House of Commons Hansard #46 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cbc.


Commemorative MedalPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB


That, in the opinion of this House, the government should honour the contribution made by those who served Canada's armed forces during World War II at the Dieppe raid by striking a distinctive medal for Canadian veterans of this battle.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin this morning by thanking all the hon. members who formally seconded my motion. As you may be aware, Mr. Speaker, there is a procedure by which members can formally second a motion and up to 20 members may second any motion. I had more than I needed. I had 20 and others who wanted to get on the list. I would also like to particularly thank my colleagues this morning, the member for Kamloops and the member for Saskatoon-Clark's Crossing who are here to second my motion as it got on the floor.

The motion today is to right a wrong which has been felt by veterans of the Dieppe raid for a long, long time. It is the absence of any distinctive recognition of their participation in that particular raid.

I begin by reminding the House that in the summer of 1942, when the Axis powers were at their peak and threatening world domination, 5,000 Canadian soldiers willingly participated in a raid on the occupied French coastal town of Dieppe, France. Operation Jubilee, as it was known, proved to be an allied plan that had catastrophic and at the same time critical results for future allied plans.

The catastrophe was 959 Canadian soldiers killed, 1,200 wounded and 1,900 more taken as prisoners. No other battle in the history of the second world war had similar consequences all in a single day: August 19, 1942.

Despite the horrific losses there were significant lessons learned from the raid. This painfully gained knowledge proved crucial to the success of the D-Day planning in 1944. Without the sacrifices of August 1942 many believe that the success of the Normandy landings would have been in serious jeopardy.

This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. In 1992 we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Dieppe raid. At that time I had the privilege of participating in the pilgrimage to Dieppe, which took place alongside the pilgrimage to Vimy when we were celebrating the 75th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge.

I also had the honour, thanks to the then Minister of Veterans Affairs, of playing the lament at the Dieppe cemetery. The privilege was afforded to me by the minister as a result of my own service in the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada stationed in Winnipeg at Minto Armouries.

I say this by way of a little personal history. I first became aware and conscious of the Dieppe raid when I was very young as a member of The Cameron Cadets in Winnipeg and later as a member of the militia unit, the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada where I served in a pipe band for many years.

One of the people who instructed me at that time, Pipe Major Alec Graham, was a piper at Dieppe and one of the people who played the pipes on the landing craft as they came into the beach at Pourville where The Camerons along with the South Saskatchewan Regiment landed.

I have had the opportunity of being at Pourville and of seeing the beach and the conditions under which The Camerons and the South Saskatchewan landed. I also saw the main beach where the Essex Scottish and the Fusiliers de Mont-Royal landed and the beach at Puys where the Royal Regiment of Canada landed and took the heaviest casualties of any regiment ever in one day in Canadian history.

Dieppe was a particularly tragic event, as many more Canadians are aware of today than they might have been just a while ago thanks to the television series on Dieppe. Regardless of what one might think of the events and the interpretation of events, certainly there is no question that many young Canadians were tragically killed, wounded or captured in that battle.

It is only fitting at this time that the government should move to do what many have been asking it to do for years, to strike a distinctive medal for those who have participated in the Dieppe raid.

I might say in anticipation of what the arguments might be that Canada now has the power to award its own medals even though at the time during the second world war and subsequently we were part of the Commonwealth system of honours and medals. Since 1968 we have had the ability to award our own medals as we did only recently with respect to the gulf war. I hope I am not going to hear from people on the other side that this is something beyond the capability of a sovereign country like Canada to do if it so chooses.

I want to indicate at some point that I will try to seek unanimous consent for this motion to be voted on and agreed upon even though it has not been chosen as a votable motion. We know that the House can do this with private members' motions if the members so choose. I have not had anybody say to me that this is a bad idea. I have had nothing but letters from various members of Parliament from all sides of the House saying that the motion should pass. I have had people eager to second it.

I hope we will not see a government member get up with notes prepared by the Department of Veterans Affairs or whatever to give the contrary argument and say no at the end when we ask for unanimous consent to have the motion passed.

I remind members, particularly those on the government side who may have been asked to do this, this is not a binding motion. It is not a bill. It is a motion and if it passes it would simply give the government ammunition, if you like, in trying to go ahead. It would help to create momentum. It would give a government that wanted to do this the ability to say: "We do this with the expressed and unanimous backing of the House of Commons". I do not see any good reason, other than a sort of small mindedness with respect to the fact that I am not a government member, or whatever the case may be, for not allowing the motion to go ahead.

Another argument might be advanced. I hope the argument will not be offered, but I have heard it in private conversation, that Canadian medals have tended to be awarded on the basis of campaigns rather than battles.

One will find if the records and the situations are examined that this still leaves room and can be used to argue for a distinctive Dieppe medal because participants in the Dieppe raid did not receive, as I understand it, the campaign medal that many other veterans received, the France-Germany medal. This medal was not awarded to them because they did not participate in the events in France and Germany following the D-Day invasion.

At one point they did receive a campaign medal which would have satisfied their desire to be recognized. They were awarded a 1939-43 star but that later was revoked for reasons that no one seems to be able to come up with. It was extended and made the 1939-45 star which offers no particular recognition to those who participated in events like Dieppe before the Normandy invasion.

All the Dieppe veterans are asking for is something which recognizes they were part of that campaign and in this case a particular event that was central to the pre-Normandy campaign. They do not have that. They have been asking for it and I simply ask how long do they have to wait? Time marches on, as the old hymn that is used at Remembrance Day services, "Abide with Me" says: Time like an ever rolling stream bears all its sons away. Time is bearing all the veterans of Dieppe away as it will bear all of us away some day.

