Mr. Speaker, in case the minister did not hear it, the person's name is Mr. Ribiere and his phone number is 613-352-8765.
I would first like to thank my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore and the member for Québec, who is seconding his motion. I admire my colleague's passion and how, day after day, he makes sure that Parliament does not forget our veterans. This is vital because we deploy them to areas where the conflict is not always clear-cut. We put their lives in danger and, when they return, we can measure the strength of our society by the manner in which we treat them.
I listened to most of the speeches and I must admit that I do not understand why the Conservative government is not able to support a motion that simply says:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) honour the service of Canadian military and RCMP veterans and their families [there is nothing shocking about that] by committing to not cut Veterans Affairs Canada in the upcoming budget [and if I understood the minister correctly, the government does not intend to reduce the budgets]; and (b) provide programs and services to all military and RCMP veterans and their families in a timely and comprehensive manner.
This motion makes so much sense that it is almost shameful to say that, at 5:15 p.m. in this House, we are still debating this motion, and there has not been a massive show of support for all our veterans to let them know that we are in favour of this motion.
In Gatineau, in my riding, I have two legions and, every November, I am among those who watch, participate and try to remember. We know that, when we remember our history, we do not repeat the mistakes of the past. We know what all our veterans, all those who gave their lives and all those who returned with physical, emotional or other injuries, did during certain battles. We know what they did on behalf of our great country of Canada. Remembering once a year with our hands on our hearts so that we do not forget these people is one thing, but taking action is another. It is not very hard to go to the cenotaph with a wreath to remember some of the battles that took place and some of the courageous actions of our veterans. However, making their needs a priority when they return wounded and scarred is another thing. I believe that we are somehow failing miserably as a society when we have to debate the issue before us right now.
In November 2010, I was on Parliament Hill. A few years before that, I was hosting a small radio show in the national capital region and I decided to do something completely different because I had gone to Holland during a trip to Europe. The hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore will appreciate this.
In Holland, I saw the cross-marked graves of all of those Canadian soldiers. I had a chance to talk to some Dutch people who, even at the end of the 1990s, still remembered what our soldiers, our men and women in uniform, did to liberate Europe from the grip of the vilest demon the world has ever known: Hitler. I was so proud to be Canadian, so proud of our people's work and selfless sacrifice.
I returned to Canada. I returned to my radio show, and that November, I decided to do something that my program and station director did not want me to do: observe a minute of silence. For those who do not know, a minute of silence on the radio is quite costly. I was told not to do it. A radio show simply cannot suddenly go absolutely silent for 60 seconds. I am here to say that the minute of silence I observed during my little call-in radio show was the most moving moment of my entire on-air career, and perhaps of my life.
After that, we opened up the phone lines. The way people responded to our 60 seconds of silence was absolutely amazing. People called to say that we do not talk about veterans enough and we are not there for them when they come back with injuries and cannot find a job. When I listen to the people here talk about red tape and this, that and the other thing while people are starving, I am not very proud to be Canadian.
That being said, since that radio moment, the month of November has always been special to me. When I noticed local media reports about a newly formed organization called Canadian Veterans Advocacy and a proposed first Canadian veterans national day of protest in support of veterans' rights, I felt that something was not right. If Canada is taking proper care of its veterans, why is there a need for a national day of protest to raise awareness of normal, ordinary and necessary needs? Something is not right here.
I decided to take part in this day of protest to speak to people on the ground. I met two extraordinary individuals who really affected my outlook on this issue. The first was Mike Blais, a retiree who founded Canadian Veterans Advocacy and who, like my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore, works tirelessly day after day, trying to obtain what should be given automatically without a moment's hesitation. The other person was the former veterans' ombudsman, Pat Stogran. A few months earlier, in July 2010, he had given a press conference to denounce how poorly we treat our veterans. A few days after that, he lost his job, which was no surprise.
The person who replaced him said the same thing, which is terribly sad: veterans still do not have access to services. We have been asking questions of the members opposite all day today. They say they have invested money here and there, but none of them can look at the cameras with a straight face and say that our veterans have exactly the services they deserve. The rest is gibberish, to say the least. It is an affront to those who fought on the front lines, not knowing if they would come home. Considering that there is no greater sacrifice in life, if our society does not ensure that they can live decently and in dignity upon their return and that they can get services, it will have failed miserably.
We hear the government constantly saying that it is here for our soldiers and for the army and that the opposition does not support the army. However, the facts reveal the reality, and the reality is that the Conservative members across the floor are going to rise tomorrow around 6 p.m. and vote against this motion and the amendment, and I find that shameful. The Conservatives should be ashamed of themselves.