House of Commons Hansard #47 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


Supporting Non-Partisan Agents of Parliament ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Supporting Non-Partisan Agents of Parliament ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 6:45 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from November 19, 2013 consideration of the motion.

Afghan Veterans MonumentPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

When the bill was last before the House, the hon. member for Winnipeg North had the floor, and he still has three minutes left to conclude his remarks.

The hon. member for Winnipeg North.

Afghan Veterans MonumentPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, what a privilege and honour it is to stand in my place as a former member of the Canadian Forces to pay tribute to the veterans of the war in Afghanistan.

The Liberal Party of Canada fully endorses the motion.

The temporary memorial was established in the Hall of Honour on Parliament Hill. We saw tributes there, and many people living here in Ottawa and elsewhere observed that memorial. I understand that it is on tour across Canada, where it is making many different stops. I also understand that it will be stopping once in the United States, because we recognize the fact that American soldiers were part of the Canadian command, if I can put it that way.

It is important to recognize that more than 158 regular force and reserve force members were lost. They made the supreme sacrifice in Afghanistan. More than 1,500 soldiers came back to Canada changed quite dramatically, whether it was because of a physical injury or a mental issue. We need to pay tribute to those who represented Canada's interests when they fought for basic freedoms and the rule of law. They went there on our behalf.

The Liberal Party of Canada supports having a permanent memorial. Canadians have been in Afghanistan since 2002. Thousands of Canadian Forces members have done their duty by serving our great nation. Canadians from coast to coast to coast feel very proud of the service they provided.

With that, I rise and acknowledge that the Liberal Party wants to see a permanent memorial established. We look forward to voting on Motion No. 448. I trust that sometime within the next hour we will see the motion pass.

Afghan Veterans MonumentPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Bryan Hayes Conservative Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have eagerly awaited this opportunity to join the debate on the motion before the House, Motion No. 448, for a tribute to the Canadian mission in Afghanistan.

I, like others, congratulate the hon. member for Palliser for sponsoring this important and timely motion, and for displaying the commitment to see it through to approval and passage. It is a worthy and commendable gesture by the member, and it appropriately honours the courage of the Canadian men and women who have served in Afghanistan. Simply put, the motion speaks to the concept, the ideal, and the purpose of duty.

“Duty” is a word I plan to repeat several times in my remarks. The Afghanistan mission required some Canadians to serve not just one tour of duty, but two or three, and in some cases, even four or more tours of duty. My colleague beside me on the left served one of those tours, and during his tour, there were 24 losses of life.

These men and women did their duty. They did their duty to our country, to their service, and to their comrades and, at the same time, we understand that they did so, that they answered Canada's call at great personal sacrifice.

It mean placing themselves in harm's way every day of every month while completing a tour. It meant fighting an enemy who redefined oppression and cruelty, if not barbarity. It meant protecting innocent civilians from those who dismissed every basic principle of civilized conduct. It meant long and stressful absences from loved ones—missing birthdays, anniversaries, special holidays, and even the birth of children. It also meant standing and saluting fallen or wounded comrades.

We lost 158 members of Canada's Armed Forces during this mission. We lost 158 Canadians who exemplified every trait, value, and ideal that we admire and each of us wishes to emulate. We lost 158 of Canada's finest men and women.

We lost Master Corporal Scott Vernelli and Sergeant John Wayne Faught from my riding of Sault Ste. Marie. May they rest in peace.

Our lost heroes personified what has made this nation so great. They willingly grasped the torch passed on from previous generations of Canadian veterans and held it high with pride, courage, and distinction. They added new chapters to our proud military history.

Through a tribute to the Canadian mission in Afghanistan, we can perpetually honour and remember them. Through this tribute, we will always honour our nation's loss of 158 of her finest sons and daughters, and we will go even further. We will also honour, remember, and support those who were wounded while performing their duties.

Over 2,000 Canadians were wounded in the Afghanistan mission. Some have returned to duty, others struggle to adapt to life with their injuries. Some, unfortunately, are still trying to hide wounds that we cannot see, wounds of the mind, the heart, and the spirit. These wounds are sometimes the most difficult to heal.

I say to my fellow members that we cannot simply approve this motion and then walk away with the sense that our duty is done. Every member of this House has, in my opinion, a duty not only to honour and remember, but also to support those who served and survived, as well as those who continue to serve.

That is our duty and, as long as we place our Canadian Armed Forces personnel in harm's way, this duty can never be done. I am proud to contribute in part my duty as the son of a 36-year member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and by being a member of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, where we all work so very hard in support of our veterans.

The Afghanistan mission was conducted in a country halfway around the world and in a land that can be harsh and inhospitable. It was a mission that brought new terms or expressions into our daily vocabulary, such as “IED” and, tragically, “ramp ceremony”. It created a unique memorial: The Highway of Heroes.

We were introduced to the Silver Cross Mothers, who did not display a silver hair, so young were they and the loved ones they lost.

Every conflict has similarities, but they are remembered and expressed in different and, sometimes, unique ways.

Our government continues to anticipate and meet the needs of Canada's veterans, be they borne from duties performed in conflicts that occurred decades ago or more recent ones, such as the first Gulf War, the Balkans and, indeed, Afghanistan.

Each conflict represents unique challenges that we must meet in order to support Canada's veterans and their families.