Therefore, in this year of remembering when there are so many brochures and pamphlets from Veterans Affairs and elsewhere, all of which are appropriate, why today can we not do something concrete, not expensive and something which will bring Canadians together.

One thing that struck me when I was at Dieppe and had struck me before at Canadian war cemeteries is that row on row, no distinction is made between veterans of the Fusiliers de Mont-Royal or the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Winnipeg. Canadians of French, British and other origins lie side by side in Canadian war cemeteries. It ought to be mandatory for every member of Parliament to visit these cemeteries and to get a tragic sense but nevertheless some pride of the unity with which Canadians have fought in World War II and before that in World War I.

I know there are others eager to speak on this. I hope we can do this. Certainly there is precedent for motions like this passing which have had no expressed opposition. I have a letter from the minister saying the government is intent on some form of recognition for Dieppe veterans. I say that the form of recognition the Dieppe veterans want and that the Dieppe veterans deserve is this medal. They do not want a picnic. They do not want some kind of special event. They want what they are asking for.

I hope the government will use this opportunity, which is Private Members' Business after all. We do not have on the other side an emissary for the government to talk this bill out or to deny unanimous consent. It would be a tragedy and a travesty as far as Private Members' Business is concerned. I have not yet heard a private member say he or she is opposed to this motion. I have had private members indicating to me that they are in favour of it. I would encourage the House to give unanimous consent when the time comes to have the motion voted on and passed.

Commemorative MedalPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it the wish of the hon. member for Winnipeg Transcona to ask for unanimous consent that this be votable?

Commemorative MedalPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Yes, Mr. Speaker, if this is the appropriate time to do so. I would like to ask that this motion with the unanimous consent of the House be made votable and that a vote be taken if need be. We might agree to pass it at the end of the hour.

Commemorative MedalPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member has the floor and will not have the floor again, as he knows. He has heard the comments from the other side and I take it he is not going to ask for unanimous consent at this point while he has the floor.

Commemorative MedalPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I can get up on a point of order at the end but I might not be able to and there is no reason why, if the House is willing at his point, we do not pass the motion now by asking that the motion be made votable. Debate continues.

I would like to ask now that the motion, by unanimous consent, be made votable.

Commemorative MedalPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Stan Keyes Liberal Hamilton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I hope that we continue to hear from the hon. member opposite with whom I have had the opportunity to work on that side of the House.

I respectfully suggest that the hon. member might want to hear first from other members in this House who may contribute to his debate. He might want to hear the reasoning of other members in this House before calling the question he might want to call. He can do that by calling for a point of order later on in the proceedings, a couple of minutes before high noon.

Commemorative MedalPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to get involved in a procedural wrangle. On the other hand, I do not want to be hoodwinked either. I do not want to be trying to get up on a point of order at the end when somebody is talking and not be able to get up.

If it would facilitate the debate and the possibility of unanimity I would say fine. Either I or presumably somebody else could do the same thing, ask on a point of order toward the end of the hour that the motion be made votable.

I do not see anything wrong with asking that it be made votable now. It would not prevent other arguments from being heard. It would not prevent other points of view from being heard. It would just mean that would be done.

I am not interested in picking a fight with the member at this point and I hope that he would be true to his word and ensure that I get the opportunity to do that at the end of the hour.

Commemorative MedalPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Jean Payne Liberal St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say a few words regarding motion M-143 as proposed by the hon. member for Winnipeg Transcona. I am a great supporter of any honours for our veterans and I sympathize with the intent of the hon. member in putting this motion forward.

I certainly commend the hon. member for bringing the issue to the attention of this House. In that regard the consultative process now under way with the interested parties is commendable. I am certain all hon. members trust that the discussions will arrive at a successful conclusion.

I must also point out that this is a sensitive issue. It must be considered within the context of the protocol and traditions of the Commonwealth system of honours and awards to which we as a nation have agreed.

The Dieppe raid was a catastrophic moment in Canadian history. Every Canadian was touched in some way by the horrifying losses Canadians suffered on that day in 1942.

It was also of tremendous importance to the allied war effort. No matter how one interprets the events surrounding the plan of the operation, the hard lessons learned from the disaster contributed to the successful D-Day landings, the 50th anniversary of which we will mark this June.

The veterans of the Dieppe raid have made an enormous contribution to our country and they should be honoured in every way.

I understand the Dieppe veterans' frustrations and I sincerely hope their desire for further recognition can in some way be accommodated. I do want to remind the House that the Dieppe veterans have been honoured in many other ways.

The Dieppe veterans have not been forgotten. They have been eligible for Canada's outstanding veterans program, including POW compensation, a very tangible recognition of their contribution to the war effort and to this country.

Regimental memorials have been erected along the beaches where the Canadians fought that day. Monuments are also located at Puys, Pourville and Dieppe, as the hon. member has already mentioned.

These memorials pay tribute to the members of the Royal Regiment of Canada, the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, Les Fusiliers Mont Royal, the Calgary Regiment, the South Saskatchewan Regiment and the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada who gave their lives in the raid. These regiments also proudly display the Dieppe battle honour on their regimental colours.

The town of Dieppe has also created a small park where it has erected a monument of its own recounting the long relationship between Canadians and the people of Normandy, commemorating the raid on Dieppe.

At war's end Dieppe veterans also received a number of war service medals, including the 1939-45 star, the Canadian volunteer service medal, the war medal of 1939-45 and in many cases the defence medal. Many Dieppe veterans have also received individual awards for personal valour.

Perhaps best known among them are Charles Cecil Ingersoll Merritt and John Weir Foote, recipients of the Victoria Cross.

