House of Commons Hansard #133 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nafta.


Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Members have heard the suggested change to the motion standing in the name of the member for Nepean—Carleton. Is there unanimous consent for the hon. member to move the motion?

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Therefore debate is on the original motion.

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.


David Pratt Liberal Nepean—Carleton, ON

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this motion today. The motion as it appears is to declare June 15 as Canadian forces day. I understand that my colleague, the hon. member for Hillsborough, may be moving an amendment that would reflect my earlier comments in this regard.

I will give members a bit of the history of this motion. It was introduced on March 18, 1998. It is perhaps a testament to the speed with which the wheels of parliament turn that it has taken over two years to have it considered by the House.

Some members would no doubt say that I should count myself lucky that I got an item on for debate at all. I can assure them that I feel fortunate to be able to have this item considered. Nevertheless, I cannot help but think that there absolutely has to be a better way to deal with private members' business. I very much hope that the next parliament will address this issue in a comprehensive and effective manner. That discussion very clearly is for another day.

On the item before us, I must say that I have been gratified by the amount of support expressed for the particular measure. The motion received a great deal of support from the members of the House. I should remind members that this was one of the items for which there were 100 signatures of members, from both sides of the House.

In circulating the petition on this motion, I received some very supportive comments. Indeed there were some expressions of surprise that the country had not already done something of this nature to honour the men and women who serve in the Canadian forces.

I should say as well that in consultations I had with members of the House and with the Minister and the Department of National Defence, I have revised the motion, as I indicated earlier. Those revisions reflect the changes in terms of the consultations I had with regard to the motion.

The reason for the change is quite simple. If we fix a date on a weekend, it is more likely that Canadians across this great country of ours would be able to more readily participate in community events and ceremonies.

What is the motion all about? Quite simply, the purpose of the motion is to thank all the men and women who serve us while in the uniform of the Canadian forces.

Some might ask why such a measure is necessary today. After all, we have so many people in the country who perform important and dangerous roles to protect people and property.

I would argue, however, that the nature of military service is quite different. As we have heard so often at the defence committee, we have the concept of unlimited liability in military service. What does that mean? It means that the person who signs up with the Canadian forces agrees to obey orders that could put his or her life, as well as those of colleagues, in danger.

In two world wars and the Korean war, the concept of unlimited liability was not an issue that attracted a lot of esoteric debate. It was an issue that was all too real to the people who served and died for this country. It was all too real to the families, to the mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers who read telegrams saying that a loved one was wounded, missing or killed in action.

These issues seem so far from us today, 55 years after the end of the second world war, but are they really? For the family of a peacekeeper who was killed in Bosnia or Croatia or, indeed, if we go back a few years, in places like Cyprus or the Golan Heights, the concept of unlimited liability is very real. It is very real for the families of the soldiers who are currently serving in Bosnia and who will be very shortly serving in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

I must admit that I feel a little close to this issue as someone who has served from the beginning of this parliament on the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs. It has been as a result of my service on that committee that I have come to know and appreciate the varied and complex work that is done by our men and women in uniform.

I think back to the committee hearings on quality of life that we held in bases across the country, where the members of our committee got a real taste of what the Canadian forces accomplish. Our committee started its work on a trip to Canadian forces base Yellowknife on a C-130 Hercules in January 1998. I have had a lot of trips on airplanes but I cannot remember one as uncomfortable as that trip. My colleague, the hon. member for Hillsborough, could probably attest to that on some of the rides he has had in the C-130 Hercules.

That was the beginning of an eye opening experience that later took us to Canadian forces base Esquimalt, then off to our search and rescue operations at Pat Bay. From there we went to Canadian forces bases Edmonton, Cold Lake and Moose Jaw. Our travels also took us to Canadian forces bases Borden, Petawawa, Valcartier, Halifax, Gagetown and Goose Bay. We saw soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen who told us about the joys and challenges of their work, along with the frustrations and disappointments.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of serving on the defence committee was being able to visit our troops in peacekeeping and other operations. Our committee travelled to Geilenkirchen, Germany, where we saw Canada's contribution to the NATO AWACS system.