The Afghanistan mission was, and is, no exception. It has represented the most significant and sustained engagement by Canada's Armed Forces since the Korean War.

I must commend the hon. Minister of Veterans Affairs, who has been tireless in his efforts to implement and build upon the innovative support programs and benefits brought about by our government.

Other members have spoken in detail of such programs, services, and innovations. I will not take up the time of the House to repeat their observations and valuable contributions to this debate. I will simply state with honesty that this government is working incredibly hard on behalf of our veterans, and I experience proof of that, every day, through my involvement on the Standing Committee of Veterans Affairs.

I am proud to say that this government is meeting its duty to Canada's veterans. It continues to strive to provide our veterans with programs and benefits that demonstrate compassion, foresight, and efficiency in their delivery.

As an hon. member has already asked: is there room for improvement?

Of course, there is. It is the duty of the government to always improve. It is our duty to participate and provide a meaningful contribution to a process that is so vital to sustaining democracy, and we are fulfilling that duty.

In closing, I ask all members to support the motion. We will not be glorifying war. We will be honouring the readiness of our fellow Canadians to sacrifice their security, their future and, indeed, their lives in defence and promotion of the values that make Canada the envy of the world.

So, let us do our duty. Let us stand together with Canada's veterans and their families and reassure them, very clearly, that we will remember their fallen comrades and that we will always honour their devotion to duty.

Afghan Veterans MonumentPrivate Members' Business

February 12th, 2014 / 6:55 p.m.


Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to stand in the House today in support of Motion No. 448, for the establishment of a permanent memorial for those who served in Afghanistan. I wish to credit the member for Palliser for recommending that we memorialize not only those who gave their lives but also those who were injured and those who aided in the mission. One subtle change is that it might be more appropriate to speak of commemorating, not necessarily memorializing, as I understand the member wishes to thank all who served, not simply those who gave their lives.

I, along with my colleagues and all Canadians, am grateful to the contribution that the men and women who serve in the Canadian armed forces provide to this country. It is only right that these brave individuals be honoured. It is right that we, as Canadians, mark our gratitude.

Two members of my immediate family served in the two world wars. My father served in the air force during World War II, and my great uncle lost his life during World War I. I was raised with the tales of war and the sacrifices made. Many spoke of valour, many had sadder tales, and many of my father's generation chose simply not to talk about the war, so it left me with a very quiet understanding of the sacrifices made.

I had the honour of accompanying the former minister of national defence to the repatriation of a fallen soldier brought home to his family. The experience is one that brings home the sacrifices of war and will remain with me forever.

I am working with the forces, business members, and historic groups to re-establish the cenotaph in my own riding of Edmonton—Strathcona to enable the regiment and community to assemble for commemoration ceremonies. I know that all communities across Canada have a great respect for our armed forces. I think it is a beautiful gesture that the people in my community want to come together to remember and to help people come together. It is indeed a beautiful gesture that we will not only commemorate those who gave their lives in World War I and II but also honour those who are serving today.

The timing of this motion is significant, with the permanent withdrawal of troops after over a decade of Canadian participation in the Afghanistan conflict. The end of this mission will be a time to reflect on the contributions made by Canada to improving the lives of the Afghanistan people, the strides we had taken in contributing to training efforts, and the work accomplished alongside our NATO allies.

The proposed memorial offers at least one concrete means to thank these men, women, and their families and would serve as a reminder of the need to strengthen our resolve to support those who have returned home with special needs, for example, those with injuries, whether physical or mental, as the member spoke of earlier this evening. It would serve as a reminder that we always have to be there for our veterans in their time of need and that our responsibility is that if they risk their lives overseas, we will be here for them when they come home and we will care for the soldiers and their families.

Most importantly, it is a time to honour the 158 Canadian soldiers who lost their lives. I wish particularly to mark the contributions of the soldiers from the Edmonton garrison. The garrison is home to 5,000 military personnel and their families. CFB Edmonton began deploying soldiers at the commencement of the mission in Afghanistan, with 750 troops from the Third Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry deploying to Afghanistan in January of 2002. From then to now, CFB Edmonton has been a major contributor to Canada's involvement. Of the Canadian soldiers who lost their lives in the mission, 42 or almost one-third were from CFB Edmonton.

This past summer, soldiers left Edmonton for Afghanistan, to serve in the final stages of the Operation Attention training mission. While the combat role of the Canadian military ended some time ago, the contribution of these soldiers continues in a dangerous setting far from family and home. Just as they are on the minds of loved ones who are missing them while they are away, our men and women in uniform must remain in the minds of Canadians after their return. A monument is a tangible way for us, as a country, to show our soldiers that their contribution will never be forgotten.

The proposal for a special monument for Canadians serving in Afghanistan is laudable. By coincidence, in Edmonton last fall I had the fortune of meeting the Canadian artist who had designed the proposed memorial to honour our Afghanistan veterans.

The artist asked me what had happened to the previous apparent support for the completion and dedication of this particular memorial. The Canadian monument once installed at Kandahar airfield is now touring the country. We were honoured with a view of the memorial here on the Hill just before Christmas.

I was advised that the intent is to permanently install this memorial in the capital region. It is not clear from the motion whether this is the member's intent or if he is suggesting a second form of memorial. Either way, we need to establish a permanent memorial.