Lieutenant-Colonel Cecil Merritt landed that day at Pourville. As the men struggled to cross the bridge over the river Scie he walked calmly into the storm of enemy fire on the bridge and led party after party across the bridge with his example.

Despite their best efforts, however, the Canadians were forced to withdraw and again Cecil Merritt displayed his courage. Twice wounded, he led a vigorous rear guard action that enabled many men to reach the landing craft that waited to rescue them. Lieutenant-Colonel Merritt and his men were unfortunately not lucky. They could not reach the craft and were captured and taken prisoners of war.

Similar courage was shown by Reverend Foote that day. Through eight hours of fighting John Foote repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire as he worked again and again to move the injured to an aid post. He saved many lives with his selfless effort.

Then at the end of the battle when he could have sailed away safely, he climbed back down from the landing craft and walked toward the enemy lines to be taken prisoner. In this way he made himself available to minister to his fellow Canadians as they were held prisoners of war. Foote and his comrades were held captive for the next three years.

Cecil Merritt and John Weir Foote were most deserving recipients of the Commonwealth's highest military decoration for bravery. Their stories of courage deserve to be told again and again, as do many others.

For this reason, I am glad this issue has come to public attention. I am very pleased the story of Dieppe presented on national television not long ago has been brought to our attention. It is fitting that Canadians be reminded of the courage and valour displayed by their countrymen at Dieppe more than 50 years ago. We must never forget this chapter in our history.

That is why I heartily support a new commemorative program called Canada Remembers. Over the next one and a half years the Canada Remembers program will mark the 50th anniversaries of the final events of the second world war. It will honour the contributions of the Canadians who served overseas during wartime and the millions of Canadians who supported them back home.

I am particularly excited that this program will reach out to younger Canadians, providing them with an opportunity to learn more about the sacrifices made by a whole generation of Canadians to secure peace and freedom for all of us.

Initiatives such as these are important if we are to maintain an understanding of the impact of the second world war on the development of this country and if we are going to keep a sense of our military history alive.

Canada Remembers is for all of our veterans, the Dieppe veterans included. I hope they will attend the many national and local events being planned for them. The honours and tributes they receive will be well deserved. They have earned them many times over.

In response to the hon. member's motion I would like to recommend that the motion be amended in view of the remarks I have just made.

I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting the words "striking a distinctive medal" and substituting therefor the words "establishing an appropriate decoration".

I am sure the hon. member is aware of the reasons for this amendment. I thank him once again for the motion.

Commemorative MedalPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The amendment is in order.

Commemorative MedalPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Jean-Marc Jacob Bloc Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to take part in the debate on the motion presented by the hon. member for Winnipeg Transcona. I agree with the hon. member and with the hon. member for the Liberal Party that the veterans of the Dieppe raid deserve our gratitude for their courage and, unfortunately, their determination in circumstances in which it was very difficult to survive. We know that nearly 5,000 Canadians took part in the Dieppe raid in 1942. More than 907 died. The operation was unsuccessful and one could practically call it a massacre.

However, according to some experts and the hon. member for Winnipeg Transcona, this operation probably helped pave the way for the D-Day Invasion in 1944, whose fiftieth anniversary we will soon be celebrating.

Perhaps I may depart somewhat from the position taken by the hon. member who moved the motion and say that I am rather intrigued that the hon. member has almost made this a personal crusade. Since 1983, he has been trying to put a motion through the House to strike a special medal for Dieppe 1942. There have been varying responses to this proposal over the years. It was repeated in June 1983 and September 1983 by the hon. member for Bow River at the time, with the same request to strike a medal for Dieppe. All sides of the question were discussed but the medal was never struck.

When the hon. member mentioned earlier that he had never heard anyone say they were against striking a medal in recognition of the courage and efforts of those who took part in this raid, he is perfectly right, except that in 1951, it was agreed by members of the Commonwealth, by Canada and Great Britain,

that medals would be struck only for campaigns and not for specific places, because otherwise, medals could be struck for all the beaches where an invasion took place, whether it was in 1942 or 1944. There was also the battle of Vimy Ridge, where nearly 50,000 Canadians were either killed or wounded during World War I. A whole series of medals might have to be struck.

What bothers me is that whether a veteran defended his own country or other countries in this place or that, against German or other invasions, I do not think we can strike medals for specific places, as if it were a distinction to have fought in such or such a place, as though one battle were worth more than another. I think that in a way, this discriminates against those veterans who did not fight at Dieppe but on Juno Beach or at Falaise or Caen. Why should they not also receive a commemorative medal? Perhaps I am playing devil's advocate because I realize that, in moving this motion, the hon. member for Winnipeg Transcona means well, but I have a hard time understanding the very specific reasons for striking this kind of medal.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Defence, I would argue-and I think that this is what veterans want-that we have received requests from veterans and also from veterans of the merchant marine. My sense is that they do not necessarily want to be awarded a medal, but would rather receive some financial assistance and help in their lives today. We have received requests of this nature. Instead of debating whether or not to strike a new medal, the Standing Committee on Defence should proceed quickly to review specific requests from Dieppe veterans. Since the Dieppe Raid took place 52 years ago, there are not many survivors left and it is therefore important to move quickly on this matter.

In conclusion, since the hon. member for Winnipeg Transcona has sought unanimous consent for the striking of a new distinctive medal, I would like to point out that throughout Canada's history, no special medal has been struck to specifically commemorate a given place or battle in a given war, with the possible exception of the Gulf War medal.

To commemorate a special battle, a distinctive ribbon has until now been affixed to a medal or star. You may recall having read about the battle of Inkerman which resulted in numerous Canadian and British casualties. A distinctive ribbon commemorating this engagement was issued.