We also travelled to Canada's areas of operations in Bosnia, where we visited places with unusual names like Velika Kladusa, Coralici, Bihac, Zgon and Drvar. In many places we saw the physical damage of war: destroyed homes, burned out farms, burned out businesses and factories, and beautiful green fields that no one would dare to walk on for fear of land mines. Perhaps most disturbing of all were the faces of the men, women and children who have been deeply affected by war.

The conditions of service that our men and women in the Canadian forces face are certainly less than ideal. There is, as we all know, the danger of unexploded land mines and unexploded ordnance. As well, there are weapons everywhere in some of these places. There are dangerous roads and hazardous conditions.

One of the things that also struck me when our committee visited Bosnia was that when I asked some of our peacekeepers what would happen to the society being protected if the peacekeepers were to leave that place, we were told very clearly that it would not take very long, maybe only hours, perhaps days, before people would again be killing one another and damaging and destroying property. They said that it would be a very serious and unfortunate situation.

Members of our committee also had the opportunity to travel to Kosovo earlier this year to the KFOR operation, Camp Maple Leaf in Skopje, Macedonia, to tour the operations there. What we saw was equally disturbing and probably made just as much impact on us as the trip that we took to Bosnia a couple of years earlier. We saw the results of the precision bombing, the mass graves and the property destruction, which was everywhere.

However, members of the Canadian forces do not just serve in the Balkans and in the former Yugoslavia. They are in many other parts of the world, more recently in places like East Timor and in an area that I am certainly more familiar with, Sierra Leone. We have had, for instance, military observers there to monitor the Lomé peace agreement as part of the UNAMSIL force there. We also had a cargo handling unit in Sierra Leone.

I mentioned some of the dangers of our operations for people in places like Bosnia and Kosovo, but in Africa the dangers are in many respects multiplied. Here I am thinking of military observers and the dangers that exist in terms of kidnapping. We saw earlier this year the kidnapping by the rebel forces in Sierra Leone of about 500 members of the Indian peacekeeping force that was part of the UNAMSIL operation. That sort of violence is something that peacekeepers or military observers can be exposed to on a fairly regular basis.

Also, in places like Africa there is the threat of disease. I am thinking again of Sierra Leone, where the danger is constant with regard to diseases like malaria, dysentery, yellow fever, cholera, sleeping sickness and river blindness. These are all diseases that members of our forces can be exposed to in areas like Sierra Leone, Congo and Ethiopia-Eritrea.

Inasmuch as we can be inoculated against certain diseases, the one thing we cannot be inoculated against is post-traumatic stress disorder. That is something we have certainly seen over the last number of years. Many of the members of our forces are facing it. Perhaps the most high profile victim of PTSD, as it is called, has been Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire, who served with great distinction in Rwanda.

I had the opportunity to meet General Dallaire on a number of occasions. He certainly has my greatest respect and admiration. I think he embodies the values of the Canadian forces. When I say the values of the Canadian forces, I mean the desire to help people in need, the desire to protect the innocent, to preserve the rule of law, to safeguard human rights and to protect people and property.

General Dallaire is one of many who have experienced probably the worst the world has to offer. Rwanda was certainly a place where the world as a whole failed very miserably. However I think we can be very proud of the fact that a member of the Canadian forces, General Dallaire, tried his very best to prevent this slaughter.

It is to the people like General Dallaire and many of the unsung heroes of the Canadian forces to whom this Canadian forces day would be dedicated.

One of the comments I have heard from members of the forces, which is a source of great frustration to them, is that many people do not really understand what they do. People know we have an army. They know we have an air force. They know we have a navy, but they are not really clear on the sorts of things and the individual tasks that our forces perform.

In this regard, it is important to emphasize that the Canadian forces as whole is a very vital tool of our foreign policy. When all else fails, when the diplomats stop talking and when the guns come out, it is members of the Canadian forces and other allied forces who are sent in to try and straighten out the situation.