I feel obliged to raise a concern I am also hearing from veterans that no similar initiative has been taken for Canadian soldiers deployed elsewhere who also lost their lives. An example is the Bosnian mission. I encourage members in the House to give careful thought to that request from our veterans.

It is high time for us to come together as a country to recognize more broadly the contributions of our Canadian Forces and the burdens that they and their families continue to bear. I was struck by the documentary aired on CPAC about a number of volunteer initiatives in this country to support Canadian veterans who are disabled and have become homeless, some long suffering from PTSD-type symptoms.

More must be done to honour their service. We must honour our long-standing sacred obligation to care for our injured veterans. As the member from across the floor mentioned this evening, yes, we need to build a permanent monument, but we also must assume the responsibility to ensure that those who return home injured or suffering from some form of mental distress or suffering from the cultural shock of returning to the wealth of Canada from a country such as Afghanistan receive our support to adjust back into Canadian society.

We must all reflect on this proposed memorial and dedicate ourselves not only to ensuring expenditures on the physical monument to those who have served but also to ensuring that all veterans are granted the assistance and care they deserve for the sacrifices they have made on our behalf.

I would like to add that I had the privilege of serving in a Canadian aid project in Bangladesh over a five-year period. I had the opportunity to travel to Chittagong. For those who are unaware, Chittagong borders between Bangladesh and Burma. There is a beautiful cemetery there that is maintained by the Bangladeshi, where are buried our young Canadian and British soldiers. It was very heart-rending to go through that cemetery and see all of the young Canadians who had given their lives, but what was most heart-rending was seeing the dedication of the Bangladeshi people to honour the service that our Canadian Forces gave for their protection and seeing the cemetery being so beautifully maintained.

I recently met with some veterans in Edmonton, and they called upon me to speak to my colleagues here to make sure that we maintain the burial sites of our veterans who have returned home with the same initiative as they are maintained in Bangladesh and in Europe. I look forward to taking up that matter.

In closing, I commend the member for bringing forward the motion and I look forward to supporting it.

Afghan Veterans MonumentPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Durham Ontario


Erin O'Toole ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to rise today in the House to echo the comments of my colleagues on this side of the House, as well as on the other side, about the importance of honouring, recognizing, and remembering the service of many Canadians in Afghanistan.

It is important to thank the hon. member for Palliser for his tireless efforts in this regard, championing the concept of a memorial and of remembering. I also want to compliment the member for Sault Ste. Marie, with whom I had the pleasure of serving on the veterans affairs committee. He is a tireless champion for the men and women of the Canadian Forces and for our veterans.

This motion should get support from all members in the House, and it sounds to me as though this is one of these rare but very important moments in the House when we unite to do the right thing, to pay respect to those who have served on our behalf. Our government, and indeed all members of the House, support paying tribute to and remembering Canadians who have served and are serving in Afghanistan. As we know, there are men and women due to return to Canada at the end of March, so we are in the final two months of this very important mission that Canadian Forces members served on our behalf.

I had the privilege, before I was elected to Parliament, to be in the Senate to watch the ceremony related to the end of the mission in Libya. General Bouchard was the Canadian officer who led the international effort in Libya. That was a short, multilateral mission, and a successful one, in which Canadian expertise, precision, and leadership played an important role, and that was recognized. Afghanistan has been one of our longest missions as a country. Blood has been expended, as 158 of our finest people gave their lives. We have to not only memorialize them but also remember their service and the contributions they made to peace and security and a better life for many in that country.

Where I stand today represents the sacrifices Canadians have made and our tradition of heeding the call to serve the wider global good since the founding of our country. In the Peace Tower, the Book of Remembrance turns a page each day, and on each page are the names of young men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Beneath that tower is the chamber, which we are in, that allows speech and debate, lively at times, that has been secured by their sacrifice. We need to remember that as we debate important motions like this one.

Not far from me, on the west side of Centre Block, lies the Vimy stone, which was built by the masons into the side of a rebuilt Parliament of Canada following the fire the year before. The stonemasons heard of Canada's tremendous victory at Vimy Ridge and laid a special Vimy stone in the building they were constructing, representing our democracy here in Canada and the security we enjoy because we have sent our sons and daughters to other parts of the world to ensure that security is spread, even though in many cases we are protected by the blanket of distance.

I have referred many times in my short time here to the statue of George Baker in the foyer of the Commons, a sitting member of Parliament who died on the battlefields of World War I. I have also spoken about my intention to work with others in Parliament to honour the memory of Colonel Sam Sharpe, the MP from Uxbridge in my riding, who died during World War I at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal after suffering the stresses of war. I am going to work with colleagues to make sure that his sacrifice is remembered as well.

We are steps from the National War Memorial, where each November Canadians gather amid cold, sleet, and snow to pay respect to our veterans and to honour the memory of those who never returned to Canada, whether from the fields of Europe, from the battlefields of Korea, from peacekeeping duties or active service on NATO missions, or in recent years as a result of service in Kandahar and parts of Afghanistan. We remember them, and we remember the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial.

In Confederation Park, we have the Korean War monument. It is not far from here. Last year our government inaugurated 2013, the Year of the Korean War Veteran, because governments should have honoured that service many years ago. In some ways, veterans have called that the “forgotten war”. Confederation Park is also home to a monument to some of our first nations veterans. It is important for Canadians visiting their capital to see these important memorials.