Instead of striking a new medal, perhaps a distinctive ribbon or decoration could be issued, as my colleague from the Liberal Party suggested. And perhaps the debate should focus more on responding more quickly to the requests of veterans, regardless of where or when they fought.

I have some difficulty with the idea of commemorating a specific engagement or battle when throughout Canadian history, countless Canadians and Quebecers have taken part in different engagements and have bravely defended their country and others as well. Why single out the Dieppe Raid, even if this massacre unfortunately resulted in the loss of many lives and affected many Canadians? To agree to this would be somewhat discriminatory toward those veterans who participated in other campaigns. For these reasons, I propose that this motion not be adopted.

Commemorative MedalPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Jack Frazer Reform Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, although it may be a trifle repetitive, my speech will deal with a historical aspect of Dieppe. I think this is not inappropriate when one considers the importance of what happened at Dieppe and the impact it had on Canadians.

Just before dawn on August 19, 1942 a swarm of landing craft approached the coast around the French town of Dieppe on the English Channel. The largest raid in history, code named Jubilee, was on. A flotilla of 250 small naval craft was engaged and overhead the largest single air battle of the war was about to commence.

The attack on Dieppe was planned as a reconnaissance in force ostensibly to assist the capability of the allies to launch large scale amphibious assaults against German defences in Festung Fortress Europe. Notwithstanding their lack of combat experience, almost 5,000 Canadian troops conducted the frontal assault on Dieppe. Supporting their efforts were battle hardened British commandos assigned to attack and subdue German coastal batteries to the east and west of the town. Their attack on the guns at Varengeville-sur-Mer to the west was completely successful. But at Berneval to the east they were not.

The town of Dieppe in peacetime, a pleasant minor resort, had in war become a fortress. Though the town itself was of slight importance, the Germans saw in Dieppe an obvious point for a British attack. It was within range of RAF support and it was familiar as the terminal of the Dieppe-Newhaven ferry.

The two storey casino fronting the beach had been heavily fortified. The beach itself was covered by machine gun points along the housefronts and at the ends by pillboxes and a tank set in concrete.

These strong points together with guns sited in caves on both headlands of the horseshoe shaped harbour permitted raking fire right across the beach. While the British commandos achieved partial success, overall Dieppe has been assessed as a major disaster.

My purpose today is to speak in support of the proposal to honour those who fought at Dieppe, not to cast blame on the planners of Operation Jubilee.

Notwithstanding, it is worth noting that Lord Lovat, leader of the successful British commando group at Dieppe, later commented: "Only a foolhardy commander launches a frontal attack with untried troops, unsupported, in daylight, against veterans dug in and prepared, behind concrete, wired and mined approaches, an enemy with every psychological advantage".

The raid on Dieppe lasted only nine hours but of the nearly 5,000 Canadians involved more than 900 were killed, 1,900 were captured and of those more than 600 were wounded. As prisoners of war they would spend the next three years in captivity.

Dieppe accounted for more casualties than Canada sustained in the 11 months between the D-Day landings at Normandy in June 1944 and the German surrender in May 1945.

The assault on Dieppe also became the scene of the largest air battle of World War II. Sixty-six squadrons, Spitfires, Hawker Typhoons and Hurricanes, about 730 single-seat fighters, flew 2,111 sorties in which 88 aircraft were lost.

Dual purpose aircraft and light bombers, Bostons and Blenheims, also supported the operations, losing 18 aircraft in the effort. In all 106 aircraft and 81 airmen were lost. Included were 13 Canadian aircraft and 10 pilots. German losses were 48 aircraft.

Assessing losses, the pilot casualties were considered moderate, the sailors, heavy. But for the soldiers and marines where the casualty rate reached nearly 60 percent, they were devastating. Overall, the casualty rate averaged more than 40 per cent, the highest in the war for any major offensive involving the three services. Many units were decimated beyond their ability to function as recognizable entities.

In the assault at Puys east of Dieppe, of the 500 men of the Royal Regiment of Canada and the Black Watch Royal Highlanders of Canada who landed, only six returned without wounds. Many landing craft never reached the beach and of the 27 tanks landed, only half managed to cross the sea wall and none penetrated the tank barriers protecting the town itself. Eventually all 27 had to be abandoned.

Two Canadians, Honorary Captain J. W. Foote of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry and Lieutenant Colonel C. C. Merritt, commanding officer of the South Saskatchewan regiment, received the Victoria Cross for their actions at Dieppe. Lieutenant Colonel Dollard Menard, commanding officer of the Fusiliers de Mont-Royal, was badly wounded and decorated with the Distinguished Service Order for his gallant leadership.

Lord Mountbatten, commander of the combined operations headquarters which planned Operation Jubilee said Canadians "paved an example of courage, and everything they possibly could be called upon to do, they did".

Another planner and Jubilee's naval force commander, Captain Hughes-Hallett, said: "The thing to remember was that they," the Canadians, "did the operation and that is more than can be said for some of the crack formations which had been selected for earlier operations. The great thing was that Canadians were not only brave but they were bold as well. They were prepared to chance their arm and it was that that made the Dieppe operation possible".

The assault on Dieppe has been described in many ways. The Encyclopaedia Britannica states: "It furnished useful lessons for the future in the problem of invading a well-defended coast. Although the cost was very high it showed the possibility of achieving a large-scale landing under modern conditions while bringing out mistakes that were to be avoided".

General Dwight Eisenhower credited Dieppe with "having provided many useful lessons".

Just a few months after the raid Lord Beaverbrook confronted Mountbatten at a dinner party saying: "You have murdered thousands of my countrymen. You took those unfortunate Canadian soldiers. They have been mown down in their thousands and their blood is on your hands".

