Mr. Speaker, I am excited to be back here. I am as excited as I can possibly get to come back to Ottawa. I am so comfortable when I go back to my riding, if I can use those terms, that it definitely feels like I am away from home when I come back to Ottawa. I will get on with my presentation, Mr. Speaker.
It is encouraging to hear the parliamentary secretary support the creation of this peacekeeping medal. I trust he will follow through with his suggestion of just looking after some minor amendments to make it happen.
It is my distinct honour to speak to Bill C-300 which is the design of my colleague from Saanich-Gulf Islands. I support without reservation the spirit and the substance of the proposed legislation before the House today.
It has been said that this bill seeks to correct a wrong, to correct a very serious omission of not awarding recognition in a formal sense to the tremendous contribution that Canadian peacekeepers have made. The bill asks that the Canadian government make available a medallion and clasp in recognition of the bravery of our peacekeepers.
If there is any question of the appropriateness of bestowing such recognition one should consult history. I quote Commander General Guy Simonds in 1942. He surmised: "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 the awards are criticized by the troops, they are bad awards". He goes on to say: "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?"'
In light of General Simonds recommendation for the criterion one should use in consideration of an award to the peacekeeping personnel, there can be no question of the course of action we, as parliamentarians, should pursue. We know that it was input from the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association that moved my colleague from Saanich-Gulf Islands to introduce Bill C-300.
I suggest that everyone in this House has a friend, an acquaintance, who has served on a peacekeeping mission. In fact, in my own riding, I have a consistent visitor, Mr. Ron Howard, who has conversed frequently with the Department of National Defence over this peacekeeping initiative. He has been keeping me up to date on the feelings of the veterans, those who really laid their lives down to make this world a better place. I respect him for his persistence. I respect him for his consideration of his fellow soldiers, his colleagues. I certainly respect him for his dealings with myself in pushing me forward and keeping me abreast of the concerns that many of the veterans have, especially the peacekeeping veterans.
They appreciate their United Nations medals and it is their hope and desire that Canada provide a distinctive recognition for their peacekeeping efforts. It is therefore only fitting that a volunteer service medal be awarded by the Government of Canada to peacekeepers who have served our nation well. This legislation would authorize the issuance of such a medallion.
I would also like to state for the record that there can be no question that Canadians soldiers are the bravest in the world. Time and time again our personnel have demonstrated ability and courage under difficult circumstances and in perilous situations. I think of Bosnia and some of the very tense moments when our peacekeepers were nailed down and sequestered, even entrapped in some areas in a very dangerous situation. They are recognized for their bravery and courage.
It is noteworthy that in this legislation there are provisions for the recognition of members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other Canadian citizens who qualify. This is a significant and proper recognition, given the increasingly perilous situations RCMP officers find themselves in overseas.
I had the opportunity to ride back on a plane with a troop of RCMP officers who had served in Bosnia. I do not think it is well known that we have RCMP officers serving in that capacity, teaching the rule of law to those in other nations where there is conflict. Of course there is more recognition in Haiti.
It is a tough situation to be in an area of conflict without any weapons. Those officers inform me that often they were sequestered in one room with really nothing to defend themselves because of the conflict raging on around them. That is a tough situation to be in. I believe that it is fitting to recognize them for those brave acts. They are jeopardizing their lives by falling into those circumstances.
The RCMP troops were sent over overseas to train fledgling police departments the principles that are central to our democracy, for example, the fair and unbiased application of the law and the separation of politics from policing, something that is unfortunately deteriorating in this part of the world. For that reason the RCMP officers should, for their contribution to Canada's peacekeeping efforts, be recognized.
In summary, I would like to state some of the obvious. There is justification for looking at history and bringing it forward in a manner so that it can be recognized by the public that there is a need to recognize our soldiers. Among the reasons for supporting this legislation is providing a distinctive Canadian recognition to all Canadians who have served with the United Nations peacekeeping force by awarding a Canadian volunteer service medal, and to give recognition for the September 30, 1988 Nobel peace prize awarded to Canadian peacekeepers signified by a clasp on the medal's ribbon.
The 34th Parliament supported this initiative through the introduction of two private members' bills. The standing committee on defence and veterans affairs in a peacekeeping report called for the establishment of a Canadian volunteer service medal for United Nations peacekeeping. Another reason for support is the endorsement of a distinct Canadian recognition for our peacekeepers comes from the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association and the Canadian Association United Nations Peacekeeping Chapter.
There is a lot of support at all levels. Other countries, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland, Ghana and the United States already have distinctive national medal awards for peacekeeping. We would not be alone.
Parliament set a precedent in June 1991 by approving the award of the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal for Korea to its Canadian personnel. This is, in addition to the UN medal, awarded to veterans of the Korean war and a Canadian medal worn with a ribbon shared with the Commonwealth countries of Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
Recognition would not be limited to the Canadian forces but would include the RCMP and other Canadians who qualify. I believe that would be a wonderful addition because so many others within our different agencies are risking their lives to support world peace.
Finally, other nations such as Sweden and Finland are establishing a medallion award for their peacekeepers. New Zealand and Australia are also considering such an award. It is therefore only fitting that Canada not be left out.
I urge my colleagues on the opposite side of the House to quickly rush through whatever amendments would be deemed necessary to quickly finalize this initiative by my colleague for Saanich-Gulf Islands.