Memorials of some of our winners of the Victoria Cross, our highest award for gallantry, line Wellington Street, mere yards from here as well. If one turns onto Sussex Drive, there is a striking and important monument to our peacekeepers and the many missions that Canada served, since we, in many ways, helped spearhead the concept of a stability and security force as part of our multilateral efforts through the United Nations.

Within this context, the mission in Afghanistan deserves particular attention because it has been our most significant military engagement since Korea and one of our longest engagements in terms of the period of time that Canadians have been committed, in terms of our sacrifice of our treasure and resources to this mission, and in terms of our diplomatic efforts. We need to have a memorial and we need to make sure we write the histories and remember the sacrifice we made in this critical part of our history.

As I said, 158 Canadians gave their lives in service where their country sent them. As a former military officer I know, as some members of this House know, that there is an unlimited liability contract that soldiers sign with the military when they serve their country. Fortunately, the vast majority do not provide that unlimited liability, but 158 of our best and brightest did, and they deserve a proper memorial.

Over 2,000 members were injured in service and will continue to show the signs of their sacrifice for our country. We must work with them to remember their colleagues and tell their stories. We lost a diplomat, a journalist, and five civilians. We must tell those stories and teach our children so that the memory remains alive.

There are monuments already forming. Canadians, in many ways, gave probably the most touching tribute when they showed up on highways during our repatriations. Now there is a repatriation monument in Trenton. Canada Company, 1st C.A.V. motorcycle club, Legions, and average Canadians donated to make that happen.

Portraits of Honour, a stunning series by artist Dave Sopha, has toured the country. We had those portraits at some of the charitable events I used to organize so that we could see the faces of our fallen.

As the Minister of Justice and the MP for Edmonton Centre have proposed recently and as members of the Canadian Forces have said, the Trans Canada Trail has the potential to honour our fallen, perhaps portions of the trail uniting our country near the communities where our fallen came from.

Most importantly, the cenotaphs around this country mark the combat role Canada played in Afghanistan in our service. My community of Bowmanville honoured Trooper Darryl Caswell on our cenotaph. Cenotaphs across Canada rarely get touched for generations, but this mission touched cenotaphs across our country. I know the family of Captain Matthew Dawe, another fine Canadian we lost in Afghanistan. There was Captain Nichola Goddard. The list goes on. They will also be marked on the cenotaphs in their communities.

These are times when we need to mark their service and what they gave in pursuit of Canadian goals and ideals around the world—mark it in their communities on their cenotaphs with their Legion members and their families, but also mark it here in our nation's capital.

I want to end with some words from Rupert Brooke's poem The Dead. Some of these words are found on the Memorial Arch on the grounds of RMC; cadets march in through it and then march out through it.

These are those words:

Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead!
There's none of these so lonely and poor of old,
But, dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold
These laid the world away; poured out the red
Sweet wine of youth; gave up the years to be
Of work and joy, and that unhoped serene,
That men call age; and those who would have been,
Their sons, they gave, their immortality.

Blow, bugles, blow! They brought us, for our dearth,
Holiness, lacked so long, and Love, and Pain.
Honour has come back, as a king, to earth,
And paid his subjects with a royal wage;
And Nobleness walks in our ways again;
And we have come into our heritage.

We can show our heritage with this monument.

Afghan Veterans MonumentPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.


Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on Motion No. M-448, on the creation of a memorial for veterans of Afghanistan.

I would first like to thank the member for Palliser for introducing this motion that seeks to honour those Canadians who served, and in some cases gave their lives, in the mission in Afghanistan. The motion before us is an important one that the NDP is proud to support.

As Canadians, we have a duty to recognize the exceptional contributions and sacrifices made by the men and women who defended Canada and our allies in Afghanistan, whether as members of the Canadian Armed Forces, our diplomatic corps, or as international aid workers.

With almost 40,000 troops deployed over the years, including 158 who lost their lives and 2,000 more who were wounded, our soldiers' efforts certainly deserve to be recognized by a memorial in our national capital. Such a memorial was erected at the time at the airport in Kandahar, but it was brought home to Canada. It is now being displayed in every corner of the country, so that Canadians can fulfill their duty to remember. The proposal is to eventually reassemble the memorial and locate it in the national capital region.

The memorial includes 190 plaques honouring the 201 people who died in combat. The memorial is a powerful symbol of the Canadian commitment to Afghanistan. Its symbolism would provide a unique reminder of the sacrifice that marked the history of this Canadian military action overseas.

Whatever our opinion of the Canadian mission itself, no one in the House can deny the courage, the perseverance and the sacrifices of our soldiers during the mission. That is what we in the NDP wish to remember. Every one of us has a duty to honour those who went into combat and those who lost their lives there.

I come from a military family. Over the course of my life, I have witnessed the dedication and courage of the men and women who proudly serve their country in the Canadian Armed Forces. Both of my parents are still active members of the Canadian Forces, and my grandfather, who celebrated his 90th birthday a few months ago, had a long career with the Canadian army. He is a Korean War veteran. Throughout my childhood, my family taught me to have tremendous respect for our soldiers and their commitment to defending their country and the values of freedom and democracy that are so dear to Canadians.

