Mr. Speaker, I am honoured and deeply humbled to rise on behalf of the entire Liberal caucus in joining with colleagues in all parties this afternoon to honour the service and the sacrifice of Canadian veterans and, particularly, to remember more than 100,000 members of the Canadian armed forces who have given their very lives in the pursuit of peace, freedom and democracy at home and abroad.
I am even more deeply humbled to be surrounded by them this afternoon in the very presence of those representatives of the armed services and the veterans above me in the gallery. Even though I cannot see them right now, I appreciate their presence and ask for their grace and patience as I try to pay tribute.
Over the next week, in villages and cities, in places of worship, places of honour, in public squares and at the bedsides in veterans' care facilities, Canadians will pause to reflect and remember. And on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we will still ourselves for two minutes to bring to mind and to heart the passion, the courage and the hopes of those who died in service to our nation.
This week we will bear boldly the flame of gratitude and remembrance.
We are a nation proud of being forward-thinking, a forward-looking nation, an optimistic people committed to building a better country and a better world. This week, however, as we do each year around this time, we shall take a moment to stop and contemplate our past to recall the throes of war, and to remember with sad hearts the loved ones who are departed and the families torn apart. We will also reaffirm our commitment to their efforts in shaping a world of peace and equity.
As we do that, we will feel humility. We will feel gratitude. We will feel pride.
It is my hope that this week we will recall in our souls the tireless pursuit of a world free from tyranny and terror that has been the call to action and the call to arms of members of the Canadian Forces for generations.
It is my hope this week that we will reclaim in our hearts the spirit of this nation, its care for the most vulnerable, its commitment to civil and human rights, its protection of minorities and its commitment to democracy and freedom, those things that have shaped every one of our wartime efforts.
Most of all, it is my hope this week that we will remember, at the core of our being, the spirit of those soldiers, peacemakers and peacekeepers who lost or risked their lives in the trenches and fields of the first world war, on the bloodstained beaches and in the fields of the second world war, over the mountains, through the swamps and across the rice paddies of the Korean War, and now in the city streets and the vast deserts of Afghanistan, even as we speak today.
To remember the wars of the 20th century is not an easy task for two reasons.
Quite simply, the experiences of war are painful to convey and difficult to share. It grates against the grain of our culture to call to mind the tragedies of war and the magnitude of death. The numbers stagger. Canada sent 620,000 soldiers to fight in World War I, 66,000 were killed. Over one million Canadians fought in World War II, 45,000 did not return. It is hard to come to terms with over 100,000 lives cut short, over 100,000 stories left unfinished, over 100,000 families truncated, over 100,000 dreams trampled upon.
There is a natural human response to want to shield ourselves from the reality of this sacrifice. But even if we are willing, our capacity is dangerously threatened.
With each Remembrance Day, the veterans who gather around memorials to lay wreaths and share their stories with family and friends grow a little older and fewer. Those who saw combat are now having a hard time feeding the flame of remembrance alone.
For Canada's younger generations, the World War II and Korean War veterans' memories are ancient history. With each year that goes by, our nation is remembering less vividly the conflicts that have marked the previous century.
But remember we must. To bear the flame of remembrance is simply not enough. We must continue to feed the flame of remembrance as well.
We feed the flame of remembrance by our yearly naming of those who have given their lives, keeping our promise to those who have died in our service. We take time and make space to ensure that they are remembered as men and women, as flesh and blood, not mere statistics in corporate memory. From Harry B. Little, who died at the age of 26 on August 14, 1914, to Sapper Steven Marshall from Calgary, Alberta, who, at 24, was killed in Afghanistan on October 30 of this year. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.
We feed the flame of remembrance also by telling and retelling stories of the human side of war, keeping our promise to those who have served faithfully. We support the Memory Project of the Historica-Dominion Institute, connecting veterans and students online and in classrooms across the country by the sharing of personal stories with youth.
So far, these veterans have managed to touch more than 300,000 young people with their stories of courage and passion.
We feed the flame of remembrance by caring for our veterans and their spouses with dignity, compassion and economic security.
We honour the new Veterans Charter, an alliance between this country and those who served in the armed forces.
We thank the Royal Canadian Legion and ANAVETS units across the country that not only keep this memory alive, but provide social, cultural and individual support for Canadian veterans.
Finally, we feed the flame of remembrance by honouring those who wear the uniform today, ensuring that we equip them appropriately, keep them safe and preserve their health.
These brave women and men put their lives on the line every day for a better world.
Our solemn responsibility is to protect them and when they come home, to ensure their physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health. Sometime next week, we will remove the poppies from their place of honour over our hearts, but let us never remove our commitment to feeding the flame of remembrance. Let us keep the faith. Let us keep hope.