Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Government of Canada to reflect on the place Canada's veterans hold in our nation's history.
How fitting that we interrupt the usual business of this chamber to pay homage to our veterans within the walls of this very noble institution, the House of Commons, where we stand on guard for everything Canada stands for.
Yesterday the government launched Veterans Week, which culminates next Monday, November 11 when at the 11th hour a grateful nation once more commemorates Remembrance Day; that we may pause in tribute to them for their sacrifices and achievements in the service of country; that we may reflect on the human values they fought to preserve: freedom, peace and equality; that we may cherish their stories of valour and utter disregard for personal danger.
Whether they went in harm's way to destroy the evils of tyranny or terrorism, or to contribute to the collective security of a people as mandated by the United Nations, they served with passionate dedication and magnificent courage because they knew they were fighting for democratic values, for human dignity.
A first world war veteran, Mike Mountain Horse, would later write:
When duty called, we were there; and when we were called forth to fight for the cause of civilization, our people showed all the bravery of our warriors of old.
During Veterans Week we are called upon to remember all this and to renew our unending commitment to our veterans, to care for them as much as they took care of our nation during its time of greatest need. Forever we shall owe them a debt of gratitude.
They helped build the Canada of today. They gave deeper meaning to the values for which we are known throughout the world: a champion of peace, a defender of freedom and a conscience for equality.
All of them had in mind coming home to a country they loved, to live out the future they were fighting to protect, and to live out the dreams they dreamed before their country called. Many, far too many, would not get to see those dreams become a reality. But it was their service and their sacrifice that gave us our future and our children's future.
This year's theme for Veterans Week as depicted in our poster is “Remembering Our Past, Preserving our Future”. Our challenge is to ensure that their story is shared with all Canadians, especially our youth who will carry the torch of remembrance for future generations.
In pursuit of this challenge, it is my honour to inform the House today of the government's decision to create a new Book of Remembrance that will take its place with the others in the Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower of Canada's Parliament.
Currently there exist six Books of Remembrance containing the names of all Canadians who died in battle outside Canada since Confederation. There is one book obviously missing. It is my honour to announce today the need for its creation, a seventh book which will contain the names of peacekeepers and soldiers who have served and died since 1947.
The recent tragic accident in Afghanistan that took the lives of four of our soldiers reminded all Canadians of the ongoing sacrifices asked of our men and women in uniform. All have toiled in the service of peace. Tragically, a considerable number of them have died in duty throughout the decades.
They are equally worthy of a place in a Book of Remembrance tentatively titled “In the Service of Peace”. We anticipate to complete and install it in 2004, during Veterans Week of that year.
It is our duty to remember the supreme sacrifice made by those who served our nation during its time and the world's time of greatest need. It is further our duty to keep our individual memory of them forever alive in our collective memory as a nation, a nation committed to humanity.
May we continue to dedicate ourselves to the human values for which our veterans, old and young, fought so bravely and which today we cherish and protect.
May the words “Lest we forget” continue to be our watchwords in these challenging times.