Mr. Speaker, 50 years ago today boys became men. Fifty years ago today men became heroes.
Mr. Speaker, I was there this morning with all other hon. members who felt an incredible pride when the national anthem O Canada was sung everywhere for those who worked for democracy in Canada 50 years ago.
D-Day began the Normandy campaign. The Normandy campaign began the liberation of Europe.
Today we honour the 14,000 young soldiers who landed on Juno Beach. We honour the 1,000 who were killed during that landing and we honour the combined efforts of millions of women and men who sacrificed terribly for five years to end the scourge of Nazism.
The Regina Rifle Regiment, the Canadian Scottish Regiment, the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, le régiment de la Chaudière, the North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment, the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada, the Stormont Dundas Glengarry Highlanders, the North Nova Scotia Islanders, the Highland Light Infantry, the Cameron Islanders of Ottawa, the First Canadian Parachute Battalion, les Fusilliers de Sherbrooke, the Fort Garry Horse Regiment and the Sixth Armoured Division.
The names ring of history but the landing on the beach of Normandy was not the romance of history books. War is not romantic. Real human beings died on the beach. Real human beings died in the frigid channel. Real human beings died on the barbed wire. Real human beings lost husbands, fathers, brothers and friends. Real human beings lost their children.
Many of us alive today have no memories of D-Day and yet we must remember. To paraphrase the Prime Minister speaking this morning as he did so eloquently in Normandy: "They didn't ask us if we were Quebecers, Ontarians, westerners, easterners; they didn't ask us what language we spoke when they called us to the service of our country, and we responded literally by the hundreds of thousands".
Yes, I was proud this morning. I was proud to hear O Canada , which symbolizes democracy because of everyone who died 50 years ago. Very few of us will ever be called upon to display as much courage as our soldiers on the beaches of Normandy.
My great-grandfather, an Acadian whose name was Gaudreault and who died in the First World War, the Magdalen Islanders and people from all over rallied to the cause of democracy and represented Canada with incredible pride. Very few of us will have to choose to give our lives for others' freedom.
The liberty to speak out; the liberty to separate; the liberty to exercise democracy in a way that Canada has shown both at Dieppe and on D-Day and over the years that they did not die in vain.
As we celebrate the decisive battle for the liberation of Europe, we praise the survivors and we mourn the dead.
It would be wrong to imagine that victory was foreordained. The war was not a book or a movie in which the good guys were bound to win. Except for the bravery of our soldiers and our allies, we could be living under the swastika today. Our soldiers faced down a criminal regime which deliberately murdered millions of people.
The efforts of 50 years ago set the foundation for peace and unity in Europe and the democracy that we experience in our country today.
Our way of life, our prosperity, our pride in being Canadian, our being ranked first among all coutries in the world, our individual and collective freedom, our sense of international community were built on the determination of all those soldiers who had to land in the icy waters of the English Channel on June 6, 1944. Thanks to them, the Gaudreaults, the Baldwins and the Clancys, thanks to them, we have made tremendous strides in the past fifty years and forged solid ties of friendship with other peoples.
The great danger is the belief it could never happen again. The sad reality is that today in many places throughout the world forces of great evil are in control and are continuing to slaughter innocent people. Hundreds of millions of human beings on our earth remain deprived of the most basic human rights.
Hundreds of millions of human beings in this world are deprived of the most basic human rights. Hundreds of millions of our brothers and sisters live under tyrannical and murderous regimes.
The vigil for peace must be constant. We pay true honour to our heroes only if we use the lessons of the past to guide us into the future. We pay true honour to our heroes only if we understand that liberty and freedom can never be taken for granted.
We pause today for a few moments of reflection out of respect, but our obligations remain for a lifetime. Our duty is to pass on to coming generations the principles for which our armed forces fought on D-Day.
Throughout Canada today children prepare for their summer vacations and their trips to the beach without a care because 50 years ago soldiers, barely older than children, put their lives on the line on the beaches of Normandy. People gave up their youth to safeguard the future of young people.
We say prayers for those who lost their lives and we offer thanks to those who survived. However, we remember that the soldiers at Normandy did not fight just so that we could say a few words of thanks. They fought to give us a chance to build a better world. Our true thanks can only come through our actions in offering future generations the same opportunities that they gave to us.
We can best pay tribute for the sacrifices made 50 years ago if we keep faith with the ideals that inspired those sacrifices.
Sometimes democracy hurts.
Sometimes democracy and free speech hurt. Sometimes they hurt people who are concerned about the future of their country, but the reality is that what Normandy gave us 50 years ago is the opportunity to stand in this place and fight for the survival of our country or for its breakup. The reality of what those soldiers did on D-Day was to bring to Canada a real sense of liberation that says: "Whatever your views, whatever your opinions, whatever your agenda, we welcome them" because that is the democracy for which they fought.