Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and very honoured to speak about veterans on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois.
Vimy, Dieppe and Juno Beach are very symbolic and very significant places in terms of historic wartime events and of the ultimate sacrifices made by these men—and women, for there were women as well in the theatres of operations. They all symbolize the sacrifice made by those who gave their lives for freedom, democracy and peace in the western world.
It is very important for us to remember them every year. For the Commonwealth countries, the commemoration takes place on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, to honour those who died.
We must also remember the veterans. My father was one. He took part in the liberation of Holland. One must go to Europe to appreciate the gratitude people feel for the Quebeckers and Canadians who risked their lives, many of whom died for the freedom of these countries, because it had to be done. If Nazism or the forces of evil had won those wars, the effects would certainly have been felt here, too. Recovery would probably have been very difficult.
But we did go overseas. I think that is important, and it was a common expression at the time. My mother used to say, “Your father went overseas”. I do not want to bring up the whole issue of conscription, but my father was not one of those who wanted to go overseas. Nevertheless, out of duty, he decided to go. That is important.
When we visit the cemeteries in Holland we see the names on the graves and the white crosses. There are many graves that have no names, just plain white crosses. There were mass burials at some of these places. Many of our family members, our uncles, our grandfathers, fought there and were buried there. Lest we forget.
And then there are those who survived. I am a member of the Iberville branch of the Canadian Legion. It is quite something to see the reactions of those who fought overseas. They have been morally and psychologically affected by what they saw over there. They have not only physical scars, but psychological scars, and those will never heal.
Things like post traumatic stress syndrome are starting to be recognized, but at the time they were not. It was simply recognized that these people had witnessed terrible events, and that is true. They never got over it and they never will. It is sad to watch them cry as they talk about their experiences.
They went overseas to fight for freedom and democracy and to ensure peace here in Quebec and in Canada. It is important to acknowledge their contribution.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention the women's contribution. While their husbands and friends were overseas, the women kept the war economy going. They ensured that the troops had what they needed overseas, and for that we owe them our thanks.
I want to conclude my speech by coming back to what my colleague from the Canadian Alliance said about the widows. Their dead husbands would not be pleased to know that most of these women are being forgotten. These women did their share for the war effort.
Why are we helping 10,000 of these women and forgetting 23,000 others, when the government has enough money to help them? This is absolutely unacceptable. We have said this before in the House and we are saying it again today. We will not abandon these widows, for the same reasons that I just gave for the men.
Finally, I would like to pay tribute to my father, who passed away a few years ago. He fought overseas. He saw some of his friends come back from the front line in baskets, because they had lost their limbs. They were still alive, but they were being carried in baskets. These are dreadful images.
These people suffered, and today we must acknowledge those sufferings. The last thing I would like to say to them is that we will never forget what they did for us.