Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today on behalf of our leader and our party and as the official opposition critic for veterans affairs.
Veterans' Week begins on Saturday and will conclude on the 98th anniversary of the armistice of the Great War.
The unbreakable bond between Canadians and our veterans will be on full display as millions pay their solemn respects at cenotaphs and memorials across the nation on Remembrance Day.
Almost a century ago, under the leadership of Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden, the Government of Canada made a firm commitment to honour the accomplishments of all Canada's veterans and military personnel, and they deserve it.
Regardless of the unknown and the grave dangers our soldiers face, regardless of the time or the place they serve, Canadians have always answered the call to stand up for freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
Regardless of their political allegiances or philosophical beliefs, Canadians all share a common admiration and deep respect for Canada's veterans. They are the tie that binds the citizens of this great country together.
Remembrance Day is a time to mourn and reflect, but it is also a time to celebrate the proud military traditions of our great country.
Our military tradition is remarkable with over 1.7 million Canadians serving in our armed forces during the conflicts of the last century. It speaks to the nature of our country that so many have stood on guard for Canada.
That is our history. Canada is a nation that has always sent its finest men and women to serve where they are needed and in numbers far exceeding what the rest of the world might have expected.
But punching beyond our weight comes at a terrible cost of blood and treasure. During the First and Second World Wars, our country lost more than 116,000 Canadians.
Battles during the first Great War, like Ypres, the Somme, Passchendael, Amiens, and of course, Vimy, took from us so many of our best and our brightest, but our brave and tenacious troops showed the world what Canada was made of.
During the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel, over 90% of the members of the first Newfoundland Regiment were killed. Newfoundland was just a small colony at the time, and an entire generation of Newfoundlanders vanished in a matter of 30 minutes.
During the Second World War, we showed our mettle once again in the Battle of the Atlantic, the invasion of Italy, and the memorable days when our boys landed on Juno Beach.
Let us also recognize the sacrifice of more than 300 in the South African War, the more than 500 soldiers lost during the Korean War, the 159 who gave their lives in Afghanistan, and the approximately 130 Canadians who have died in peacekeeping missions serving across the globe.
May we always remember the fallen who went far from home to answer the call of peace. May we think of all the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice, all the grieving families, and all the soldiers who have been wounded in body and mind. It is something we do not talk about nearly enough.
May we remember also men like Roy Victor Shaw, who this past July passed away at the age of 98 in my riding of Barrie—Innisfil. Roy was one of only 10 Canadian veterans left from that fateful day in June of 1944. When the landing craft's ramp lowered that day, the 26-year-old Roy, carrying 50 pounds, began the longest run of his life. Roy was among the first of 3,000 Canadians in the first wave that day to face the deadly coastline fortifications of the occupying German army. The five-mile stretch of beach would eventually see 14,000 Canadians come ashore, but it would be Roy Shaw and others in A and B Company from the Queen's Own Rifles that would face the brunt of the machine guns, concrete emplacements, hill boxes, fields of barbed wire, and mines.
The first wave took heavy casualties on the beaches. It was during this incredibly dangerous moment when Roy and others from B Company went to help a wounded man lying on the beach that he was struck by a bullet in the right shoulder. The injury was serious, and Roy found out later it almost cost him his life. June 6 did cost the life of Gerald A. Crawford, Roy's cousin. He gave his life on D-Day, and he is remembered on page 282 of the Book of Remembrance in the Memorial Chamber.
I had the occasion to speak at Roy's funeral, and I thanked his family for what he did. If it were not for Roy and his 1.7 million comrades over the last century, none of us, the 338 of us who are privileged to sit in the House of Commons, a symbol where democracy and freedom is practised, would be able to do so.
Also, may we be grateful for those who serve with distinction today. I encourage all Canadians this Veterans' Week to find their own way of saying thanks. I encourage young people to reach out to a veteran, learn their story, and share it with their friends. Perhaps they could write a letter to a member of the Canadian Forces posted overseas, or a local base commander. They could spend some time at a local retirement home with those who lived through the experience of wartime.
There are many honourable ways to give thanks to the men and women who have served Canada in a time of war and peace for their service. We owe all our veterans, our service members, and their families an endless debt of gratitude. We are holding the torch high. The Canadian heroes who lie beneath the poppies in Flanders Field can rest in peace.
On the 11th hour, of the 11th day, on the 11th month, we will remember them. Lest we forget.