Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to have the opportunity to rise in the House to talk about veterans issues. However, before I do, I would like to pay tribute to you and the wisdom you have shown in the House in chairing the 40th and 41st Parliaments. I will always remember fondly that I gave you your first tabs. You have worn them proudly. The House is better for the service you have given it, and I thank you very much.
Thank you to my Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs members for working together to move this bill as expeditiously as possible. It is good to see everyone working together for Canada's veterans.
While on the subject of this committee, I would like to take a moment to express how much I enjoyed chairing our meetings. No one can deny the earnestness of each and every person sitting at the committee table, and this is to the credit of its members. Thank you for your commitment to helping veterans.
Furthermore, when Parliament is dissolved, two members of this committee will be leaving to face new challenges. I wish the member for Edmonton Centre and the member for Guelph much success, and I thank them for their contribution to the high-quality discussions of this committee. I thank them for their wisdom and for their passion.
For anybody who might be unclear on that point—it could not direct the provinces to let everyone out of school and out of work. That is because letting people out of school and out of work is provincial jurisdiction, not federal jurisdiction.
Thanks to the knowledgeable witnesses we heard over the past several months, we have learned there is a great divide over whether Remembrance Day should be a statutory holiday.
That is a debate for another time and place.
In getting to where we are today, we had some great ideas come forward on how Canadians can best honour the fallen and our veterans.
The whole debate has been very informative and has inspired a healthy conversation about remembrance. Thanks to the members of the committee for that.
We have heard how commemorative ceremonies take place across Canada, in all major cities and towns. Some of these are led at the grassroots level by young and old, military and civilians, by various levels of government, schools, churches, and private businesses. These events depend largely on the organizational culture and leadership.
As we heard from the witnesses, some groups broadcast the last post and reveille—combined with a moment of silence—over the internal PA.
Some employees take time off to attend the local cenotaph ceremony, but anything more organized, on a larger scale, requires strong leadership. Certainly with the hire a veteran initiative and the Veterans Hiring Act, both of which were spearheaded by this government, we will begin to see more veterans in the workplace in the future. Perhaps that leadership will come from them and it will only be a matter of a few years before we see more organized commemoration activities in the workplace.
As an aside, I wonder how many in this room know about the last post ceremony in Ypres, Belgium. The Last Post Association ensures that those who died in the First World War are remembered to this day, in a simple ceremony that takes place every evening.
At 8 p.m. all traffic through the Menin Gate is halted, and two buglers move to the middle of the street and sound the last post.
On July 9, this simple 15 minute act of remembrance will be performed for the thirty-thousandth time. Now, that is leadership. That is dedication.
Would it not be wonderful if we could duplicate the last post ceremony in at least one Canadian community every night, like the citizens of Ypres?
I believe we all agree that the present system in Canada is not perfect and could and should be improved, especially in the public school system. Imagine how much more meaningful Remembrance Day would be with a little leadership, imagination, and dialogue.
The tools are there. Veterans Affairs Canada creates some excellent learning materials for schools and education authorities.
The Tales of Animals in War and the Canada Remembers Times are great resources, which do a good job of engaging students in remembrance. On the learning section of the department's website, schools can also find information on how to plan a successful remembrance ceremony. In reality, there is no amount of commemoration we can give to the fallen, our veterans, and our Canadian Armed Forces members to make up for their sacrifice.
The Minister of Veterans Affairs has worked extremely hard since his appointment to create a more respectful and veteran-centric environment.
The government introduced some new measures this spring to help provide security and peace of mind in retirement.
We broadened eligibility criteria for a financial benefit called the permanent impairment allowance.
As well, financial benefits for injured part-time reserve force veterans have been enhanced. These men and women who have careers in the civilian world now receive the same minimum income support payment through something called “earnings loss benefit”.
We also introduced the critical injury benefit, commonly known as CIB, which will provide a $70,000 tax-free payment to support the most severely injured and ill Canadian Armed Forces members and veterans. The family caregiver relief benefit will provide veterans who have a service-related injury with an annual tax-free grant, to provide caregivers in the home with flexibility or relief while ensuring that the needs of the seriously injured veterans are met.
As well, the process has begun to hire more than 100 case managers and locate them in key sites across the country. By increasing the number of case managers, we will be able to provide improved one-on-one service and better meet the individual needs of veterans. The government is working hard every day to provide the supports and necessary benefits so that Canada's veterans and their families have the right amount of assistance, income, and peace of mind.
Veterans deserve the highest respect we can give them. This conversation on how we can best honour the tremendous sacrifice made for our country over the years by countless individuals is certainly an important dialogue to have and to continue to have. In fact, it would be an honour for me to personally lead that conversation if given the opportunity.
Our nation's serving military and veterans are an inspiration to Canadians. Those I meet at the friendliest Legion in the region, branch 632 in Orléans, prove it to me every day. They inspire us to embrace freedom.
They inspire us to oppose oppression.
And they inspire us to do the right thing. We will remember them.