Mr. Speaker, we heartily welcome the government's intention to mark the passing of John Babcock, the last known veteran of the first world war, with a tribute to all those noble Canadian men and women who gave their lives either for a time or for eternity during the Great War.
On April 9, long known as Vimy Ridge Day, we will gather in our nation's capital and in cities across the country to pause in remembrance. This remembrance and every future remembrance of the first world war, the war that shaped both the Canadian Forces for a generation and our country for a century, will be different now that Mr. Babcock is no longer a living reminder of the sense of duty and the call to sacrifice that shaped his generation. Yes, it will be different, but as member of the House knows, remember we must. We remember for several reasons.
The sheer magnitude of the effort staggers the mind. Over 650,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders, mostly men, volunteered for service. With a population of only eight million people, this represents close to 20% of the male population. One in five or six men were overseas fighting for the freedom, the dignity and the peace that we enjoy in our country today.
There was not a village, a town or a city unaffected by this wartime effort. Of these, almost 70,000 were killed in action, their bodies buried in foreign soil. Over 170,000 were wounded in body, all were wounded in spirit. A generation was changed and would never again take for granted the cost of peace and we must never forget.
We remember not only because of the numbers of men and women killed in service. We remember also because of the nature of that war effort and the challenge it offered this young country of ours. We remember because of the maturity with which that challenge was met.
It is not trite to say that the efforts of the first world war were efforts that shaped not only our military but our place in the world. Young Canadian soldiers and their officers became known for their courage, their fortitude, their dogged tenacity. This was a war of direct and personal consequence for the soldiers who fought for Canada. While comrades fell to their left and their right, our forces soldiered on.
Our efforts in the first world war informed our contributions in the second, in Korea, in the Cold War, in peacekeeping operations, in failed state initiatives and they continued to inform and inspire our soldiers in Afghanistan today.
This is the reputation of our military forces that endures to this day, both in conflict and in disaster relief, such as in our recent operations coordinating and delivering aid in Haiti. It is why we are valued partners in multilateral bodies minding borders, patrolling hillsides and city streets in areas of conflict. It is why we continue to be acknowledged as a small but significant armed force, bringing our intelligence, our strength and our compassion to the military work in this country and around the world.
With the minister, I encourage all members to sign the Book of Reflection. As we cast our minds to those we might forget in the past, we also cast them to the future, remembering new veterans who will be coming home in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.