honour those who served in war and those who served in peace. We honour those who served in all theatres of war. We honour those who have served in Canada helping our communities respond to and recover from natural disasters. We honour those who continue to stand for peace and freedom and operations all over the world, most recently in Afghanistan and Libya.
This legislation constitutes a specific recognition of those who served in the Korean War and who selflessly contributed to the peace and security of the Republic of Korea in the years following the armistice.
The timing of this legislation is equally significant and appropriate. The year 2013 marks the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice, a milestone worthy of recognition and reflection. In fact, the Prime Minister has declared 2013 as the Year of Korea in Canada in part to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice, as well as 50 years of formal diplomatic relations between our two great countries.
The Minister of Veterans Affairs, as members know, followed the Prime Minister's lead by also declaring 2013 the Year of the Korean War Veteran in his department.
We are proud to honour Canada's veterans for what they have accomplished on land, at sea and in the air during the Korean War. That is why our government has presented certificates of recognition this year to Canadian Korean war veterans. We worked in partnership with the Republic of Korea last month to have 36 Canadian veterans of the Korean War revisit the battlefields where they had served. This trip was very important to these veterans. I will highlight Mr. Harry Marshall, a veteran of the Korean War who said, “It is with many mixed emotions that I take this journey, but it is important to honour all of those who served in this war 60 years ago.”
It is for these important reasons that the Minister of Veterans Affairs has promoted a full weekend to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice in Ottawa at the end of June.
The Korean War will always be an important chapter, a defining moment, in our country's proud military history. It deserves special recognition, which is why I urge all members to support this proposed legislation to create a national day in honour of Korean War veterans.
With my remaining time I would like to talk about the extraordinary service and sacrifice of Canada's veterans during the Korean War and begin by placing their efforts within a wider context.
As we all know, the First and Second World Wars touched Canadians in every community across this great country, from the largest cities to the smallest towns. Everyone knew someone who had served overseas. Too many had lost a loved one. Against the backdrop of those two great wars, the Korean War seemed a bit different. It was obviously shorter and smaller in scale with far fewer casualties, so how could it possibly compare with the two global conflicts? How could it command Canadians' attention the way the First and Second World Wars had? The hindsight of historians has helped us to understand the importance of the Korean War as well as its tragic impact on so many Canadian heroes and their families.
We now understand how critical it was for Canada and 15 other nations to provide combat troops and halt the spread of tyranny and oppression. I do not think there is anywhere other than the Korean Peninsula where that halt of oppression and tyranny is better shown in the world today.
Bill S-213 would ensure we forever remember the courage and sacrifice of the more than 26,000 brave Canadians who served during the Korean War and the approximately 7,000 who continued to serve after the armistice was signed in 1953.
Through Bill S-213 we can guarantee that future generations of Canadians never make the same mistake of treating the Korean War as anything less than the devastating war that it actually was.
Of course, Canada's veterans of the Korean War have never forgotten the 516 Canadians who gave their lives in service during the Korean War; the 516 Canadians who made the ultimate sacrifice defending the right of all people to live in peace and freedom. They have never forgotten their comrades who were wounded in battle or the families forever changed by war. They have never forgotten what they witnessed and endured, from the terrible human suffering to the terrifying violence and unending hardships. They remember the overwhelming odds they faced as they were greatly outnumbered on rugged and foreign terrain. They remember the local families fleeing from their homes with only what they could carry on their backs; young children following, hungry and scared. They remember the atrocities, the executions, the purges and massacres that also left countless civilians dead.
In short, Canada's veterans know the brutal truth about the Korean War. They are our clearest window into a great tragedy and, sadly, the passage of time is taking its toll on these Canadian heroes. Only about 10,600 of Canada's Korean veterans remain, most in their eighties or at least very close.
We have an urgent duty as a nation to preserve their stories and to ensure future generations actively remember. The Minister of Veterans Affairs has taken a very active role in ensuring that Canadians are educated about the sacrifices and stories of Korean War veterans. A national day to honour these veterans will help us do that. Korean War veterans day would inspire Canadians to explore our proud past and learn more about the contributions and sacrifices of such a remarkable group of men and women.
When support came to the Republic of Korea in 1950, Canada responded in numbers exceeding what the world might have expected from our country with its relatively small population. What is equally amazing is that many of the Canadians who served in Korea had already served in the Second World War. They had already witnessed unspeakable horrors and experienced great personal loss. They already knew the terrible cost of freedom and they were still willing to pay the price again. That is what made these seemingly ordinary Canadians so truly extraordinary.
They willingly travelled halfway around the world to serve in a foreign land; a land unlike anything most of them had ever seen. I am sure each one of them had his or her personal reasons for going, but I also believe they were united in their sense of purpose, and I am sure they would have echoed the words of statesman Edmund Burke who once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
I can only guess at how the course of history may have been different if Canada and her allies had done nothing, if we had stood by and let evil triumph.
We can paint many different pictures of what life in Canada would be like today if the United Nations had not stepped in and if North Korea had not been stopped in its tracks. Quite frankly, it is possible we would not even be here in this chamber today as elected officials in a free and democratic country, if not for the courage of men and women who answered the world's call so many years ago.
That is the legacy we have inherited from our soldiers, sailors, flyers, nurses, doctors and aboriginal veterans who distinguished themselves in a far-off war. We are the direct beneficiaries of their service and bravery. We are only able to serve here today because they served when Canada called upon them. We understand our debt in a very intuitive way, which is why I am so proud to support this bill.
I want to talk briefly about my own personal experience.
I had the privilege last fall of going to Korea with a number of Canadian Korean War veterans and seeing the cemetery in Busan, the United Nations cemetery. I participated in the service with those veterans and from the stories they told me, I could see how much that experience meant to them.
The Government of Korea and the people of Korea have certainly never forgotten. In fact, when I went to the national war museum in Korea, I could hear children laughing because it was required for so many young people to come through that museum and see what Canada and other countries had done. The names of every soldier who died in the Korean War are on placards outside adorning the entranceway and on various columns and pillars. There are some 40,000 U.S. soldiers and, of course, the 516 Canadians who died or were killed in action, and some 50 who died in service after the armistice was actually signed.
I am very grateful to my colleague, Senator Yonah Martin, for giving me this opportunity.
What I have in my hand is not a prop, and I do not want anybody to get the notion that is. It is an obituary that has been on the wall of my house that I have had the opportunity to read many times as a youngster growing up. I am doing this right now for my grandpa Don and my Calkins family. It will be tough for me read this, but I will do my best.
Corporal James Alvin Calkins, 25, formerly of Rocky Mountain House, is the second Albertan to die in the Korean War. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Calkins, received word from the defence department that he had died of wounds received in the battle. He served with the Lord Strathcona's Horse in the second great war and for a time in the reserve army. On November 20th, 1950, he was sent with the 2nd battalion of the Princess Patricias to train at Fort Lewis, Washington. He was a member of C Company. Surviving besides his parents are his two sisters, Miss Bertie Lloyd of Nordegg and Miss Jo Fredine of Rocky, two brothers, Joe of Rocky and Donald of Lacombe. Another brother, Robert, was killed in action in the Italian campaign.
There were many families touched by the Korean War, and the Calkins family was one of them. I am really glad to have the opportunity to present this bill in the House today. I hope it has the unanimous support of all my colleagues.