Mr. Speaker, as members know, the Minister of Veterans Affairs was taken ill this past week, and he deeply regrets not being able to be in the House today for the solemn moments of remembrance that are a characteristic of our Parliament every year at this time. The minister asked me to extend his warmest personal greetings to all MPs today and especially to all of the veterans whom we have the collective honour and duty to represent as I say just a few words on behalf of Canada's Minister of Veterans Affairs.
Across this country, millions of Canadians will soon be paying heartfelt tribute to veterans, Canadian Armed Forces members, and all the brave women and men who made the ultimate sacrifice in defence of Canada over our nation's lifetime.
We understand that our freedom, our prosperity, and the opportunities available to all our children are possible because of their sacrifices and achievements.
One of the ways Canadians recognize this is by wearing the red poppy in remembrance of those who fell in service. Another is by participating in commemorative events that will be taking place from coast to coast to coast. Canadians are also visiting the Remember Them website and engaging in social media with the #canadaremembers.
Some of us have had the incredibly moving experience of walking close to the footsteps of those who fought and those who died to preserve our rights and freedoms and our open, inclusive, generous, democratic Canadian way of life. It hits us powerfully when we walk up Vimy Ridge and touch that soaring monument or travel to Hill 70 or into the town of Ypres and under the arches of the Menin Gate amidst all the names inscribed there of young Canadians who passed that way en route to Passchendaele 100 years ago.
A few miles away but a generation later there were bitter losses for Canadians at Dieppe, 75 years ago in August 1942, and then our triumphant return to that same town two years later after the landings at Juno Beach and on our way to liberate Holland.
On the other side of the world, what Canadian can stand without huge emotion at the top of the steep hill that forms Sai Wan War Cemetery in Hong Kong, and look down to the South China Sea across the rows of white headstones bedecked with red Maple Leaf flags? The same emotion overtakes Canadians at the Canadian Korean War Memorial Garden just below the hills northeast of Kapyong-gun in Korea. More recently, we can trace the footsteps of brave Canadians through Kosovo and Afghanistan, and more than 50 other international missions since Korea, right up to today.
Skill, strength, courage, valour, selflessness, love of country, loyalty to comrades, faithfulness, service, sacrifice, these are the qualities that Canadians in uniform have epitomized.
This year, we especially remember the Canadian Corps deployed to Europe in 1917. They faced unimaginable hardships and incurred tens of thousands of losses on the western front, but emerged as an elite force, victorious where others failed.
Tomorrow, November 10, marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Passchendaele. In the ceremony of remembrance in Belgium, a torchlight procession will go from the Canadian Memorial to the Passchendaele church.
Our colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, is there now.
The Minister of National Defence will be there tomorrow with a Canadian Armed Forces contingent from the same units as fought in that horrific battle, regimental representatives, the RCMP, actual veterans, youth, indigenous people, and the band of the Royal 22nd Regiment, the famous Van Doos. Canadian pride.
Our government is committed to honouring and commemorating our men and women in uniform from every era and every generation.
That is why we were all very proud to sponsor the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto, for injured, ill, and wounded military members and veterans. Prince Harry was there, the Prime Minister, the former president and vice-president of the United States, the incumbent first lady, and thousands of Canadians in the stands to cheer on the vets. These games demonstrated how far the dedication of these wounded warriors truly goes. Yes, they gained something from the camaraderie and competition of the games, but we all gained so much more from their inspiration: to persevere in the face of daunting obstacles. Honouring our women and men in uniform is a privilege.
We encourage all Canadians to remember and to express gratitude and appreciation for veterans, the fallen and those who continue to serve.
We should think of Canada's veterans and all those who gave their lives in service. Think of the current members of the Canadian Armed Forces across this country and around the world. Think of men and women from every region of our country, every walk of life, every ethnic, cultural, and religious background, from first nations, Inuit, and Métis communities, francophones, and anglophones. We should think of all those who have put service before self and thank a veteran or a Canadian Armed Forces member when we see them, ask about their stories, and listen carefully to what they have to say.
Most importantly, join the country for two minutes of silence at 11 o’clock on November 11th to honour the memory of all who have served.
On Remembrance Day, I will be in the hockey arena in Regina with the Royal Canadian Legion. The stands will be filled. Soldiers, sailors, air personnel, cadets, Mounties, other police and peace officers, and community groups will march in formation, the bands will play, speeches will be given, prayers will be offered, wreaths will be laid, and the Act of Remembrance will be performed. Then, at the end, the veterans will parade across the arena floor, some in wheelchairs, some with canes, some on their own.
The entire place will rise, and the applause will be loud and long, following their every step, saying “Thank you” to real-life heroes, and also to those who did not come home.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Lest we forget.