moved that Bill C-258, an act respecting the establishment and award of a Canadian volunteer service medal and clasp for United Nations peacekeeping to Canadians serving with a United Nations peacekeeping force, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, Canadians take great pride in the Canadian forces record of peacekeeping throughout the world, a record which has brought praise from many quarters and has established Canada at the forefront of nations doing their part to foster a peaceful world; a world in which human values and needs are not only respected but also supported.
Bill C-258 is an act respecting the establishment and award of a Canadian volunteer service medal for peacekeeping to Canadian peacekeepers having served with a United Nations peacekeeping force. It also incorporates a clasp to be attached to the medal ribbon if the individual qualifies for the Nobel peace prize won by Canadian peacekeepers in 1988.
Recognition would not be limited to Canadian forces personnel but would also include Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other Canadian citizens who qualify.
At the moment there is no means to provide distinctive Canadian recognition for the risks they have taken and the contribution they have made. Thus, there is a deficiency in our honours and award system.
Peacekeepers do receive United Nations medals for such service. The United Nations medal awarded to Canadian peacekeepers is proclaimed by His Excellency the Governor General in Council on the recommendation of the Prime Minister as a Canadian medal and therefore in the order of precedence in the Canadian honours system.
Canada does not have its own peacekeeping medal. According to our honours and awards committee, the United Nations medal adequately fulfils Canada's obligation to recognize our peacekeepers' contribution to our country.
However, the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association does not agree, and after substantial consultation with many other interested individuals and organizations, nor do I.
Indicative of this feeling, a request for distinctive Canadian recognition submitted to the Canadian honours and awards committee by the president of the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association was endorsed by many members of this house, a goodly number of whom now sit on government benches. However, the committee denied the submission, deeming the United Nations medals to be sufficient recognition.
The honours and awards directive reads: "In Canada today granting honours is a gracious, tangible, and lasting way to pay tribute to people whose achievements are exceptional, who have performed outstanding acts of bravery or who have benefited Canada or humanity in general". To be completely up front, it also states: "Not more than one honour should be given for any specific achievement, act or service".
I assure you that I have no wish to dilute the justification, meaning or stature of a Canadian medal, but there is a Canadian precedent. In addition to the 1939-45 war medal, and the 1939-45 star, if they served in any area of conflict, those who served outside Canada during the second world war were awarded the Canadian volunteer service medal as well as any campaign medals for which they qualified.
Also, in June 1991, some 40 years after the fact, a Canadian volunteer service medal for Korea was approved by the Queen's Privy Council for presentation to Canadian military personnel who participated in the Korean war in addition to the United Nations medal won by veterans of that conflict.
It is this same recognition I now seek for our peacekeepers. Other countries like Belgium, Ghana, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United States already have distinctive national medal awards for their UN peacekeepers.
In introducing Bill C-258, I acknowledge that similar private members' bills have been submitted in previous Parliaments but unfortunately were not drawn for debate.
During the last Parliament the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs recommended that a Canadian volunteer service medal for UN peacekeeping be established to recognize the service of Canadian military and non-military personnel who have served on peacekeeping missions. Parliament was dissolved before the government was able to respond to that recommendation.
There are Canadian awards for bravery and valour at home in peacetime, awards for bravery, valour and service in time of war, but despite the discomfort, dislocation, family disruption, danger and sacrifices made by our peacekeepers, we have no Canadian medal for peacekeeping. Regarding sacrifice, according to records maintained by the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association 147 Canadian peacekeepers have made the supreme sacrifice for our country.
On June 11, 1984 a special service medal was authorized to recognize service under abnormally difficult conditions for an extended period. The medal is always awarded with one of four bars on which is engraved the nature of the special service. One of these bars is designated peace
paix and humanitas. The other bars approved and awarded with the special service medal are for service in Pakistan, 1989 to 1990; service with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization since 1951; and Canadian forces station Alert in the Northwest Territories.
What the special service medal does in the case of the peace bar is recognize those who participated in peacekeeping or humanitarian activities which for a number of reasons, but normally for length of service, did not qualify for a United Nations medal. According to award criteria this medal may not be awarded along with another medal recognizing the same service such as the United Nations medal.
While the special service medal properly fills one gap in our recognition of service, it does not provide that distinctive Canadian recognition for our peacekeepers who have been awarded United Nations service medals. Thus, their contributions around the world with the attendant honour and stature they have brought to our country remain unacknowledged by Canada.
Yet as I said at the beginning, Canada and Canadians take great pride in the contributions that we as a country have made to peacekeeping operations throughout the world. Unquestionably most Canadians know and are proud that these efforts have added to our stature in the world community.