As a member of Parliament, I have had the great honour on many occasions to greet soldiers who were returning from the mission in Afghanistan as they arrived at Jean-Lesage airport in Quebec City. In my brief exchanges with them as I shook their hands, I could immediately see the courage and determination of these women and men who were returning from the mission. Some of them were barely older than I was, and some were younger, but regardless of their age they were prepared to sacrifice everything to ensure that their mission would be successful.

Before I became a member of Parliament, I was a tour guide in 2007 and had the opportunity to take some visitors to the Memorial Chamber here in Parliament. It was always very moving to see loved ones come to look at the books containing the names of their family members killed in combat.

We are already doing a good job upholding our duty to remember in Canada, and creating a memorial for our veterans who proudly served in Afghanistan would be a further step in recognizing them. We have a duty to remember the sacrifices made by veterans and their families. That is why I am very proud to support Motion No. 448.

An Afghan veterans monument would provide the recognition that is essential for honouring the commitment and bravery of our soldiers. However, we cannot just use fine words, cenotaphs and monuments scattered across the country to show our appreciation. We must also recognize our veterans by providing effective and accessible services that are adapted to the realities of our soldiers and veterans. It is not enough to erect monuments. It is essential to provide our veterans with the necessary tools for coping with the difficulties and challenges they face before, during and after a mission.

As I was saying earlier, I appreciate and commend the initiative of the hon. member for Palliser. However, I cannot help but notice the irony of debating a motion to pay tribute to veterans, when the Conservatives' latest budget does nothing to restore the services that have been taken away from veterans since the Conservatives came to power. I find that extremely unfortunate.

In the budget that was brought down yesterday, there is absolutely nothing for the health care that is provided to our soldiers or for enhancing the services they receive upon their return to Canada.

The Conservative MPs did not have much to say when this government unilaterally decided to close the regional offices that provided services directly to our veterans.

They unfortunately kept their mouths shut when the Minister of Veterans Affairs treated our veterans with utter contempt a couple of weeks ago. The same was true yesterday, when the Minister of Finance decided to turn a deaf ear to the calls of the veterans and the opposition to maintain or restore services.

Yesterday, the Conservatives were all proud to announce a $2 million investment to provide more services online to veterans, when that sum barely represents 1% of everything they cut from the Veterans Affairs budget.

They cannot claim to defend veterans and then take actions that go against everything we have been trying to achieve throughout the year. That is an inconsistent and completely incomprehensible position.

Despite the Conservatives' daily inconsistencies and their apparent lack of concern for the dire needs of our soldiers returning from missions, it is still important to show our appreciation by supporting such a motion. The motion moved by the member for Palliser has merit, and that is why the NDP decided to support it.

No one on this side of the House is against the troops. Sometimes the NDP questions the government on certain missions it wishes to embark upon and the goals it is trying to attain with our army. Our opinions sometimes differ on those issues. The goal here in the House is to debate and make the decisions that are best for Canadians.

Those discussions and debates do not diminish the respect and admiration that NDP members have for our veterans. I want to make that very clear in this speech. We are working to ensure that veterans, who have so courageously served their country, are well served when they come back to Canada and need our help.

Canada's efforts in Afghanistan warrant a respectful and dignified approach. Those men and women fought for noble values. They fought for freedom and democracy. They worked to offer the Afghan people the stability and security they are seeking.

As Canadians and as parliamentarians, each one of us has the duty to acknowledge and remember that. We can carry out that duty by creating a memorial, for one. However, it should also be reflected in quality services and sustained support before, during and after missions abroad.

Our duty to remember is fulfilled, in part, by erecting cenotaphs, holding ceremonies and remembering what our soldiers have done for us over the years. However, beyond that, we have a responsibility—today, right now—to do everything in our power as parliamentarians to ensure that our veterans are not left out in the cold, as is happening now.

Afghan Veterans MonumentPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.


Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I was not on the list initially tonight, but I am really pleased to have the opportunity to add to this debate.

There is obviously unanimity in the House about the need to recognize and celebrate the spirit of our troops, army, navy and air force, who served in Afghanistan. I have to say I was a little disappointed at the last speaker's remarks. It took away from the dignity of this motion.

I do, as we all do, recognize the duty to honour, the duty to remember, the obligation that we have. It is important that people of good faith on all sides remember that obligation and work together, despite the challenges. Of course there are challenges, but we need to work together to overcome those.

I want to talk about the mission in Afghanistan and the people who prosecuted that mission on our behalf and on behalf of the people of Afghanistan. Being from Edmonton, I realize there is a huge connection between that mission and my city and the people of Edmonton.

Earlier today in a Standing Order 31 statement, I spoke about the reception the troops received when they came back to Edmonton, which is like nowhere else in Canada. No matter the time of day or night, no matter the weather, a group of people was there giving out Tim Hortons coffee, doughnuts, and so on. The Edmonton Police Service was there. The RCMP was there. With their sirens blaring and lights flashing, they provided an escort through the centre of the city of Edmonton to the garrison on the north side of the city. I was in that convoy a number of times. It was extremely moving. I know the soldiers appreciated it very much.