I have talked about the challenges and the work of the Canadian forces abroad, but I think it is just as important to stress what they have done domestically.

I cannot help but be drawn to the memories I have of the ice storm that occurred in 1998. It is probably a distant memory for a lot of members in the House and for a lot of Canadians, but half the people in my riding were without power and in some cases for several weeks. This was an experience they do not want to repeat soon.

There were roughly 30,000 to 35,000 people without power during a very difficult winter. Whole towns in my riding, places like Osgoode, Manotick and North Gower, were without power. It was in aid of these small communities that our forces came to the rescue. My constituents were very pleased to see the members of the Canadian forces present and providing a kind of security blanket for the members of the community.

I will conclude my comments here and allow other members to speak on this motion. I would appreciate the opportunity at the conclusion of the debate to make a few more comments.

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think it is appropriate on what is undoubtedly the very last day of the 36th parliament that we should conclude our debates with such an important topic. I would like to congratulate my hon. colleague from across the way for having introduced this motion.

Just before private members' business began we were talking about water and how in this country we have an abundant, safe supply of it. We take it so for granted. We often take for granted the relative peace and safety of our land.

We are greatly blessed by the fact that we do not have to have active, armed troops in full combat gear going up and down our roads and highways, protecting our borders and generally using force to keep the peace. We have become accustomed in Canada to our freedoms, our freedom to move about and our safety, without fear and without worrying about being attacked by either internal or external agents. We are probably remiss. We do not think about this enough, nor do we express our gratitude enough to not only God, under whose charter this country was founded, but also for the people who serve us in the various peacekeeping capacities. Certainly I am thinking of not only our armed forces, but also our very notable police forces, the RCMP and the many other provincial and local forces that we have throughout our land.

I sometimes wonder what would happen if we did not have the restraint of our peace officers and our armed forces in order to protect the peace, because we realize when we look at other parts of the world that it could indeed be very fragile.

The member is proposing that we have one day a year in which we, in a specific way, acknowledge and give honour to our armed forces personnel. This is of course something which we already do to some degree annually on November 11 when we have Remembrance Day.

It has been my privilege over the last seven years as a member of parliament to participate in that very special day which we have on November 11 every year. I have had the occasion on that day to visit one of the local legion branches in my riding each year. There are five of them altogether. I have rotated around from one to the other. Last year I went to the community of Chipman where they do not even have a legion branch per se, but where they have a very fitting and a very respectful ceremony on November 11 to honour the armed forces.

On every occasion when I have picked up that wreath and approached the place where we place it, I have been touched by the emotion of realizing that the wreath represents a sacrifice which other people were willing to make in order to protect our safety, our society and our country, to protect and defend those things that we so strongly believe in.

I have had only a very small and indirect involvement with violence in the form of war, that is, in the sense that our son has served overseas. In fact, both of our sons did, but one for a greater length of time. He served, not with the armed forces but with the peace forces: World Vision, with which I am sure many of the members here are familiar; Samaritan's Purse; and Compassion Canada, agencies that are there to help people. He did go into areas where the land was wartorn. He came back from Bosnia and told us that the countryside was a lot like ours but that when he went closer to the houses, which also looked like ours, those houses were full of bullet holes.

There is no doubt that we owe a tremendously huge debt of gratitude for those in the armed forces who sacrifice their own safety and put their own safety at risk in order to defend the rights of others and keep the peace.

I happen to be a member of parliament who has the privilege of having a large armed forces base in my riding. The Edmonton base is actually in my riding since my riding sort of boundaries right up to the city of Edmonton. I have a number of people there who are working in the armed forces. It has been my privilege on a number of occasions to visit that base and talk to the different personnel.

Frankly, among other things, we ought to be showing these people the respect which they should have by making sure that their needs, financial and otherwise, are adequately met. It is one of the areas that I think we should address. Many of them are not paid enough in straight money to provide for themselves and their families. Besides having a day in which we honour them in addition to November 11, we should also be looking at providing them with adequate means of livelihood.