In September 1988 Canadians took pride in their peacekeepers' having been awarded the Nobel peace prize. The clasp proposed in addition to the peacekeeping Canadian volunteer service medal would recognize those people who won that honour for Canada.
A peacekeeping memorial monument has been erected here in Ottawa to honour our peacekeepers and that is important, but a monument does not provide individual recognition.
We Canadians should take more pride in ourselves, in our institutions, our history and our heroes. In this vein there is widespread support for unique Canadian recognition of our peacekeeping forces. We ask them to leave their friends and families to face harsh conditions, difficult situations and are consistently rewarded by their excellent responses to these challenges.
We tend to be slow to recognize our deserving citizens. It seems to be a Canadian trait: 40 years to recognize Korean veterans, 50 years to recognize Dieppe veterans, 55 years and still counting for Hong Kong veterans. A peacekeeping Canadian volunteer service medal and the clasp for the Nobel peace prize can be one of our unifying symbols. Its recipients would come from all walks of life, from every province, from Canadian citizens who represent most if not all our broad variety of ethnic backgrounds, the common denominator being their shared loyalty to and willingness to serve our country.
I want to quote from a 1943 directive issued by General Guy Simonds to his commanders in the First Canadian Division. In it he said:
The final criterion of a good or bad award is the reaction of the troops. If the troops feel it is a good award, it is a good award. If awards are criticized by the troops, they are bad awards. Before forwarding any recommendation, at each level the commander should ask himself the question: "Would the front line soldier, if he knew the facts, consider this well deserved?".
Bill C-258 is supported by the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association, by the Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping, by serving and retired members of the Canadian forces, by many members of this House and by many Canadian citizens who have written or called my office.
We need only think back to the comments made by His Excellency the Right Hon. Romeo LeBlanc, Governor General of Canada, at his installation on the eighth of this month.
Addressing the media in his remarks he said: "There is wonderful news out there and some of it you have covered magnificently. I recall the story you told us of Canadian peacekeepers in the former Yugoslavia who put down their weapons to pick up and comfort orphan children, abandoned by their terrorized caregivers. This is Canadian compassion in uniform and we have seen it many times and in many places, from Gaza to Cyprus to Rwanda".
Going on, he said: "It is for this reason that I requested that former Canadian peacekeepers be among today's guard of honour, the first guard of honour I shall inspect as Governor General and as Commander in Chief."
Thus it would seem that despite the reluctance of our honours and awards committee to agree, if we use General Simonds' criteria as a measure, a Canadian volunteer service medal for peacekeeping would qualify as a good award. It would seem obvious from what our Governor General has said, that he too supports the need for Canadians to recognize our peacekeepers.
As a Reform member of Parliament it would be inappropriate for me to recommend an award without considering the cost it will entail. It is estimated that the medal will cost between $5 and $7 a copy and added to that will be the cost of administration and postal charges. As of January 31, 40,594 Canadian forces personnel have served or are serving as peacekeepers. They have fulfilled a total of 52,577 tours of duty.
Additionally, since this recognition would also be extended to members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canadian civilians who qualify, their numbers must also be considered. I am unable at this time to determine how many they might be, but I believe it would be reasonable to project that the total qualified recipients, including the Canadian forces, are unlikely to exceed 50,000 in number.
If we double the maximum estimated price for the medal, to account for administrative and postal charges, we come to a maximum probable expenditure of $700,000; a lot of money, but it seems a small price for Canadians to pay to properly recognize those of our citizens who have brought lifesaving intervention, compassion and assistance to so many, and such great honour and credit to Canada.
I understand that when the private members' bill committee was considering the status of this bill, it might have received some erroneous information which, in turn, may have influenced its decision not to make this bill votable.
We have an obligation to conserve that which is most noble in our past, to respect the wishes of those veterans who have sacrificed so much, to maintain an honour system that both reflects our Commonwealth traditions and establishes uniquely Canadian symbols.
I want to repeat the honours award directive I quoted earlier: "In Canada today granting honours is a gracious, tangible and lasting way to pay tribute to people whose achievements are exceptional, who have performed outstanding acts of bravery or who have benefited Canada or humanity in general."
Too often in today's society we are slow or fail to give recognition which is due. If we, as parliamentarians, are to take action to afford appropriate Canadian recognition to our peacekeepers, it is important that we give this bill a status which will enable us to exert the maximum influence to achieve that aim. Therefore, I ask for the unanimous consent of the House to designate Bill C-258 as a votable item.