On one particular day, I knew the air crew flying the Airbus which had been escorted into Edmonton by two CF-18s in a colourful display of support. The captain of the Airbus asked air traffic control for clearance to fly across the city at low altitude with the F-18s in tow. For those who know Edmonton's 97 Street, it is kind of the main north-south drag, and about 1,000 or 1,500 feet above, there was a Canadian Forces Airbus with an F-18 on each wing, very visible and very loud. The phone calls started to come in. As soon as people found out what it was, they asked if they could come back again. That is the kind of spirit Edmonton and I know the rest of the country has for those men and women.

There are other organizations in Edmonton, a couple of which have been alluded to by other colleagues. We have something in Edmonton called Project Heroes which commemorates with portraits the 158 soldiers we lost, as was done elsewhere. We have an organization called No Stone Left Alone. It is not just about Afghan vets, but about vets writ large. Their objective is to put a poppy on every veteran's headstone in Canada, eventually, around Remembrance Week. I think they are up to about 15,000 in Edmonton alone, and it is growing.

When we talk about the mission in Afghanistan, the question will ultimately be, was it worth it? Everybody can answer that in their own way. I can say that I was very familiar with the mission from a variety of angles. One was defending the reputation of our soldiers over there when they were being accused of being war criminals by some people in this House. I will not bother going into the politics of that, but it was absolutely shameful. I was extremely proud to be on the front lines of defending those men and women and the honour that they displayed.

I saw them in action. On seven occasions I spent time with our troops in Afghanistan. That will be the highlight of my time as a member of Parliament, the time I spent in Afghanistan. Waking up Christmas morning, which I did five times, at a forward operating base somewhere in the Panjwai district with those kinds of people is something I will certainly never forget.

We talk about progress. One little vignette that I mention often occurred on Christmas Eve 2006. I was standing in a place called Masum Ghar, looking out over the countryside. It was dark and rainy. I had a cup of coffee and a cigar with the chief of the defence staff, Rick Hillier, and somebody else. We were standing there looking over the countryside. It was bleak. There were bombs going off in the distance. It was pretty grim. That was my first visit. I knew that it was real and that what was happening there was regrettably real.

One year to the minute later, Christmas Eve 2007 at Masum Ghar, I was with the new chief of the defence staff and the minister of national defence, now the Minister of Justice, the member for Central Nova, having a cup of coffee and a cigar, looking out over the exact same piece of territory. It looked like a scene from the Canadian Prairies. The lights were on in all the villages. It was quiet and peaceful. Just that one little thing said to me that what those men and women did was incredibly worthwhile.

I visited a number of times after that and saw the progress they had made with schools and interacting with the children. They were interacting with the Afghan institutions, government institutions like the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police, which they did a tremendous job of training.

I had the pleasure of spending time there with people like Rick Mercer and Mary Walsh, and on my last trip there, Don Cherry, who was understandably a pretty big hit with the troops. I spent time with Ron Joyce, who was the co-founder of Tim Hortons. He threw open the Tim Hortons—I think it was 2006 or 2007—for two days and wrote a personal cheque at the end of those two days for everything that was given away.

Our troops were leaders in Afghanistan. We were the go-to folks. We were smallish in numbers, compared to the Americans and the British, but we provided the leadership. Our training, the quality of our people, and the quality of our equipment was second to none. At the end of the Afghanistan conflict, and I think it is still true today, Canada has the best small army in the world. When I say army I mean army, navy, and air force. It is because of the kind of people we have that we are commemorating with this monument.

I have another little story about the spirit of our men and women in uniform who went back, some of them four times. They fought to go back, which I am sure drove their families crazy. It was because they knew they were making a difference. On one of the Edmonton rotations, there were eight or nine soldiers going back for the fourth time. The commander, the brigadier general, called each of them in to have a little heart-to-heart, just to make sure their heads were on straight, since they were going back there for the fourth time. He asked one master corporal what his biggest fear was about going back to Afghanistan for the fourth time. The master corporal looked him in the eye and said, “It is that you won't let me go, sir”, whereupon the brigadier general said, “Carry on; you are fine”.

I was at the airport many times seeing people off or welcoming people back, and I was seeing this particular group of soldiers off. There were about 150 of them. I was standing, chatting with four or five of them. I recounted the story of the brigadier general and the master corporal. They kind of laughed, and one guy piped up and said, “That was me”. I shook his hand and said “Good on you; the people of Afghanistan are going to be much better off because of people like you”.

The people of Canada are obviously much better off because of people like him, whether they are Princess Patricias, RCRs, Van Doos, engineers, or Lord Strathconas, with the Leopards, and there were a lot of air force and navy personnel there. I had a lot of friends there with whom I had served in one of my previous lives. I saw some of them there in Afghanistan. I have had the rare privilege of seeing that. Not many people have. I am tremendously honoured, privileged, and grateful for that opportunity to spend time there with those people.

Therefore, I understand the importance of doing everything we can to recognize their service and sacrifice. There were 158 who made the ultimate sacrifice, plus five civilians. I have had the sad honour of attending many ramp ceremonies and things of that nature and going back to Kandahar year after year and watching that memorial grow, tragically, as it inevitably would.

