That the House affirm its commitment to Canada's military personnel and call on the government to continue to provide them with the best possible equipment and support to carry out their responsibilities.
It is with great pride and honour that I rise in my place today to move this motion.
As the member of Parliament for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, which includes CFB Petawawa, “Training Ground of the Warriors”, which is the motto of Base Petawawa, my motion is for all the women and men of the Canadian armed forces and, more particularly, the loved ones whose job it is to keep the home fires burning.
I take this opportunity in the House of Commons, on behalf of the residents of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, the troops, their families and all Canadians, to thank the Prime Minister for his leadership on behalf of the Government of Canada by demonstrating how much he cares for the soldiers and their families by coming to my riding, to beautiful Cobden, Ontario, and officially turning on the lights for Canada's tallest Christmas tree.
The organizing committee of the 2006 tallest Christmas tree dedicated this year's 75-foot tree to the women and men in the Canadian armed forces and their families. While the beautiful ceremony was broadcast live to our troops in Canadian Forces Base Kandahar in Afghanistan, the tree is dedicated to all our brave women and men who put themselves at risk helping people in serving around the world.
I congratulate the committee members and the volunteers for all their hard work and enthusiasm in making this year's tree lighting ceremony such a big success and also the thousands of upper Ottawa Valley residents who came out to show their support for the troops and to make this year's tree lighting ceremony a resounding success. The tree was decorated by hundreds of Renfrew County schoolchildren, many of whom have adopted a soldier in Afghanistan and have written Christmas letters to let them know that, although they may be far from home, they are not forgotten.
Our community has also created an endowment fund for children who have lost parents in the conflict in Afghanistan.
At CFB Petawawa, the public is raising funds to erect an eternal flame monument, dedicated to all those who keep the home fires burning. I thank retired military spouse Dianne Collier for her work to “light the flame of hope”.
I was reminded of the sacrifice of the families of our soldiers recently when I had the privilege to attend a memorial service in honour of a brave soldier who was killed defending the very freedoms that so many in Canada casually take for granted.
I ask members to please give me a moment of their undivided attention to listen to the following poem written by Jocelyn Girouard, daughter of Chief Warrant Officer Robert Michel Joseph Girouard. Chief Warrant Officer Girouard was recently laid to rest in peace.
The poem is entitled Dear Daddy:Dear Daddy,
I did not believe them,
When they told me you were gone.
It did not feel real.
It felt so, so wrong.
God took you away from us,
Without seeming to care.
Your family needs you, Daddy
It does not seem fair.
We are not revengeful,
We are not even cross.
We just feel so sad
Because your presence has been lost
Yes, you will be with us,
Yes, your memories remain.
It just doesn't seem worth it,
Not seeing you march off that plane.
We'll miss you forever,
But you will miss so much.
How can we live without you?
Without your support, your love, your touch?
We need you, Daddy.
We are not ready to go on.
Even though you taught us well,
We are not that brave, not that strong.
You were a soldier, lover, Father, and friend.
We are so proud of everything you do.
We will try to live just like you,
To your memory we will be true.
It's just so hard to believe that you are gone
You can't be gone for good.
You had been our rock for so long,
That our family has been unglued.
Don't feel bad for leaving us.
Think of us with pride.
We'll be OK without you,
We may just have a really hard time.
Think of us, wherever you may be.
We will think of you with love.
We'll remember that you are free,
And you died for all of us.
I thank Jocelyn for allowing me to share her grief, although I appreciate the fact that I cannot begin to feel what she and her family are currently experiencing. I thank her for her courage.
My motion today is for Jocelyn and all the other families and loved ones of our serving military personnel. I call on the entire House to reaffirm its commitment to Canada's military personnel and I ask our government to continue to provide our Canadian Forces with the best possible equipment and support so that they can continue to carry out their responsibilities.
This motion is not just for the Canadian Forces. This motion is for every Canadian, because every Canadian benefits immensely from the essential work that our military does at home and abroad.
In the unpredictable world we live in, where international terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and countries that are vulnerable or in decay threaten global security, Canada cannot take national defence lightly.
It is essential that the Canadian Forces receive the support and resources it needs to protect our peaceful society.
What is the mission? Why are we sending the flower of our youth halfway around the world?
