Mr. Speaker, this is an incredibly important discussion that we are having today. I will begin by making something very clear, and I think my colleagues on the committee would agree. I do not think there is a member in this House who does not support our veterans. I think every elected member understands the importance of what these great people have done for our country. Whatever disagreements we may have, I think they are in the spirit of how we can make it better and how we can continue to support our veterans. I just wanted to get that on the record because we do not always agree on everything.
I also want to point out that tomorrow is an important day. It is the day when the minister appears before the committee to discuss the main estimates. It will be a very fulsome, public discussion about what will take place and what will not. I want to get it on the record again, as the minister said many times, there will be no reductions in services to veterans. Legally, we cannot do that. As a government, we will fully support the services that are provided to veterans. Whatever else goes on, whatever one wants to add to it, that is a different kind of discussion. However, we need to be clear that there will be no reduction in the budget in terms of services to veterans in Canada. We just would not do that.
I will also point out, as I am supposed to use some of the document prepared for me, and make mention of the fact that there are some important anniversaries coming up. Part of what we do is commemorate what our veterans have done. We know that next month there is a special anniversary and special celebrations for the 95th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. It is one of four important battles but this one is special because it really showed that Canada was becoming a nation recognized around the world.
On April 8, some 500 cadets will gather here in Ottawa. It is very touching and moving ceremony. They hold an all night vigil in recognition of the tomb of the unknown soldier. If people are around, I would encourage them to go. One of the great things we have seen in recent years is the take up among young Canadians of what veterans and the military mean to our great nation. Every year they are showing up in greater numbers showing their understanding of the importance of what our veterans have done. That is certainly an important event.
Also, and I thought one of these years I might get to go, but the minister will lead a delegation to France with some 5,000 students and a number of veterans and military representatives. They will be able to see that very special place and to commemorate with our great Canadians how important not only the monument is but the whole event, the whole recognition of Canada being recognized in France for what we have done. We certainly think that is important. I just want to remind members that this coming up next month.
As well, there are a number of other programs and services. I want to touch on those because I think we overlook things sometimes. I think anybody on the committee would agree that this year we had a number of great witnesses come in. Many have started initiatives on their own or in partnership with the department. In every case, there is phenomenal growth in the services taking place for veterans in Canada. There is a whole recognition.
I know my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore remembers when we saw the peer group come before us a couple of years ago. There is a whole recognition of all the new challenges that veterans face, whether they be physical, mental, financial or whatever. I see continued progress taking place. I think a lot of it is in recognition of their service, although there were cuts that took place in the mid-1990s, which was unfortunate and it took a long time to bring them back, but now it is a matter of continued growth and recognition.
A former minister said quite often, and it is so true, that we can never do enough for our veterans. I think that will always be the case, but we can never stop trying. We can never stop listening. We can never stop reaching out and telling them how much they mean to our great nation.
Even though we may disagree on the timing of that, it is important to remember that the efforts that are being made show that every year there is an improvement over the year before.
We also know there are a lot of veterans who need special care and special attention. I know the talk has been about cutbacks, reductions and so on. I think the test will be when the budget comes in. I will just smile as I look at my colleague and say that this is the year for him to vote for the budget and to support the veterans in a meaningful way.
It would be so marvellous to see my colleague stand up that day and say that it may not be everything, that it may not be all that we want, but that the government is doing the right things for the veterans of Canada. I want to hear the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore stand up and, with great praise and great enthusiasm, do that.
All kidding aside, it is important to note that as we look at the issues we are facing and the issues to come, the modern vets need special recognition. I would agree with many of the points made over recent years that there were problems, whether it was regarding privacy or other issues. The fact is there has been a response to those, and a continued response is necessary.
It has been pointed out by other members that not just recognizing the services, but as the department becomes more efficient, more of the money should be spent on the veterans and less of the money should be spent on bureaucracy.
We will not get into a debate about the things that should stay or go; that will continue in the years to come. However, I will tell members one thing. Whatever we end up doing, as colleagues in this House, we have to keep trying and every day of every year we have to remember what these people have done.
The modern vets are coming home. As I said earlier about one of the meetings we had a couple of years ago, these peer support groups are becoming so important. There are homeless vets. There are a lot of problems that vets face. We have learned that the best approach is for someone who has been in their shoes to be the lead and the contact with veterans. They will make the contact and will bring them in. This is something that probably I and most of us could not do. They have been there. They have suffered. They understand and they want to help. We have to listen to these people. We have to support these people. We have to ensure they are given the supports they need. That is our job. I see a lot of opportunity for improvement there.
I have probably left a few things out that were in my notes, but I did want to take this opportunity to say that tomorrow is an important day. The minister is going to be with us at the committee. The committee members will have an opportunity to go into detail, but please let it be with the full understanding and comprehension that we start by saying there will be absolutely no reduction in services to veterans. We just will never let that happen.