The Canadian Encyclopaedia says of Dieppe: "The raid did provide valuable experience for subsequent amphibious assaults in North Africa, Italy and most notably Normandy of 6 June, 1944". It then goes on to say it was a major disaster.

Brian Loring Villa in his book Unauthorized Action classifies Dieppe as a historical tragedy.

Accepting all these viewpoints and after the fact assessments of the raid, we should remember that at Dieppe Canadian troops, fighting in their first major action of the second world war, acquitted themselves with determination, bravery and honour. Under the conditions imposed they were involved in an impossible task. This fact should be registered, regretted and not forgotten.

The Canadians who participated in Operation Jubilee deserve our respect, our admiration and our proud recognition. If ever a battle has been worthy of commemoration by presentation of a medal to those who took part, Dieppe is such a battle.

I urge this House to give unanimous support to private member's motion No. 143 so that Canada can at long last provide tangible recognition of a sad but proud day in our history.

In just four months it will have been 52 years since the assault on Dieppe. Even the youngest participants who survived are now in their seventies. It is long past time for Canada to officially recognize the Canadians who fought at Dieppe.

Commemorative MedalPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Mark Assad Liberal Gatineau—La Lièvre, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to deal with the motion in which the hon. member for Winnipeg Transcona proposes that the federal government strike an honorary medal for Dieppe veterans.

Like all Canadians, we have great admiration for Canada's veterans. No one has been more devoted to our country than these brave men and women, and I am still in favour of giving the greatest recognition for the services they rendered.

Of course we support the intent of the hon. member in presenting this motion, but I believe, as the hon. member for Charlesbourg said a moment ago, that other Canadians sacrificed their lives in the Second World War. We would not want to give the impression that we are overlooking not only those who sacrificed their lives but also those who were injured or marked for the rest of their days. That is not our intention, far from it.

Under the circumstances, and I believe that the hon. member for Charlesbourg was right to raise this issue, I feel that there is certainly another way to proceed. I believe that discussions on this matter should continue with the association of Dieppe veterans and prisoners of war-that would be a step in the right direction. I sincerely believe that the process of consultation should be given a chance before asking the House to act. Above all, we want to show that everyone who fought in the Second World War is on an equal footing.

Nothing can diminish the heroism of the Canadians who took part in the Dieppe Battle. They showed incredible courage and a great deal of determination on that truly memorable day of World War Two. Because of their bravery, these Canadians will always have a special place in the history of this country.

On August 19, 1942, at daybreak, a little under 5,000 Canadians were in position off the coast of Normandy, prepared to risk their lives to break through Hitler's defences, known as Fortress Europe, and to open the way toward liberation. However, as soon as they set foot on the beaches in Dieppe, they realized that theirs was a totally impossible mission. What lay ahead was an absolute nightmare. Hundreds of young Canadians were killed by enemy snipers shooting from positions on top of the cliffs.

We know now that they had been assigned an impossible mission. The surprise effect was ruined. Small groups did manage to approach their objectives, but most of the soldiers were easy targets on the beaches, as tanks got stuck in gravel and could go no further. For many of our men, attempts to make it back to the landing craft proved futile. Finally, fewer than half of the Canadians, many of whom seriously wounded, managed to escape this hell and return to England.

Losses were extremely high. Some 2,000 became prisoners of war and 907 were killed that day. News of this tragedy caused consternation from coast to coast.

I have known many veterans in my riding as well as in my home town, and I have heard quite a few stories about the Dieppe Raid. It is obvious that we are indebted to these men and women for their self-sacrifice; some gave their lives and lie buried in Normandy.

The hon. member's initiative cannot go unnoticed. It is up to us, on this 50th anniversary of that battle, to remind the people of Canada of the great sacrifices that were made for our country. If we have enjoyed unprecedented prosperity and peace after the war, it is thanks to these people. It is our duty here to express our gratitude for it is the highest form of justice on this earth.

I am convinced that these veterans will realize that Canadians never forgot what they did for their country. So, we should support our colleague's motion, which proposes changes designed to pay tribute to these people.

Commemorative MedalPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Stan Keyes Liberal Hamilton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, at first glance I applaud and totally agree with motion No. 143 moved by the hon. member for Winnipeg Transcona. It urges the government to strike a distinctive medal for the veterans of the Dieppe raid during the second world war. I have always favoured actions which pay tribute to Canada's veterans and which benefit these exemplary citizens.

With the amendment proposed by my colleague from St. John's West and with the acceptance of my friend from Winnipeg Transcona the government will have taken a giant step, along with that hon. member, in a process that will resolve the issue.

I am persuaded that members of the House ought to give the amended motion a chance to succeed. In the meantime the government is working with the veterans associations, including the Dieppe Veterans and Prisoners of War Association, the Department of National Defence and Government House to resolve the issue. They are exploring a number of options in order to find an approach that would satisfy Dieppe veterans

while honouring the traditions and upholding the integrity of the Commonwealth system of awards and medals. I am confident that by working together they will reach a solution soon.

I have the privilege of being a member of Ontario's largest Royal Canadian Legion, branch 163 in Hamilton. It boasts a membership of 2,500. Who better to spend some time with, so I did just that last week. I asked the veterans what they thought of the special Dieppe medal.

Veteran Pat Gallacher is the president of branch 163. His first vice-president is Neil Murray, foreman of signals, who over his heart proudly wears the France and Germany star, the D-Day medal, the war medal and the 1939-45 star. On the other side of Mr. Murray's blue blazer is a host of legion medals. Both Mr. Gallacher and Mr. Murray told me that it was a good idea first to hear and consult with everyone involved in the matter of special recognition for Dieppe veterans.