I concur with the member's desire to amend the motion that instead of having it fixed at the 15th day of June, we would have it the first Sunday in June. It is a good amendment and I would support it if it were put forward again.

It is important to have a day where everyone can participate. In our Canadian culture Sunday is a day when, despite the fact that we are becoming more and more commercialized on that day, many people do work less. Government employees, for example, enjoy Saturdays and Sundays off. Sunday is one of those days when we have a little more personal freedom to be together with families and do things.

Since many thousands of Canadians attend worship service or a synagogue on Saturday or Sunday, these ceremonies could also be included there. As people of faith, we also believe in being thankful, and to weave gratitude to our armed forces personnel into a religious service would be something very appropriate.

In principle I agree with this motion. November 11 is a fairly adequate acknowledgement of the work that our armed forces do, but that particular day is rooted more in history. We use the phrase “lest we forget” and think specifically of those who gave their lives and of those who suffered bodily injury in the great wars of the past. This would be a day to honour and give credit and tributes to those who presently serve in our armed forces.

In as much as we are indebted to them, we should seriously consider having such a day and making it part of our national culture and part of what we do once a year to emphasize the wonderful blessings that we have as a result of the things our armed forces personnel do for us and on behalf of us.

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

1:55 p.m.


René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have before us a non-votable motion, which allows us to state our intentions if that motion were some day to be voted on in the House.

In our opinion, the text the mover submitted to us in amendment today would have been more acceptable than the one we have to debate on.

Unfortunately, the change itself was unacceptable today. Since 100 members had signed to indicate their support for the bill, we could not today, out of respect for those 100 members, accept to debate a different text from the one already accepted.

Since the motion is non-votable and since the member who moved it will eventually come back in the next parliament with a proposal that hopefully will be made votable, we will nevertheless say what we think about the text now before us.

There is no doubt that we would be in favour of a means of recognizing the dedication of the members of the Canadian armed forces. We must not recognize the dedication of only the current members of the Canadian armed forces, as there are also former members who are now retired and for whom there is no recognition day.

We have a recognition day for veterans, Remembrance Day, for those who were killed in action, who gave their lives to defend the freedom of our people.

There are also those who, fortunately, did not have to pay the ultimate price, but who nevertheless put their lives at risk. These people were members of the Canadian forces for years. Their contribution should also be recognized on certain days.

These people took part in peacekeeping missions abroad. They may have helped during catastrophes in Canada. They may have done exactly the same job, without losing their lives. They are as deserving of our recognition as those who died.

The question is whether, in order to recognize all these people, we should have three special days during the year: one for the veterans who died at war, one for those who did not die but spent years with the Canadian forces in the service of the nation, and another for those who are currently in the Canadian forces. It would never end.

This issue should be examined by a committee. We could look at how the contribution of these people could be acknowledged on one or two specific days. I believe that in some countries one day is set aside to remember those who died at war, and another one is reserved for the country's armed forces. Perhaps we will come to the conclusion that two days are needed but, in my opinion, that second day should not only include current members of the Canadian forces, but also former ones.

The motion before us talks about the “contribution of the Canadian Forces to the protection of Canadian sovereignty”. I think it inaccurate to seek a day of commemoration for this reason, Canadian sovereignty having never been threatened. No foreign power wants to attack Canada. No foreign power has threatened Canada's sovereignty.

Why would we set aside a day to pay tribute to those who have never had to fight to protect Canadian sovereignty, which has never been threatened? The sovereignty of a country is threatened when the citizens of that country no longer want it. That is the only situation in which that sovereignty can be threatened, and only a country's citizens may decide to retain or modify their sovereignty.

This is something that could happen, because the people of Quebec, who are in favour of Canadian sovereignty without wanting to be a part of it, would like to be a sovereign nation themselves. One day would have to be found to defend and celebrate Quebec's sovereignty, and another to celebrate Canada's sovereignty. There would be two different days and I am sure that all Quebecers would be happy, under those circumstances, to observe these two days to celebrate the sovereignty of two peoples who deserved to exist, the Canadian people and the people of Quebec.

