Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honour John Henry Foster Babcock who died last week at the remarkable age of 109. Canadians from coast to coast to coast were not only touched by his death, but have been, and will continue to be, inspired by his life.
Today, we recognize the passing of the last Canadian first world war veteran and pledge to keep alive the spirit of freedom, courage, democracy and dignity that marked his generation and left an indelible mark on Canada and the world.
We know the story but we revel in its telling again.
Just prior to his 16th birthday, Jack Babcock joined the 146th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force out of Sydenham, Ontario. The young soldier was dispatched to England, but when his true age was discovered, he was assigned to the young soldiers' battalion where he trained and worked in support services until a birthday would allow him to be deployed to the battlefields of France.
The signing of the armistice, while celebrated by millions craving peace, denied the young Mr. Babcock the opportunity to see battle with fellow soldiers.
A Canadian at heart, but one with a continuing sense of adventure and a restless spirit and in need of employment, Mr. Babcock settled in Washington State where he lived, raised a family and contributed to that community. The restoration of his Canadian citizenship in 2008, however, brought to full circle his love of this country and our country's love of this soldier.
On behalf of colleagues in the Liberal Party of Canada, I offer my condolences to the Babcock family on their loss. We will remember him.
We will remember him.
As the minister has acknowledged, over 650,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders served in the first world war. Tragically, more than 68,000 of them would never return to Canadian soil. Another 170,000 were wounded in service. Every one of them paid the price of peace on our behalf.
That is why we on this side of the House heartily welcome the government's intention to hold a commemorative ceremony in April honouring the Canadian heroes of the first world war, soldiers who defined our country and established a tradition of excellence that continues to this day in the women and men of our armed forces serving in Canada, in Haiti, in Afghanistan and around the world, proudly bearing the maple leaf in our name.
We will remember them.