They reminded me that the men who made up the Canadian assault force for Dieppe came from all corners of this country. "The boys were willing to serve their country", they said. They waited a long time to see action; while the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force had been busy defending Britain the ground forces had to wait. For months they trained for the time when they would spearhead an attack on occupied Europe. When the call finally came they were anxious to do their best, but the Dieppe raid was not destined to be a victorious moment. It was a disaster. In the words of Gallacher and Murray, it was the worst thing they ever did, a big blunder.

In the end, pinned on the beach, the survivors were forced to surrender. These men spent three long years behind barbed wire. The legacy of Dieppe has been controversial. My vets say that it was a useless slaughter. Others claim it was a valuable if costly experience that enabled the allies to plan so well the much larger successful D-Day landings. I do not want to add to that debate today.

In Canada, Dieppe casts a long shadow in households from coast to coast. Canadians know why men like Neil Murray wear their military medals with such pride, but for many years they have been bothered by the fact they did not receive a medal that specifically recognized their efforts at Dieppe.

The France and Germany campaign medal was only awarded to those who took part in the D-Day landings in 1944 and the subsequent operations that retook Europe. This meant the men who were killed, who were badly wounded or who were taken prisoner never received a European campaign medal. In the end they had fewer medals than veterans who had faced similar circumstances, despite the fact that those men played a special role in the effort to free Europe.

Both Mr. Gallacher, president of the legion, and Mr. Murray, first vice-president, asked me to consider the American experience, all those American medals from campaigns to sharpshooting to attendance. "Is that what we want", they asked, "will we be striking more medals, beginning to diminish the importance of each of the medals we have now?". Mr. Murray said that they should have struck a medal for Dieppe a long time ago and that maybe now it is too late.

We should give them a bar to recognize their participation at Dieppe to put on any war medal. After all we must respect the protocol and tradition of the Commonwealth system of honours and awards. In seeking to satisfy the interests of the Dieppe veterans we must heed the concerns of all our vets. I am confident we will do just that. Canadians realize they owe the veterans of Dieppe an incredible debt. It is a debt that is in many ways unpayable.

In closing, we want to ensure that veterans have been thoroughly consulted on the matter of recognition for Dieppe veterans. We must be reminded of the courage displayed by them more than half a century ago. We must not forget. I ask my colleagues in the House to support the amended motion put forward by the hon. member for Winnipeg Transcona.

Commemorative MedalPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


David Iftody Liberal Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak on motion No. 143 put forward by the hon. member for Winnipeg Transcona.

The hon. member has suggested the government should honour the veterans of the Dieppe raid by striking a distinctive medal for these former members of the Canadian forces. I share the hon. member's desire and would like to add my personal commitment to see Canada's Dieppe veterans given proper recognition for their part in the ill-fated attack on Dieppe. These Canadians deserve every expression of our gratitude. However, as I will explain, there is already a process under way to resolve the issue and I feel the process deserves at least a chance to succeed. All Canadians would undoubtedly agree that Dieppe veterans should hold a special place in our history.

All members of the naval, ground and air forces that took part in the raid on the coast of France in 1942 exhibited great courage and bravery in the face of formidable circumstances. This is especially true of the members of the Second Canadian Infantry Division who disembarked on the beaches of Dieppe. These Canadians were proud to have been selected to breach Hitler's so-called Fortress of Europe but on that fateful day things went terribly wrong.

For our nation August 19, 1942 was one of the costliest days of the second world war. Of the almost 5,000 Canadians who embarked on the operation more than two-thirds suffered casualties. This included 907 Canadians who lost their lives and 1,946 Canadians who were taken as prisoners of war. Little more than 2,000 returned to England, many of whom were wounded.

Dieppe therefore took a terrible toll on our wartime forces that Canadians have not and will not forget.

In recent months interested Canadians have been taking up the cause of Dieppe veterans. Aware that many of the Dieppe veterans did not receive as many medals as their comrades, these Canadians find it difficult to understand why Dieppe veterans have not been given greater recognition for their participation in the battle. Their concern is legitimate and understandable. In point of fact Dieppe veterans definitely appear to have been short-changed.

On the other hand, we must respect that during the second world war Canada and other Commonwealth countries agreed to a unified system of military medals. Since the battle of Dieppe was a separate military activity outside any particular campaign, the efforts of veterans were not recognized by a campaign medal. There is the source of this unfortunate discrepancy. Furthermore Dieppe veterans were eligible for personal awards for acts of valour. Two veterans, Cecil Merritt and John Weir Foote, received the Victoria Cross for their actions that day.

This is why I am prepared to support the amended motion that would read "a distinctive decoration" instead of "a distinctive medal".

Commemorative MedalPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to indicate my support for the amendment. Like many amendments it is not always exactly what we asked for, but I appreciate the willingness on the other side to make some progress here, to have the motion go forward and hopefully to create the kind of momentum I was talking about before.

I would ask, Mr. Speaker, that you seek unanimous consent to have the amendment adopted and then to have the main motion made votable so that we could proceed to pass the motion as amended.

Commemorative MedalPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair senses that there is unanimous consent to pass both the amendment and the motion as amended.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment, by unanimous consent?

Commemorative MedalPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


(Amendment agreed to.)

Commemorative MedalPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Transferring the main motion as amended into a votable motion today, is the main motion as amended agreeable by unanimous consent to all members of the House?

Commemorative MedalPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


Commemorative MedalPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Shall the motion as amended carry?

Commemorative MedalPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion, as amended, agreed to.)

