Mr. Speaker, in the foggy dawn of August 19, 1942, when Europe was under the control of the Nazi regime, 5,000 Canadians landed at Dieppe. Let us talk about one of those veterans.
Arthur Rossel was 22 years old and in a landing craft. He was part of The Essex Scottish Regiment from Windsor and said, “I was a lucky man because when we hit the water, I was supposed to be a bodyguard for the Brigadier-General”. It did not turn out that way. As he was trying to save the general, he was seriously wounded. He spent 18 days in a coma and months more in hospital following the raid. Arthur feels that he was lucky.
Nine hundred soldiers were not so lucky and fell at Dieppe seventy years ago. Close to 2,000 Canadians were taken prisoner.
A young French nurse, Sister Agnès-Marie, and her nursing colleagues welcomed these injured, maimed and dying soldiers and cared for them day and night with limited means. Soldiers told these nurses that they would free France for them. They told these nurses that they reminded them of the sisters in Quebec. This young French nun, Sister Agnès-Marie, put her own life at risk to care for these soldiers. Through her prayers and her tears, she witnessed the last moments of many soldiers' lives. That is what we are commemorating this week.
This is Veterans' Week, and today we, as parliamentarians, would like to take a few moments to pay tribute to veterans.
I would like to thank my colleagues for their presence here and tell them that Arthur returned to Dieppe 70 years later and received a hero's welcome. Arthur told us that he signed more autographs than ever this year because the people of Dieppe remembered the sacrifices and courage of Canadian soldiers. Arthur returned to Dieppe for a very simple reason: he wanted to pay tribute to his comrades who were not as lucky as he was and who never returned home.
Sister Agnès-Marie, the same nun from 70 years ago, was also there that year. She is 98 years old and she said that we must never forget the lasting scars left by these brutal massacres. She added, “They were fathers, husbands and brothers, young and old, before being dragged into a world war that altered the course of their existence. Alas, some did not even have the chance to experience the pleasures of life before going to war. Thrown into a dangerous raid, they were sadly unable to meet their objective, but they found their way to a blessed eternity.”
I believe that Canada should thank Arthur and the veterans of Dieppe for risking their lives for our democracy. Thank you so much, Arthur.
On the ground and in the sky, the battle went on during the Second World War. The efforts of approximately 50,000 Canadians who served with the Royal Canadian Air Force in Bomber Command operations over occupied Europe was one of our country's most significant contributions during the Second World War.
Ed Carter Edwards was one of them. In 1942, Ed enlisted and joined the sixth Royal Canadian Air Force group. He flew 21 successful missions as a wireless operator air gunner, but, unfortunately, he was shot down over France in 1944. He first made contact with the French resistance but then fell into the hands of the Gestapo. He was betrayed and ended up in a Buchenwald concentration camp. There he saw the atrocities of war. Luckily, the German airmen took him to a prisoner-of-war camp so he could escape.
He finally made his great journey with his son Justin. We are very proud, Mr. Speaker, that you were able to recognize Ed Carter Edwards today.
We can be so proud, as all parliamentarians can be so proud, of what our great veterans have accomplished. Their legacy goes on in Korea where we will be commemorating the 60th anniversary next year. It also goes on in our peacekeeping and NATO missions. It goes on in Bosnia. Canada and other peacekeeping nations faced huge challenges in the Balkans, and there was only so much they could do to curb the worst of the violence brought on by the hatred and viciousness of the combatants there. Many horrible acts were perpetrated that the peacekeepers simply could not prevent.
In 1992, Alfie Bojalil gained recognition and was awarded the commander-in-chief commendation for his participation in this effort. He was in the besieged city of Sarajevo. He returned on his own this year. Mr. Speaker, I thank you for recognizing Alfie Bojalil as one of our NATO and UN veterans and others for what they are giving us and what they are doing for our country.
But some never come back. On September 6, 2009, a few weeks before the end of the second mission in Afghanistan, Major Yannick Pépin lost his life when his armoured vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. I went to the funeral, where I met his wife, Annie Roberge, and their children. Today, she is courageously moving on with her life.
Today, we talked about Vimy.
Madison Ford has not been in a war. She is 16 years old and she is in one of my colleague's riding. She is a student at Bear Creek Secondary School in Barrie, Ontario. She travelled, along with 5,000 students, to the 95th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge this past April, and she wrote, “These soldiers gave their lives for our freedom. These brave soldiers gave Canada its identity of “the true north, strong and free”.
I was listening to her and I kind of envied her because I felt that she was speaking like the Minister of Veterans Affairs. However, the good thing is that the youth understand that not only was Vimy the birth of a nation, but when our youth go to Vimy, it is the birth of a new generation.
Madison is asking us one thing during Veterans Week. She asks, “Please take a moment to acknowledge the bravery and heroism of the veterans that are with us today. Thank you for your service and risking your life for me. Let us together listen to the final prayer of those sacrifices we are honouring. We may hear them say softly: 'I love my family, I love my comrades, I love my country and I will defend their freedom to the end'”.
I thank Madison for the great words she has written.
We can see that this is the Canadian journey. It has begun in many conflicts. We have seen Arthur in Dieppe. We have seen Ed in Bomber Command. We have seen Alfie in Bosnia, and we are still seeing our great soldiers in Afghanistan today.
We can say today, with hope, because Madison is reminding us that these youth care for our veterans. In the famous words of John McCrae:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.