We are defending Canadian interests at home and abroad by preventing Afghanistan from relapsing into a failed state that provides a safe haven for terrorists and terrorist organizations. We are providing the people of Afghanistan with the hope for a brighter future by establishing the security necessary to promote development. We are helping the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and its people to build a stable, peaceful, self-sustaining democratic country.
All Canadians can be proud of our accomplishments in Afghanistan, such as ensuring young girls are able to receive an education in safety and security. Our integrated approach of development, diplomacy and defence is helping the Afghan people stabilize their country, establish the rule of law and ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a haven for terrorists.
Our task is a difficult one. Just yesterday I read a news report that Taliban militants, acting on one of their terrorist threats, murdered two female teachers and three family members. Their so-called crime: trying to give girls an education. This brings to 22 the number of teachers who have been murdered by the Taliban this year alone. These terrorists have no respect for females and little respect for human life.
Are we as Canadians doing all we can to support our brave men and women in uniform?
On May 18, 2004, the Ontario Liberal Party introduced a controversial new tax called the Ontario health premium, breaking its campaign promise to not raise taxes. In the case of Canada's military, the federal government directly provides for military health care. Although military members are excluded by law from being members of provincial health care plans, the Ontario Liberals collect almost $30 million in premiums from 40,000 regular and reserve military members in Ontario.
The Liberals in Ontario tried to justify this blatant tax grab from soldiers by saying that the premiums pay for services to dependents, even though many soldiers are not married or have no dependents. Yet when the Phoenix Centre for Children and Families in Renfrew County requested $400,000 to hire therapists and child care counsellors to treat the high levels of anxiety, depression and even trauma among the children and caregivers of military personnel, Mary Anne Chambers, the Minister of Children and Youth Services in Toronto, wrote back saying that, and I refer to her October 3, 2006 letter to Phoenix Centre executive director Greg Lubimiv, supports and services to families and children are a federal responsibility.
As the member of Parliament for the riding that includes CFB Petawawa, I was recently contacted by a military couple who, tragically, lost their baby a few weeks after it was born. As both husband and wife are military, they do not have OHIP coverage because the federal government provides for health care directly. As the child died a few weeks after birth, the child would not be covered by OHIP because neither parent has an OHIP number to extend coverage to the child even though both parents are paying thousands of dollars in health care premiums to the provincial government.
This couple received a bill for thousands of dollars. They are Canadian citizens. They are in uniform in service to their country, but they are being treated like second class citizens by the Province of Ontario.
In the previous Parliament, I provided other examples of how military personnel are unfairly treated when it comes to the provision of services in the province of Ontario. I say to Dalton McGuinty and the Liberal Party, “Stop trying to pass the buck”. If he is not going to provide services to families and children of our military personnel, he should give back the money he took from them, the $30 million.
The Government of Canada, through the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is doing its part. The people of Canada are doing their part. It is time for the Province of Ontario to get onside and do its part.
I will close my remarks by talking about supporting red Fridays. Close colleagues know that red is not a part of my wardrobe; however, I feel so strongly about supporting our troops that I am prepared to make the compromise every Friday as long as necessary to show my support.
The red Fridays campaign, which began in the U.S.A. in 2005, has been taking Canada by storm since last February. This campaign to show support for our Canadian military is a popular Friday event in my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, with everyone out and about sporting as much red as they can.
Two military spouses from Petawawa, Karen Boire and Lisa Miller, organized the massive red Friday rally on Parliament Hill last September to start the campaign. Why? It is because it is easy to do, does not cost a penny, unless a person does not own something red to start, like myself, and is so powerful in and of itself.
Friday seemed an appropriate day to acknowledge our support since many workplaces have a relaxed dress day on Friday.
During these troubled times worldwide, many Canadians feel helpless. They want to support our troops but are not sure how. Wearing red on Fridays is a very visible, tangible way to acknowledge the sacrifices of not only our troops but also their families. I ask everyone to join this wonderful campaign and let us see Canada turn red this one day from coast to coast.
I urge all of my colleagues to support the motion. To quote military spouse Sandi Evans, who joined the crowd on Saturday to see the lighting of Canada's tallest Christmas tree in honour of our soldiers and their families, “It's just nice to see everyone coming together to support our troops in Afghanistan”.