The House resumed from March 25 consideration of the motion that Bill C-17, an act to amend certain statutes to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 22, 1994, be read the second time and referred to a committee; and of the amendment.

Budget Implementation Act, 1994Government Orders


Winnipeg North Centre Manitoba


David Walker LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, as we resume debate today on Bill C-17 I welcome the opportunity to join my government colleagues in supporting this very important piece of legislation.

When passed, this bill will implement key aspects of the February budget plan, a plan for action in three core areas on behalf of all Canadians living in all regions. It is a plan to spur job creation and economic growth.

That is one reason Bill C-17 revamps the UI entitlements. These savings will allow us to reduce the payroll taxes identified by business, especially small business, as one of the major barriers to new employment.

It is a plan to get the deficit down and to set the foundations for a balanced budget because we have to stop mortgaging our children's future and pushing taxes eternally higher. This bill is a critical step in meeting this goal by restraining parliamentary and public service salaries and by reducing business subsidies for transportation and energy.

Let me emphasize that the fiscal action we are taking will not jeopardize the work that must be done to make the economy stronger and create opportunity. Losing jobs is no way to pay off debts, not for individuals and not for Canada as a nation.

It is also a budget plan to reform social security so we can boost economic opportunity while ensuring we can sustain the cost of Canada's social safety net. Here again Bill C-17 plays a vital role.

It does this not only through the actions on unemployment insurance but by providing the provinces with two years of certainty on federal transfers under the Canada assistance plan. This will help create the stable window of opportunity and co-operative environment that will allow the two levels of government to work together on this critical task.

More important, the critics and the cynics are absolutely wrong in assuming that this government's commitment to delivering on our deficit reduction pledge was mere political coin. Our government's goal is to restore federal economic

credibility, not continue to debase it. The fundamental fact is with the February budget we have taken unparalleled action to meet the fiscal challenge and that is no exaggeration.

Measures in the budget result in gross savings of $3.7 billion in this fiscal year, rising to $13.6 billion in 1996-97. Over the three year forecast period of the budget gross savings total $28.6 billion.

We have also taken action to encourage growth and job creation, action targeted at enhancing our economic muscle and confidence in the evolving global economy. We have done this in part because restored growth is an essential element of the deficit reduction strategy.

Even with the investments such as the infrastructure program and support for R and D, net savings in the budget total $20.4 billion over three years. They deliver $5 worth of spending cuts for every $1 of revenue. These spending cuts are the most significant of any budget in the past 10 years.

Such measures are not a conclusion. They are simply a foundation. Let me echo what the Minister of Finance has said repeatedly, including at a meeting with major European investors today. The message of our government is very clear. The ultimate goal of this government is to eliminate the deficit.

The deficit ratio of 3 per cent of GDP by 1996-97 is exactly what we have always said it was, an interim target, one that has not been met for 10 years. We are going to meet it through the spending cuts implemented in this year's budget, not a subsequent budget.

The results of a major program review launched in February which should identify further opportunities for savings will be included in the 1995 budget. The goal here and in subsequent budgets will be to take us beyond our interim target on our way to balancing the books of this nation.

Some argue that our deficit action is too little, too slow. We believe, and many Canadians understand, that more drastic action could jeopardize Canada's return to economic health. That would ultimately sabotage our ability to sustain consistent fiscal improvement.

We also believe that restoring budget credibility means looking both beyond and beneath the numbers. Our budget puts an end to many of the practices of the past. We have provided full accounting of all program costs. Nothing is hidden.

We built in substantial reserves to allow us to handle unforeseen contingencies without letting our fiscal objectives suffer. Just as important, we reversed the budget's bias in favour of optimistic, politically correct economic forecasts. As we all recognized in previous years, governments would set targets based on rosy projections in order to look good initially, only to fail eventually.

We believe it is more important to meet a target than to promote a wish list and then fall far short. It is crucial to re-establish the credibility of the government's economic projections. Therefore when we put together our budget we use prudent assumptions drawn from the pessimistic range of private sector forecasters. We believe that is a responsible way for this government to act.

Canada as elsewhere has recently witnessed some volatility in interest rates. That volatility makes the case for the prudent assumptions and contingency reserves built into our budget. We have ensured substantial room for manoeuvre. Interest rate fluctuations are not going to knock us off course. We remain confident that we will hit our targets.

I am glad to see that this confidence is shared by the Royal Bank's Ed Neufeld, the executive vice-president of economic affairs. I understand that at the Royal Bank's annual spring briefing on the economy last week he shared his view that we, the Government of Canada, are on track this year to reach our deficit reduction target.

At the same briefing the Royal Bank also forecasted that Canadian growth will accelerate to 3.5 per cent this year and 4.3 per cent in 1995. It is worth noting that this 1994 forecast is in complete harmony with preliminary reports on the upcoming IMF forecasts for Canadian growth this year.

These forecasts exceed the prudent projections on which our 1994 budget was based. They reflect what I believe was an objective assessment of the growing strength of our economic fundamentals, strength that the budget and other federal actions have contributed to.

Canada is now one of the lowest inflation countries in the world. We are going to stay that way. Last December the Governor of the Bank of Canada and the finance minister announced that the inflation targets which anchor our monetary policy, among the toughest in the world, will continue through 1998.

Another key fundamental is restoring fiscal responsibility to our public finances, a major goal of this legislation, Bill C-17. Let me again emphasize that we are working with the provinces to improve the national debt situation because this truly is a national problem. There are real grounds for renewed national confidence that this challenge can and will be met. It is clear that across Canada governments are applying themselves steadily to the course of fiscal discipline.

