Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming, and please give our best to Pat Varga and to Vice-Admiral Larry Murray as well. I think he is a great replacement for Charlie Belzile as honorary president. I thought that was a fine choice you all made.
On the bill itself, my support began for it when I spoke to the member proposing the bill. What he's attempting is to respect the significance of certain medals and so on and stop them from leaving the country. There's one thing I slightly disagree with, and I know that I've had this discussion with the Royal Canadian Legion before. When medals are presented to members of our armed forces or policing services for the various acts they've done--their CDs, combat medals, Victoria Cross, whatever.... I got this from Smokey Smith before he passed away. He was proud of his Victoria Cross, but he was just as proud of all the other medals he received. Yet it would be the Victoria Cross, if it came up for auction, that everyone focused on. Yet he himself appreciated all the medals he received.
One thing I've said repeatedly, literally forever, is that this is not currency the government gives you. It's not hundred-dollar bills hanging from your chest. These medals are significant for the fact of service, honour, valour, duty, and everything else. Most importantly, a lot of you wear them because 118,000 men and women never got a chance to wear theirs, because they passed on, many in the act of service.
My own Bill C-208, which I think is easier to understand, basically would restrict these medals from ever being sold or turned into currency. It's very similar to what the Government of Canada has with the Order of Canada. You talk about the property rights aspect of it. But if you receive the Order of Canada, when you die, by law, that Order of Canada has to go back to the Governor General or back to the government. You cannot sell it. Now, many of them don't go back. They're hidden, and kids keep them, and nobody really goes and looks for them.
If the Order of Canada can be restricted, then why can't certain other medals or decorations be restricted?
I sympathize with the private property aspect of it, but if you're currently serving and you receive medals, you cannot sell them while you're currently serving. You can only do with them what you want once you leave the service. If you're serving right now, and you have six or seven medals, you cannot sell them. You cannot do with them whatever you want. You have to be out of the service before you can do that. As you said, you choose to do what you like with your medals.
My belief, and I'm not sure if the author of the bill supports it 100%, and I'd like your clarification on this, is that I have a problem with medals given to our heroes in our country eventually turning into cash. To me, that demeans the medal. It demeans the act of what that person has done.
I'll give you an example in closing. There was a recent gentleman in Quebec, one of Quebec's most decorated soldiers, and he died. His son Charles received the medals, and he was going to sell them. He was asked what he was going to do with the money, and he said, “Maybe buy a car”. His family was opposed to his selling these medals, but he had the right to do with them what he wanted. So this man's valour, everything he did for his country, his province, and his people, is now worth a car. I was just so shocked by that. Really, in the end, if you sell these medals, that money can do whatever.
I'd just like your comments on that.
If you could, have you made recommendations regarding the Cultural Property Export and Import Act in regard to helping the honourable member and the rest of us achieve some of the things he would like to achieve and I'd like to achieve, and at the end, getting the Legion's support on that?