Unfortunately, these are my last words in this august assembly. I will not be a member in the next parliament, because I am not seeking a new mandate. It was a great honour, during these seven years, to defend the interests of my country, Quebec. I was very struck by the democracy which reigns in this place, a democracy which we would like to see continue in the nation we are seeking.

I was also extremely proud to serve the inhabitants of the very lovely and large riding of Joliette. I hope that my successors will enjoy themselves here as much as I have, that their stay will be as short as possible, and that they too will continue to defend the sovereignty of our wonderful nation, Quebec.

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Before going further I would respond to the member for Joliette. The member mentioned that he was impressed by the democracy of this institution. From my perspective as chair occupant, I too was very impressed by the commitment to democracy, particularly from members of the Bloc. To me and other members their kindness really stood out in those seven years we worked together. Although we did not always have the same intentions, we worked together honourably.

I know the hon. member for Joliette will be missed as a contributor to this institution. He will not go quietly into the night but will be missed by those of his colleagues who worked for the common good here if sometimes in different directions.

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.


Gordon Earle NDP Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise on this motion that aims to proclaim June 15 Canadian forces day.

I believe the many men and women employed with the Canadian forces deserve recognition from all Canadians. Not only do these Canadians face often very difficult conditions due to the nature of their work but they must also deal with a Liberal government that has not provided the kind of support they need.

We have heard many stories about poor equipment, inadequate health care and lack of support for our troops overseas. Earlier this week I addressed the House of Commons on the topic of Canadian peacekeepers heading toward Ethiopia. I said then and I will say again that first and foremost all Canadians involved in that effort must be properly equipped, clothed, supported, trained, led and organized.

I do hope the government has learned from the extreme hardships encountered by peacekeepers in Croatia and will ensure that our peacekeepers on this most recent mission will be provided with every opportunity to fulfil their mission safely and securely.

The report we saw on Canada's peacekeeping efforts in Croatia produced a troubling and very disturbing picture. On that occasion our peacekeepers had a lack of lumber and sandbags to adequately protect themselves from regular shelling and gunfire. They also lacked proper medical support and sufficient advance surgical team support. The UN in that case refused for weeks to examine complaints from our peacekeepers that the drinking water was contaminated.

Our peacekeepers, their families and communities deserve to know that the government has addressed all these issues and is doing everything possible to ensure that our peacekeepers are provided with all the support possible.

While I support the notion of proclaiming Canadian forces day, I would expect more from the Liberal government than merely setting aside a day for recognition. As NDP spokesperson, I am appalled by the way in which our troops and civilian defence employees have been treated.

The government does not really have an overall vision for our military. It seems that things happen on a case by case basis. Often decisions are made on the spur of the moment. We really need for our military an overall vision of what we as Canadians want our military to be and what role we want it to perform. That vision should be properly resourced and staffed. In that way people can go about their business without worrying about cuts in budgets or about not having enough people to send off on various peacekeeping missions.

Despite the Liberal mishandling of Canadian forces issues, I take my hat off to all men and women who have served and continue to serve with such commitment and dedication. These men and women have shown their devotion and love of our country. They have performed their roles very well. We must take our hats off to them.

I think particularly of the sacrifices endured by the families of military personnel. Many times the spouses and children are left at home while their loved ones are off on missions in very dangerous settings. This is indeed quite a disruption to family stability, but they all pull together and give their best because of their love of and devotion to this country and the job they are doing.

The government's announcement to finally replace the Sea King helicopters underscores its complete mishandling of the whole issue of support for our military. Every step of the way in the Liberal government's supreme bungling of the Sea King replacements has reflected the worst example of placing short term political interests ahead of the safety of Canadian forces personnel and Canadian citizens.

In the House of Commons the NDP has been at the forefront pushing for replacements for the Sea Kings. I wrote the Prime Minister in June of this year, stating:

—it would be a shame, and in fact inexcusable, to allow the political background and decisions of the past concerning new military helicopters to cause any further delay in making a speedy and proper decision at this time.

