That. in the opinion of the House, the government should establish a fund to help ensure the maintenance and the preservation of war memorials in communities across Canada in honour of our war veterans.
Mr. Speaker, I proudly rise in the House this morning to introduce a motion that honours Canada's heroes, our war veterans.
The motion calls for the establishment of a special endowment fund. The fund will ensure that Canada's war monuments are maintained as lasting legacies to the brave men and women who served in Canada's armed forces. I believe there is no better way to recognize our veterans than to guarantee there are permanent monuments to their war efforts.
In my opinion, the Government of Canada has a responsibility to provide a portion of the funds needed to repair and restore these memorials. There are about 6,000 war memorials in communities across Canada today. The cost for their upkeep is estimated at a few million dollars a year. That is a small price to pay for the maintenance of monuments to our war veterans. Indeed, what price can we place on this?
I think the debt of gratitude we Canadians owe our war veterans is beyond value. Frequently, while touring my riding of Tobique—Mactaquac, I have the opportunity to meet with different groups, legions and community groups that are in fact charged and responsible for these war monuments and cenotaphs. Inevitably, we talk about the important days in our calendar year. Certainly, for Christians, the holy days are very important and as a patriotic Canadian, Canada Day is very important.
However, of the days that have the most significance, I think Remembrance Day is very important, by virtue of the fact that without the efforts of our soldiers, especially in World War II, we may not have been celebrating these other days. We may not have had that freedom of choice, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion that makes Canada what it is. In terms of important days on our calendar, I rank Remembrance Day right up there. Without those efforts, we may not be celebrating those other significant days.
In the last century, 116,000 Canadians gave their lives and their future, so that we may live in peace. As long as we continue to pay homage to our troops overseas, their memories will never fade.
The Minister of Veterans Affairs recently declared that 2005 will be known as the Year of the Veteran. Can we think of a more appropriate gift to our veterans than a fund that protects our war memorials?
As the Minister of Veterans Affairs stated when she announced the Year of the Veteran, we can only repay the tremendous debt we owe our veterans through active remembrance. The year 2004 was a special year for our veterans, with ceremonies here and abroad commemorating the Italian campaign during the second world war and the D-Day invasion in Normandy.
The year 2005 will continue to be a year of remembrance for our veterans as Canadians observe the 60th anniversary of the end of the second world war and we mark the Year of the Veteran with a number of commemorative activities.
The timing could not be more fitting for the establishment of an endowment fund to thank our veterans with money for the preservation of Canada's war memorials. These cenotaphs are important symbols of remembrance and appreciation for the sacrifices that have been made for our freedoms.
Without the sacrifices of those who fought for peace and democracy, our nation would not be the great land that it is. Veterans only ask one thing of us, that we remember the sacrifice of those who did not get to come home, did not get to live out their dreams, did not get to enjoy the peace that they fought so hard to win, and did not get the opportunity to do what we have done.
It is important that we remember not only what our veterans did for us, but that we show them publicly that we remain grateful for their service and sacrifice. That is what these memorials in cities, towns and small communities across Canada represent.
Today's generation of Canadians knows war only from history books and television news. These memorials serve as constant reminders and as testaments to those who gave their lives for us and those who protect us still.
Our job is to ensure that the stories of Canada's veterans, men and women who served us so nobly in war and ably in peace, are remembered and passed on to our children. We pledge to them to never forget. In a small way, that is what today's motion is all about, a tangible demonstration of our pledge.
We as Canadians have an obligation and a duty to remember how fortunate we are in this country. We must remember that our good fortune is due to the efforts of our men and women in uniform past and present.
All parliamentarians in the House will recall that in the last session we had a very distinguished gentleman who sat in the gallery. One day we recognized him after question period. He was the last surviving Victoria Cross recipient from World War II.
I have a poster from the mid-1990s about 16 Victoria Cross recipients. The poster is entitled “For Valour”. The names on the poster are: Sgt Maj John Robert Osborn, Winnipeg; LCol Charles Cecil Ingersoll, Vancouver; Rev. John Weir Foote, Madoc, Ontario; Capt Frederick Thornton Peters, Charlottetown, P.E.I.; Capt David Ernest Hornell, Mimico, Ontario; Sqdn Ldr Ian Willoughby Bazalgette, Calgary, Alberta; Maj David Currie, Sutherland, Saskatchewan; Capt Paul Triquet, Cabano, Quebec; Maj Charles Ferguson Hoey, Duncan, British Columbia; Maj John Keefer Mahoney, New Westminster, British Columbia; Pilot Officer Andrew Charles Mynarski, Winnipeg, Manitoba; Sgt Aubrey Cosens, Latchford, Ontario; Maj Frederick Albert Tilston, Toronto, Ontario; Cpl Frederick George Topham, Toronto, Ontario; Lt Robert Hampton Gray, Trail, British Columbia; and that great gentleman who blessed us with his presence that day, Smokey Smith, Pte Ernest Alvia Smith, New Westminster, British Columbia.
It was a magical day. We stood up as parliamentarians for minutes on end with a standing ovation. There were a lot of lumps in people's throats at the time, recognizing the sacrifice made by Smokey Smith. That day was something that is etched indelibly in my memory as a parliamentarian. It was one of the highlights of my time here on Parliament Hill, a short time of four years.
Another time that really shows how the past and present come together was last May. There was a horrible accident in Afghanistan, where Cpl Jamie Murphy of Newfoundland lost his life. One of the people seated with Cpl Jamie Murphy and injured was Cpl Richard Newman from Hartland, New Brunswick, in my riding of Tobique—Mactaquac.
After Cpl Newman went through rehab, I invited him here to the Hill. I brought him here for lunch and presented him to both the Upper House and our House. Cpl Newman was greeted with a similar standing ovation. It made me think of how the past really means the present, and how in honouring these veterans with war memorials we are really honouring the people of the present who are serving for us in various arenas.
It is a privilege to put forward a motion that pays tribute to the servicemen and servicewomen who laid down their lives for the liberties that we enjoy today. I thank the members for Lac-Saint-Louis, Davenport and Cape Breton—Canso for supporting me on the motion.
I hope that all of my fellow parliamentarians will give favourable consideration to the fund. It is the right thing to do. The legacy of veterans to this wonderful country we call Canada will never ever be forgotten. Lest we forget.