That, in the opinion of this House, the government should ensure that the contributions of women veterans are properly recognized and honoured in every provincial capital city by way of monument or statue.
Mr. Speaker, this is a motion I first introduced in the House close to three and a half years ago. I might add that the motion did not come from me. It came from hundreds of women who I represent in the various legions throughout my riding. Since then, hundreds of other women in legions clear across the country have phoned, faxed or e-mailed to indicate their support for this motion.
I would first like to say that we as parliamentarians, past and present, should always be very proud of the valiant efforts of our Canadian military. Whether in World War I, the Korean conflict, World War II, the Gulf war, and so on, we should be very proud of the fact that our men and women were willing to risk their lives for us. However, for every person we sent over in World War I, World War II and the Korean war, the majority of them were men. Those men left behind sisters, mothers, daughters and wives.
I will focus my comments basically on World War II. In World War II we had over 48,000 women who served in the Canadian military in uniform. However that does not count the thousands of women who served in other capacities in our military component. They worked in the factories, the fields and the hospitals. Not only did they supply the materials needed for the war effort, they also looked after the families. We basically took women out of the traditional role of the family, of staying at home more or less, and all of a sudden, because of the urgent need for women to assist, we moved them into the military. We also moved them into the factories in order to assist us to keep the war production going. Without the brave efforts of these women, we would not have been successful in our conflicts of years ago.
An article was written in the Daily News on November 11, 1999 by Lila O'Connor of Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. She wrote:
In the 1940s women made their own decisions about apparel, employment and family finances. They grasped the wartime movement to establish new levels of social and economic independence for women in postwar Canada.
We can talk about the effects of war and what it did to this country but the part that is neglected many times in our conversations is the valiant effort of women and what they contributed to our country.
Women's history month was created in 1992 to encourage greater awareness among Canadians of the historical contributions of women to our society. The Veterans Appeal Board, which was a great help, set up a website where the stories of women veterans and women who participated in various conflicts around the world can be posted, stories of what they and their mothers, grandmothers, daughters and sisters have gone through.
In the great city of Winnipeg, one of the leaders in the country in promoting these values, there is a statue and a monument dedicated to women who served in the war, who served in conflict and who served in various capacities to assist in the war effort.
All the motion today asks is that a statue or a monument, similar to what Winnipeg has, be erected in every capital city in the country so that we properly recognize the women who served and gave so much, in an effort to honour them for what they have done.
I do not think there is a person in the country who does not get tears in their eyes on Remembrance Day when they see the silver cross mother lay the wreath at the cenotaph here in Ottawa, symbolizes a woman gave up her child for this country so that we could all live in a democracy.
One of the people who benefited from that was myself. My parents and oldest brother were liberated by the Canadian military in the liberation of Holland in 1945, the country where I was born. My father met a young Canadian soldier and asked him why Canada gave so much to help Holland. The young man said that they had a job to do. With that my father always said that if Canada had a military like that, can we imagine what kind of country they came from? In 1956 my parents made the decision to immigrate to Canada. That young Canadian soldier probably had a sister, mother, grandmother, wife or daughter back in Canada keeping the home fires burning so that he could do the job he was asked to do by his country.
Many times we as members of parliament talk about our families and the support they give us, which is very important for all of us in all political fields. In order to do our jobs effectively and do the nation's business, it is good to know that our loved ones and children are back home running their day to day lives. Without that support we could not do what we are doing. The same is true for military personnel, especially in times of conflict. Without the support of women back home keeping the home fires burning, looking after the families and working in the fields and factories, we would not have been successful in the war efforts.
The motion was not deemed votable by the parliamentary committee but I ask the indulgence of the governing party and others to support this initiative. Our women veterans are fading very quickly. Every day we lose more of them. This initiative came from women in legions and various organizations clear across the country who very simply have asked for their country to honour or recognize their efforts in perpetuity so that their stories will never be forgotten.
I know the House, after careful reflection, will look upon this and realize that in terms of financial costs it is minimal, but in terms of psychological costs it is tremendous. What it will do for women is to tell them that Canada values their initiatives, their support, the work they have done and the sacrifices they have made for our military.
As a proud Canadian and one who was not born here, I know very well that I owe everything I have to the efforts of our governments and our military who sacrificed so much during World War I, World War II and the Korean conflict so that I could be free and millions of other people around the world could be free. Now our peacekeepers are doing the same around the world. They are trying to keep the peace and trying to bring stability to wartorn countries around the world.
It was interesting to note who was there waiting for members of the military the other day in Gagetown when they came back from Ethiopia: their wives, their mothers, their daughters and their sons. The look on their faces when they were reunited showed that those men had a job to do for their country, not just for this country but in protecting and serving democracy around the world. They could not do that unless they had the support of the women back home.
It is very important in this time in our history to reflect upon that and to pay tribute to these women in a most fitting way. If we do this, if we move forward in a non-partisan way, we will be doing a great thing not only for the women of Canada but for ourselves as well.
I look forward to the debate. I appreciate the opportunity to stand in the House on behalf of people such as Lily Snow of Beaverbank, Granny Crosby of Eastern Passage, Val Mooney of the legion of Eastern Passage and many others who have asked me to bring forward this motion on their behalf, which I now have had the privilege to do.