Subsequently there was an announcement that the government was moving ahead with the contract on the Sea Kings. This appearance of taking the matter off the back burner and putting it on the front burner is somewhat suspect timing as we head toward an election.

We note that the helicopters will not be available until 2005. The first part of the contract, for the airframe, will not be awarded until sometime in 2001. The second part, for the missions system contract, will not be awarded until 2002. Even today we hear concerns being expressed on the part of some of the contenders for the contract. They feel there is a question about the contracting process, that it eliminates some and enables others to be at the forefront for the particular contract.

It is obvious that political considerations of the Liberal government are still more important than the safety of our Canadian forces personnel, who will be depending on the aging Sea Kings for a long time yet to come.

I have pointed out on previous occasions that Sea Kings went into service in 1963, when Diefenbaker was prime minister, 19 current members of parliament had yet to be born and Martin Luther King had yet to give his famous speech. Sea King crashes have killed and injured Canadians, yet almost 14 years have passed since the Liberals first began the process of replacing the Sea Kings.

I am glad we are finally moving forward on that issue, but there is nothing the government can do at this point to wipe away this huge stain on its record. Over seven years ago Sea Kings started dropping out of the sky due to systems failures. The Liberals are accountable to Canadians for each and every day of those seven years that they did nothing. The recent fiasco with the Liberal government's handling of the GTS Katie is just one more example of the disaster of privatization. Canadian troops and forces equipment should be transported by Canadian forces vessels, period.

In the House on May 12 of this year I raised the issue of contracting out. A recent defence audit condemned contracting out in the military. The forces contracting out fiasco began with ill-fated alternative service delivery that has cut DND civilian workforces in Halifax, Goose Bay, Shiloh, Gagetown and throughout the country.

The October 1988 report of the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs, entitled “Moving Forward: A Strategic Plan for Quality of Life Improvements in the Canadian Forces”, states:

Members of the Canadian Forces must be fairly and equitably compensated for the work they do and the risks they take. Members and their families should never have to suffer the indignity of substandard housing, nor should they be reduced to charity in order to feed their families.

The lifestyle faced by military personnel often makes it well nigh impossible to support a dual income lifestyle.

Despite all this I must again applaud the men and women who serve in the Canadian forces, both military and civilian. Civilian personnel are sometimes forgotten in this regard. They perform an integral and important role that is often overlooked in providing support throughout the service. When we look at what is happening with our civilian personnel we see the government wanting to privatize such things as the supply chain project rather than allowing in-house bids to deal with those issues.

When I think about having a day to honour the Canadian forces I also think of the reserves. Reservists play a very important role in our military. Just this past week, on October 18, many reservists wore the uniform with pride as part of reserve uniform day. Reservists have served Canada for over a century and have served on peacekeeping and humanitarian missions. On behalf of the New Democratic Party, it is my honour to commend all reservists for their commitment to their communities and their country.

In my riding of Halifax West reservists played an essential role in the recovery of Swissair flight 111 and have provided invaluable service throughout Canada, including service during the Manitoba flood, the 1998 ice storm, avalanches and forest fires.

I would urge all Canadians, as we think about a day to celebrate the Canadian forces, to take time to say thank you to the reservists who are so committed to our country. They deserve to be well trained, properly equipped and adequately funded in order to be a vital component of the forces of the future.

I am pleased to say that we would support a day recognizing the Canadian forces because they are indeed an integral part of our society. They do a lot to make Canada the kind of country of which we can all be proud.

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.


George Proud Liberal Hillsborough, PE

Mr. Speaker, members of the House, before I go to my speech, I also want to say that this will be my last speech. I said the other night when I spoke in the take note debate that it was my last speech, but this definitely will be my last speech in the House.

I want to thank all members for their co-operation over the years. I want to thank you, Mr. Speaker, and all the Speakers for the great role they play in the running of this glorious institution.