It is incredibly important that we do everything we can to celebrate, not war, but the spirit of the kind of people who will stand up time after time and lay it on the line for someone halfway around the world whom they have never met and will never see again. They know they have made a difference. In making a difference, in this case, for the people of Afghanistan, they have made a huge difference for the people of Canada, and there is nothing I would not do personally—and I am sure everyone in the House feels pretty much the same way—to help celebrate that spirit and what those people have meant to us.

This is obviously going to be unanimously approved by the House and that is absolutely the way it should be. I can think of no better thing to do at this moment.

Afghan Veterans MonumentPrivate Members' Business

7:35 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I invite the hon. member for Palliser for his right of reply. The hon. member has five minutes.

Afghan Veterans MonumentPrivate Members' Business

7:35 p.m.


Ray Boughen Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say a few words to address points I have heard over the course of the evening in this debate. First of all, let me give a heartfelt thanks to the opposition members and government members who have taken time out of their busy day to join us here and be part of the celebration of the people who gave it all in the Afghan conflict.

We have heard themes about the importance of commemorating and supporting our veterans and their families. We have heard about the word “duty” and what that means. I humbly suggest that we owe a great duty to the people who went before us and defended peace, prosperity, and the right of democracy in Afghanistan.

First of all, let me talk for a minute about commemoration. Commemoration serves as a solace for family left behind. Commemoration gives thanks from those who bear witness. Commemoration teaches our young people to value their freedom.

Everyone realizes the importance of remembering our forces that fought on Vimy Ridge and Juno Beach and in other conflicts. We cannot forget those who fought for the freedom we enjoy here today.

Second, I would like to take a minute to note the increased support that veterans have received from 2006 onward, when the Conservative government took office. Allow me to share some financial facts with the House. The government has increased investments in veterans benefits by nearly $5 billion in new funding since coming to office.

Funding has increased, while the number of veterans has unfortunately decreased. I will point to some of the figures that indicate there has been a change in the demographics. There were 695,700 veterans in 2013, a drop of approximately 31,000 people. Meanwhile, spending has risen from just under $3 billion to $4.7 billion. This increased support has led to the expansion of different programs for veterans, set a minimum monthly allowance for veterans in rehabilitation, and more.

Is it money well spent? Members can bet their last dollar it is. We owe these soldiers a great debt. We owe it to them to remember their sacrifice for us. We owe it to our returning soldiers to thank them and their families for their service.

This motion would take steps to pay tribute to the service of our veterans, especially those who paid the ultimate price. We have heard from a number of the speakers this evening about the 158 who did not return. I hope all of my colleagues support this important motion and will pay tribute to our vets from Afghanistan.

Ladies and gentlemen, lest we forget.

Afghan Veterans MonumentPrivate Members' Business

7:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Afghan Veterans MonumentPrivate Members' Business

7:40 p.m.

Some hon. members



Afghan Veterans MonumentPrivate Members' Business

7:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those in favour of the motion. will please say yea.

Afghan Veterans MonumentPrivate Members' Business

7:40 p.m.

Some hon. members


Afghan Veterans MonumentPrivate Members' Business

7:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Afghan Veterans MonumentPrivate Members' Business

7:40 p.m.

Some hon. members


Afghan Veterans MonumentPrivate Members' Business

7:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, February 26, 2014, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

(House in committee of the whole on Government Business No. 7, Mr. Bruce Stanton in the chair)

Situation in the Central African RepublicGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.


Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC


That this Committee take note of the situation in the Central African Republic.

Situation in the Central African RepublicGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before we begin this evening's debate, I would like to remind the hon. members of how the proceedings will unfold.

Each member speaking will be allotted 10 minutes for debate followed by 10 minutes for questions and comments. Members may divide their time with another member.

The debate will end after four hours or when no member rises to speak.

Pursuant to the order made on Thursday, February 6, 2014, the Chair will receive no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent.

Members are reminded that during a take note debate, members are free to take the seat of their choice in the chamber.

We will now begin tonight's take note debate.

Situation in the Central African RepublicGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable Québec


Christian Paradis ConservativeMinister of International Development and Minister for La Francophonie

Mr. Chair, I am pleased to rise and speak during this important debate.

Our government is deeply concerned by the crisis currently unfolding in the Central African Republic, most particularly by the deteriorating humanitarian and protection situation and its devastating impact on innocent civilians.

In March 2013, a rebel coalition known as Seleka staged a coup, ousting the president at the time, François Bozizé. After the coup, the rebel-led government was no longer able to control its former soldiers. Furthermore, the government was unable to establish any semblance of rule of law.

Not surprisingly, the security situation deteriorated considerably. For decades, groups of different faith communities had been living side by side without any animosity. However, the violence of recent months has ignited religious tensions. The Seleka groups, which are primarily Muslim, and the militias, which are primarily Christian, are locked in a never-ending battle. The fighting is especially fierce in the northwestern and southern regions of the country. Violence, looting and heinous crimes committed by these groups have increased dramatically. Acts of self-defence between neighbours of different faiths are now commonplace. In the capital Bangui alone, at least 10 people are killed every day as a result of looting, firefights or targeted attacks.

We are hearing increased reports of looting, extortion, lynching, arbitrary arrest, torture, summary execution, sexual violence, and child recruitment. Across the country, most of these are perpetrated by roving bands of armed people. The humanitarian consequences of this conflict are staggering.