Let us remember that fiscal action by governments is only part of the answer for long term balanced budgets. A growing economy is also essential if our debt build-up is to be reversed. Here again there are real grounds for confidence. The economy is starting to grow more firmly. Growth was 3.8 per cent in the last quarter of last year based on solid exports and investment performance.

Surveys for 1994 indicate that public and private sector investment will be up an impressive 4.2 per cent over 1993. Strong gains and competitiveness are behind the firming of economic growth and they too augur well for the future.

Unit labour costs are down and productivity is up. The big unit cost gap that opened up between Canada and the United States has essentially been closed. Our record export growth is the result.

Those facts paint a picture of a competitive economy moving in the right direction. This was further confirmed by the March labour force numbers that came out last Friday. The unemployment rate dropped a full half percentage point, the largest contraction in 10 years since June 1984, and 114,000 new jobs have been created over the last two months, the strongest two month gain in almost five years. I welcome such news and all Canadians welcome this type of news.

There is no question we continue to face challenges and uncertainties. Dislocations can always emerge, sapping public confidence. That is why good news is never an excuse for complacency. That is why we will forge ahead with our strategy of re-engineering the way government operates and the programs it provides. These contribute to a stronger, more flexible Canadian economy.

Our action on unemployment insurance is an excellent example. We reduce spending on UI, something that will save us money. That also means we can roll back payroll taxes that have cost jobs across this country.

Looking at Europe anyone can see the cost of rigid labour market policies. We in Canada were close to developing a similar rigidity. We have now begun to move toward a more flexible system.

The redesign of unemployment insurance with greater emphasis on training to reintegrate the jobless and to discourage habitual dependence will make Canada's labour market much more flexible and efficient than is currently the case. The ultimate result will be a greater national capability to generate growth and, most important, jobs.

I have highlighted areas where our government is committed to fundamental, forward looking change, deficit reduction, support for job creation, social program reform, the process of budget making.

In closing, there is another area of change I want to emphasize. In our endeavour we are taking a new approach to the work of government. It is an approach based on openness, consultation and communication. That is why we framed the 1994 budget as the first part of a two stage process. It took immediate action to meet vital immediate goals but also launched the process of policy review and public debate that will lead to further action in time.

Such an approach is not a case of deferring action or evading responsibility and leadership. Rather, it addresses a fundamental fact in Canadian life, a fact that impacts directly on economic relations. That fact, most important to this government, is that without reasonable consensus and a real sense of public participation and public ownership dramatic change can become a disastrous failure. We do not intend to create this type of failure because Canadians deserve success.

This budget was developed in the most open process we have seen in Canadian political history. It involved meetings across the country and involved an opportunity for Canadians to write the minister, participate in meetings and make their views known.

This process of openness will continue. We have evolved an open process on the budget in which we gave people in different cities a chance to set out the parameters for the expansion of the economy, for assisting the unemployed, for creating jobs and at the same time to begin to deal with the deficit which is a very real burden for all Canadians.

We will continue this process through the House of Commons, through the committee on finance this fall in which we anticipate the 1995 budget process will be even more open and more visible and more transparent so that Canadians can begin to understand and feel part of a process that spends billions of their dollars each year.

This bill will help achieve that success by moving us to real bottom line fiscal improvement and renewed business and investor confidence.

For this reason I have no hesitation in encouraging all members here today to pass this legislation so that we can continue to move ahead with vigour and vision.

Budget Implementation Act, 1994Government Orders

12:15 p.m.


Jean-Paul Marchand Bloc Québec-Est, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened attentively to the hon. member's remarks and I feel that they represent the views of the Liberal Party. He is content with the budget initiatives put forward by the federal government and I find his speech extremely dangerous, despite his eloquence. He may be trying to lull people into a false sense of security. You know about the current crisis in Canada. I saw the poverty in my riding two weeks ago. One does not have to look very far to see that poverty is widespread; unemployment is very serious and people are concerned about the confidence they placed in the current government because they know that it did not do much in its last budget. It tried lukewarm measures that lack conviction, that lack direction.

For example, to reduce the deficit, the hon. member seems content with the deficit reduction that was announced and with the fact that the goal may be achieved, but I feel that several

other measures could have been proposed to reduce this extremely alarming deficit that shook the stock market and sent the dollar tumbling.

We in the Bloc Quebecois have proposed several measures to bring down the deficit, including cutting the fat from the federal government. There are hardly any measures in the budget to reduce waste in the federal government.

Would the hon. member agree to help reduce Canada's deficit? Would he agree to set up a parliamentary committee to examine spending and waste in government?

Budget Implementation Act, 1994Government Orders

12:15 p.m.


David Walker Liberal Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his questions. Poverty in this country is a very important issue to me because my riding is among the poorest in the country. In addition, in this budget, we tried to cover these issues of poverty and the deficit. We will ask the finance committee to discuss these questions in detail.

I think that the balance of trying to deal with questions of poverty, whether it be in Montreal or Winnipeg, is the question that haunts this whole country, This government does not for one minute take lightly the limitations it has in dealing with questions of poverty.

As a former critic on social policy for this caucus in opposition, I know we were very critical of the last government for not addressing questions of poverty. That is why we stabilized equalization payments and why in this particular act we have stabilized the Canada assistance plan. We have moved away from the war against the poor and moved toward supporting initiatives that can help them.

The Minister of Human Resources Development is very active. In fact he participated in a meeting this morning dealing with questions of income security and reforms to unemployment insurance to ensure they do not turn out to be an attack on those who are in need.

The President of the Treasury Board is addressing the questions of waste and the budget not only on an annual basis but I would say on a weekly basis. Great progress is being made to overcome questions of waste in individual programs.