The government readily supports private member's Motion No. 134 to designate Canadian forces day. This day would officially recognize on an annual basis the significant contribution that our military forces make in promoting Canadian interests, peace and security, both at home and around the world.

Through the instituting of Canadian forces day, citizens across the country would be encouraged to learn more about our armed forces. It would provide them with an opportunity to personally thank the many men and women who work tirelessly in Canada's interests day after day, year after year.

A Canadian forces day would mean a lot to Canadians, and it would mean a lot to those in uniform. The Canadian forces are a vital national institution. They reflect Canada's cultural, linguistic and regional diversity, with a presence in every province and territory, in more than 3,000 communities across the country. The Canadian forces are made up of many faces, all of them serving as one under a single flag. They come from across the nation, from farms and from cities, from different ethnic and religious backgrounds, men and women alike, all of them united by the common cause of serving Canada and Canadians. The Canadian forces are an essential part of the national fabric.

Just outside this building on the lawns of Parliament Hill every summer, members of the primary reserve force conduct the colourful changing of the guard ceremony. Many of them, as trained infanteers, have also served overseas on peacekeeping missions or assisted during domestic crises, such as the ice storm of 1998, as has been mentioned. These Canadians live, work and study in this very community.

The Canadian forces are everywhere we look. Forces personnel are raising families in our communities, contributing to our local economies and working alongside many of us, sometimes without our knowledge or recognition. Defence research and development is stimulating Canadian innovation. The national cadet program is teaching responsibility and citizenship to our children. The Canadian forces, in short, are a very integral part of our society.

The Canadian forces are also an integral part of Canada's history. Since Confederation, their members have made great sacrifices in the building of our nation. Thousands of Canadians have died in active service with the Canadian forces, from Paardeburg to Vimy Ridge, from the beaches of Normandy to Kapyong. Many of the veterans who survived some of these battles are among us today, former members of the Canadian forces who fought with great courage for their nation.

The Canadian forces today continue to perform core functions of the government. Our men and women in uniform work every day to protect Canadian sovereignty, promote national interests and secure international peace and security.

Canadian forces members bring relief during natural disasters. They provide search and rescue services. They patrol our coastline and enforce Canadian law. They help fulfil our international obligations. They bring peace and stability to troubled regions of the world through peace support operations.

Over the last year or so the Canadian forces have been involved in the interception of over 600 illegal migrants, year 2000 preparations, disaster relief in Turkey, peacekeeping in East Timor, NATO operations in Kosovo, and North American security through NORAD.

The Canadian forces provided support to and helped co-ordinate over 8,000 search and rescue operations, a record number. These efforts resulted in the saving of over 4,000 lives.

At this very moment approximately 2,500 Canadian forces personnel are deployed on 16 operations around the world. We currently have more than 1,500 men and women in Bosnia-Herzegovina alone. The list of operations is long: Ethiopia and Eritrea, Iraq and Kuwait, the Golan Heights, Guatemala, and Sierra Leone. Just recently a Canadian officer, Major-General Hillier, assumed command of Multi-National Division Southwest in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

As these examples illustrate, all members of the Canadian forces, from privates to general officers, are making a concrete difference in improving the world in which we live. Much of their work is, by its very nature, thankless and hard. Members of the Canadian forces have chosen a profession that puts their lives at risk, all in the name of Canada and Canadian interests. They face down aggression and tyranny in distant lands every day so that we may live in peace and prosperity here at home.

The government is committed to providing the Canadian forces with the right tools for the job. With two consecutive defence budget increases, a comprehensive quality of life program, and a list of newly procured equipment, the Canadian forces are building a strong future on an even stronger foundation.

The government is also committed to ensuring that our soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen are properly recognized and publicly thanked for their national service.

On September 6 the Governor General and Commander-in-Chief presented the first Canadian peacekeeping service medals to recipients in Ottawa, including many members of the Canadian forces. As Canadians we recognize elements and individuals of the Canadian forces through various honours and events such as this one. However, we have yet to reserve a day when all Canadians from coast to coast can take a moment to thank all members of the Canadian forces for their dedication and hard work. By declaring a Canadian forces day today in the House, we will provide that opportunity.