All 4.6 million inhabitants of the country are affected. No region has been spared. According to the United Nations, over 2.5 million people need humanitarian aid, including food, clean water, basic sanitation, shelter and protection. Approximately two-thirds of the country's population does not have access to basic health care or basic drugs.

Over 825,000 people have been displaced so far because of the ongoing violence in the Central African Republic. Nearly half of those people are in the country's capital. Most of the people who have fled their homes have ended up in 66 different places in the capital city, including in a temporary camp near the country's international airport, now occupied by over 100,000 people. The people there are living in overcrowded conditions without adequate shelter or sanitation. These conditions could further deteriorate once the rainy season begins in a few months.

We are also extremely concerned about the food security situation in the country. As we all know, Canada is a leader in food security, and we find this situation alarming. Violence has destroyed markets and disrupted livelihoods and trade in all regions of the country, sharply increasing the cost of food.

This trend threatens to increase the number of Central Africans who do not have a dependable source of food, currently at 1.3 million people. These people are forced to depend on emergency food rations to survive. Constant danger means that aid organizations are having a harder and harder time meeting growing needs. Businesses and humanitarian organizations are being looted, which complicates the situation.

In spite of the challenges, humanitarian agencies have significantly ramped up their responses and Canada has been there to support these efforts. Through our international engagement, we have been strengthening the leadership capacity of humanitarian agencies on the ground. We have been supporting the expansion of their presence and operations outside of Bangui and we have been encouraging greater coordination of aid efforts.

We are heartened to see additional non-governmental organizations starting operations in the Central African Republic. Groups like Save the Children are having an important impact on the ground. Their presence has been a much-needed boost for the humanitarian capacity required to address the escalating needs. Agencies like these are delivering crucial life-saving aid, and Canada has supported these efforts.

In 2013, we more than doubled our humanitarian aid to those affected by the crisis. More than $6.95 million went to meet the needs of the vulnerable, including those who have fled to neighbouring countries.

With Canada's support, UNICEF provided treatment to over 10,000 severely malnourished children. It also delivered medical supplies that have benefited over 200,000 vulnerable people. Canada also supported Doctors Without Borders as they delivered primary and secondary health care. This included treating malnourished children in the northwestern region, one of the regions most affected by the violence. With Canada's support, the United Nations World Food Programme provided food for over 200,000 people in December alone.

I commend aid workers for the incredibly difficult work they do. They put their lives in danger to provide vital assistance to people in need. I am extremely proud of our fellow Canadians who are always on the front lines when needs manifest themselves. However, we must continue these efforts, especially in rural areas. We must increase protection by having a presence that is normally associated with humanitarian work.

Unfortunately, serious security problems still hamper these interventions. It is vital that we improve security if we want to reduce humanitarian needs, increase humanitarian workers' access and help them get more people on the ground.

That is why Canada contributed $5 million to the African Union-led international support mission in the CAR. The mission efforts increase security, protect civilians and enable distribution of aid to the country.

Canada is also providing an additional $5 million to aid humanitarian organizations in addressing the ongoing need. These contributions build on those that Canada has already made in the Central African Republic over the past several years. Since 2007 we have provided over $25 million in humanitarian assistance.

Canada is always a leader in the response to crises around the globe. We are currently working in Syria, the Philippines, and South Sudan, just to name a few.

We do this because it saves countless innocent lives. Lives are at stake. Innocent civilians are facing unspeakable ends at the hands of ruthless criminals. Countless children have been separated from their families, and thousands of others have been swept into the fighting forces. There have been widespread reports of sexual and gender-based violence.

It is our responsibility to help those who cannot help themselves. It is the clearest expression of our most cherished Canadian values. In the face of such violence and grave human rights violations, Canada has stepped up to the plate.

We have made international humanitarian aid a priority, and we will continue to do our best to protect innocent civilians, increase observance of international human rights, facilitate the safe travel of aid workers and also support people affected by violence.

We are committed to providing effective humanitarian aid in a timely manner. The newly amalgamated department will allow Canada to better respond to such crises and adapt our approach and our work in the most effective way.

Canada is a top donor to the humanitarian efforts in Central African Republic. We will continue to monitor the evolving situation closely, and we will continue to do what we can and must do to help the people of this war-torn country.

Situation in the Central African RepublicGovernment Orders

7:55 p.m.


Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Chair, I believe we share the minister's major concerns about the current situation in the Central African Republic.

We noticed that the government announced $5 million in humanitarian aid, and I might come back to that later.

Given the urgency of the situation, when will the funds be released and will they be released quickly?

Situation in the Central African RepublicGovernment Orders

7:55 p.m.


Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Chair, I thank my colleague for her excellent question.

If the $5 million that was just announced is not released right away, it will be very shortly.

That is why we have been careful in our announcement to properly identify our partners, including UNICEF and Save the Children. These partners have developed projects that are virtually ready to be implemented.

However, we unfortunately have to deal with an unpredictable situation because of the unprecedented violence on the ground. Canada condemns the atrocities we have heard about.

We are urging all parties involved in the conflict to allow the humanitarian aid to go through and to be duly delivered to those in need. That is what really is at stake here.

Let me assure my colleague that the challenge is not with the bureaucracy and administration in Ottawa; the challenge is on the ground. The assistance is available and ready to be sent. The challenge is on the ground. We must ensure that the humanitarian corridor is open to those working in the field.