moved that Bill C-300, 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, I know you are always well prepared and orderly, but I would just like to point out that one month from today will be Christmas, in case you had forgotten, sir.
I speak to this bill with a fair amount of trepidation because I know the track record of private members' bills in the House of Commons. All members become very enthusiastic and tied up with their bills but I feel very strongly that this bill is well worthy of consideration and hopefully of passing this House and the other place.
Bill C-300 is an act respecting the establishment and award of a Canadian volunteer service medal and clasp for UN peacekeeping to Canadians having served with a United Nations peacekeeping force. The Canadian volunteer service medal for peacekeeping will be awarded to any Canadian, whether they be military, Royal Canadian Mounted Police or civilian, who qualifies as a result of United Nations peacekeeping activity. A clasp, to be worn on the medal ribbon, awarded to those who served prior to September 1988, will represent the honour they brought to Canada as recipients of the Nobel peace prize awarded to Canadian peacekeepers at that time.
Most of us think of peacekeeping in respect of Canadians starting with the Suez United Nations emergency force mission in 1956. However, Canadian peacekeeping actually started in 1949 with UNMOGIP, the United Nations military observer group in India and Pakistan which operated until 1979. In fact our first peacekeeping casualty was Brigadier H.H. Angle, DSO ED, of UNMOGIP who was killed on July 17, 1950.
The next Canadian peacekeeping commitment was UNCMAC, the United Nations command military armistice commission for Korea, which commenced in 1953 and is still in being today. Between 1953 and 1956, 43 Canadians lost their lives with UNCMAC.
In 1954 Canadian peacekeepers were committed to UNTSO, the United Nations truce supervision organization for Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria which is still operating today. This mission has suffered two killed, the first in 1958 and the second in 1985.
Also in 1954 Canadians became involved in the ICSC, the international commission for supervision and control in Indo-China until 1974. This mission cost five Canadian lives between 1954 and 1965. Three of those lives lost were foreign service officers from the Department of External Affairs. The remaining two were Canadian forces servicemen.
Then in 1956 came the Suez crisis and UNEF, the United Nations emergency force which operated from 1956 until 1967 and cost 31 Canadian lives.
I do not intend to take members through each of the peacekeeping missions we have participated in, but from the Congo to Cyprus, the Middle East, Bosnia, Haiti and now Rwanda-Zaire, they did and do go on and on.
In all, to date 150 Canadians have died as a result of peacekeeping missions. If there is discrepancy in this number from the 102 officially recognized by the Canadian government, my figure comes from the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association which includes those peacekeepers who were committed with UNCMAC, the United Nations military command armistice commission for Korea, and those who have committed suicide while on a mission or following a mission. Thus this figure represents the people who died either as a result of the mission or on the mission.
The only specific further example I want to give is that of the nine Canadians who died when their aircraft was shot down in the Middle East. On August 9, 1974 Canadian Armed Forces Buffalo aircraft No. 115461 on a routine flight to Damascus had left Beirut and climbed eastward over the Lebanese highlands. It was being
tracked by Syrian radar. As it neared the village of Diemas, someone in the surface to air missile site there decided to terminate its progress. Several surface to air missiles were launched, at least one being on target.
The Buffalo, commanded by Captain Gary Foster, was blown out of the sky. Nine Canadians lost their lives in this bizarre incident. Although it was investigated by the United Nations, the Canadian forces and the Syrians, no satisfactory public explanation of the tragedy was ever released. The Syrians claimed that it had been accident, that the Buffalo had shown up as an Israeli aircraft on an attack mission in the area and had been mistakenly identified as an enemy fighter. The outcome was nine Canadians were killed.
Because August 9 was the day on which the largest number of peacekeepers have been killed, the Canadian Peacekeepers Veterans Association has designated that day as Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Day. This is officially recognized by British Columbia. In 1995 it was also proclaimed by Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Alberta.
Peacekeepers voluntarily place themselves in danger. They endure uncomfortable conditions and long repeated separations from family and loved ones. They are exposed to horrors of human atrocities, degradation, inhumanity and suffering. They accept tremendous stress and live with the lasting impact these memories cannot help but impose. In so doing they have brought and continue to bring great honour to Canada.
And how does Canada recognize them? The United Nations medals, which are awarded to qualified participants in UN peacekeeping activities, at some time after they are awarded are accepted into the Canadian honours system. The second recognition they have is the dramatic and effective peacekeeping memorial on Sussex Drive which was unveiled on October 8, 1992.
How do other nations recognize their peacekeepers? Belgium, The Netherlands, Ireland, Ghana, Poland and the United States not only accept the UN medals but also award a national medal. Sweden and Finland are at this time in the process of establishing a national peacekeeping medal and Australia and New Zealand are considering likewise.
In 1942 Canadian commander General Guy Simmons wrote to his commander saying: "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 frontline soldier, if he knew the facts, consider this well deserved?"
I did not dream this bill up on my own. It results from a tremendous amount of input from present and former peacekeepers as well as other Canadians from across our country. Bill C-300 has been formally endorsed by the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association, by the Canadian Association of Veterans in UN Peacekeeping and by the Air Force Association of Canada.
The Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association has received letters of support from: the municipality of Annapolis County, Nova Scotia; the city of Kingston; British Columbia Premier Glen Clark; former member of Parliament and Prince Edward Island Premier Catherine Callbeck; our Speaker; the Deputy Prime Minister; the chief government whip; the Minister of Public Works and Government Services; the member for Hamilton West; the member for Regina-Qu'Appelle; the member for Ottawa Centre; the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce; the member for Winnipeg Transcona; the member for Shefford; the member for Hillsborough; and many more.
In the 34th parliament two members proposed similar bills but unfortunately they were not lucky in the draw. Therefore those bills never came to the floor of the House of Commons. In 1993 the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs recommended the award of a Canadian volunteer service medal for peacekeeping but unfortunately Parliament was dissolved before that could be acted on and put into place. In addition, I personally have presented petitions from thousands of people from across Canada in support of a Canadian volunteer service medal for peacekeeping.
It is the perception of these people that the present Canadian recognition of peacekeepers is inadequate. I support that perception.
Our chancellery and the Canadian honours system accept United Nations peacekeeping medals as Canadian. They claim that only one honour can be won for any specific act or service, that new honours cannot duplicate existing honours.
Canadians want to maintain respect for our medals. We do not want to denigrate them or have medals considered as bobbles that are issued on a whim. It is vitally important that people recognize they are awarded only for true merit and good service.
Many of Canada's military traditions originate with the United Kingdom, and the British are often seen as the military example for Canada's forces to follow. But the British are far more generous with their medals and awards than are Canadians. For example, the Royal Air Force Red Arrows aerobatic team leaders quite regularly receive an air force cross at the completion of each successful tour of duty.
On the other hand, only one air force cross has been awarded to a Canadian since the second world war. This occurred for a young Sabre pilot on a low level mission when he was in collision with a hawk. The hawk struck the aircraft at the juncture of the windscreen and the canopy. It took out the entire left side of the canopy. As a result, the plexiglas from the canopy hit the pilot in the face. It blinded him in his left eye and caused severe contusions which led to a lot of blood. In order to see from his good right eye he had
to turn his head sideways to the left so the blood would be blown away from that eye.
Fortunately his number two was able to lead him back to the base at Baden-Soellingen. His landing was so good that the fire truck and ambulance drivers who had been sent to receive him thought there was no problem and they started to withdraw. At the end of the runway on his rollout he collapsed from loss of blood. The emergency vehicles were quickly recalled and he was extracted from the aircraft. No one would argue that flying officer Burrows deserved the air force cross which he was awarded in this instance.
On the other hand, there is an additional precedent to override the government concept that was set when the Canadian volunteer service medal for Korea was initiated by parliamentarians, approved in June 1991, and granted royal assent on July 10, 1991.
There is yet another precedent for additional Korean honours. A United Nations medal for peacekeeping had been awarded although it could not really be considered a peacekeeping mission. It was called a police action but was in fact a full blown war. Another Canadian medal, which shared a common ribbon with our Commonwealth partners of Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand, was also awarded. There were in total three medals awarded for the Korean action.
While Government House can no longer claim that only one honour can be awarded for an action, it has thus far been unwilling to consider submissions that recommend a Canadian volunteer service medal for peacekeeping and the clasp which would recognize the honour brought to Canada with the award of the Nobel peace prize to our peacekeepers in that year.
Moreover, I contend that in any case this is not a duplicate honour. A Canadian volunteer service medal for peacekeeping and the clasp to represent the Nobel peace prize award would represent the first and only Canadian recognition of the death, danger, horror, deprivation, extended and repeated separation from family and loved ones that our peacekeepers endure.
I will compare the service of our peacekeeping forces in the former Yugoslavia with those of the second world war. As the House is aware, the D-Day invasion took place on June 6, 1944. Victory in Europe was declared on May 8, 1945. The invasion of Sicily was on August 10, 1943 and our troops in Italy continued to fight throughout the war. Our people served for 11 months during the European invasions on the mainlands of Germany and France before victory was declared. For the Italian campaigners it was about 19 months.
During the service in Yugoslavia some of our peacekeepers did three or four six-month tours. I understand one soldier did five tours there. That would mean that they were at least as long in a combat theatre as those who served during the second world war. It seems to me this fact should be recognized. Thus I think the Canadian volunteer service medal for peacekeeping would be the first and only recognition of the honour and esteem our peacekeepers have gained for Canada.
What we are talking about here are a couple of pieces of metal and some cloth. It is the significance of these pieces of metal and that cloth that really matters. What it says to those to whom they are awarded is that Canada recognizes the honour they have brought to our country and that Canadians recognize that our peacekeepers have voluntarily placed themselves in danger and have accepted uncomfortable and sometimes horrid conditions, along with repeated, extended separations from their families and loved ones.
This medal, this ribbon and this clasp will say that what our peacekeepers are and what they have done is respected and appreciated by Canada and their fellow citizens. It will say: "Thank you. We are proud of you and you have every right to be proud of yourself".
The peacekeeping memorial on Sussex Drive here in Ottawa is dramatic, effective and very much appreciated by our peacekeepers. However, many Canadians, indeed many peacekeepers, will never visit Ottawa and thus will never see it. Besides that, the memorial does not provide the individual recognition to be worn personally by those who won that honour.
I hope that the members of the 35th Parliament will take advantage of this opportunity to award this long overdue recognition to our Canadian peacekeepers.