People across the country will be given the occasion to recognize the accomplishments of our men and women in uniform. It will, in short, give Canadians an opportunity to thank Canadian forces personnel for their dedicated work. It is time for us to officially set aside a day when Canadians of all walks of life can thank members of the Canadian forces for their service and increase their knowledge of military issues in the process. It is time to officially establish Canadian forces day.

I urge my fellow members to support this motion. I would like to put forward the following amendment. I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the words “Canadian Forces” and substituting the following: “both at home and abroad, in such areas as humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, search and rescue and UN peacekeeping, should proclaim the first Sunday in June as Canadian Forces Day”.

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The Chair had a previous notice of the amendment. The amendment is in order.

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

2:20 p.m.


Angela Vautour NDP Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand today to speak in support of Motion No. 134.

Although we support the bill, we have to recognize the government cuts that the Department of National Defence has suffered. In 1993-94 the defence budget was $12.4 billion. In 1997-98 it was down to $9.8 billion. That does not really show support from the Liberal government. There has been a reduction of 23%. The reduction in the number of civilian employees at the Department of National Defence has been a staggering 40%. General Maurice Baril says that there is likely to be an additional reduction of 2,000 to 3,000 people in that department.

The government has gutted the heart and soul of the armed forces. Let us not forget that the Sea King helicopter replacement program is currently being investigated by the Canadian International Trade Tribunal and that there have actually been some pilots who have lost their lives because of a very bad decision by the Liberals. Let us not forget the soldiers who are forced to visit food banks. I do not think that should be happening. I could go on and on.

The armed forces deserve our unconditional support and respect. I commit to the House that members of my party will stand for our armed forces on June 15 or on the first Sunday in June. They will certainly have our support on that day as well as the other 364 days of the year.

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.


David Pratt Liberal Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, before I go back to the motion I would like to echo some of the comments that have been made in this place in connection with your own participation and membership in this Chamber. I wish you the very best in terms of your future endeavours. You certainly have been a credit to the House. I have watched you over the last number of years since I was elected in 1997 and I can say that I have a great deal of respect for the way you have handled your role in the chair.

I did not get an opportunity, because I could probably speak for quite some time on these subjects, to talk about the Canadian forces in NATO, search and rescue operations or the many other activities in which they involve themselves. However, I think those activities have been amply discussed by other members who have spoken to the issue before the House today, including the member for Hillsborough, the member for Elk Island, the member for Halifax West and the member for Beauséjour—Petitcodiac.

There were some comments made during the course of the debate to which I want to make reference, that is, the whole business of recognizing past and present members of the forces through the motion. That is what the motion does. It just does not recognize members of the Canadian forces who are serving right now but recognizes the many others who served in years past.

Another hon. member made mention of the fact that Canadian sovereignty has never been threatened. He would have a hard time putting that argument to members of the Canadian forces who served in the battle of the St. Lawrence during the second world war.

I would like to read another endorsation of this idea from the Conference of Defence Associations. As I mentioned earlier, a tremendous number of groups and individuals have supported the motion. The Conference of Defence Associations has said that the 28 member associations of the CDA, comprising over half a million individuals coast to coast, stand behind any action to bring attention and appreciation to members of the Canadian forces.

This is likely to be the last day of debate in parliament. I can think of no better way to honour the men and women of the Canadian forces than by proclaiming the first Sunday in June as Canadian forces day. I would request unanimous consent of the House for the passage of the motion with the amendment.

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Does the member for Nepean—Carleton have unanimous consent of the House?

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Before we close today I should like to add a couple of words to indicate how humble and how proud I am to have been able to occupy this wonderful chair for the past three years.

I thank all members very much for the generosity shown to me for three years and particularly for today.

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hour provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired. Since the motion was not votable, the item is dropped from the order paper.

It being 2.30 p.m. the House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2.30 p.m.)

The Second Session of the 36th Parliament was dissolved by Royal Proclamation on October 22, 2000.