Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek.
It is a disappointment to rise in the House on this debate. It is disappointing that we have a Minister of National Defence who has been less than straightforward with the truth, a minister who fabricated something of significance. That fabrication was the role the minister played in one of the largest military operations in Canadian history. As a result of that fabrication, the Minister of National Defence has dishonoured the brave men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces.
What is all the more disappointing is that the minister who did this is someone who has served with distinction. He has a distinguished service record. The minister served his community of Vancouver as a member of the Vancouver police department. He served Canada as a member of the Canadian Armed Forces, where he served overseas on four occasions, including three times in Afghanistan.
The service of the Minister of National Defence is not in question by any member of the House. Indeed, the minister has every right to be proud of his record of service as a member of the Canadian Armed Forces.
However, the issue today is not about the minister's past service to the country. It is about his recent actions as a Liberal politician. In particular, the issue before us is the issue that arose when the minister spoke in New Delhi, where he falsely claimed that he was the architect of Operation Medusa. It is true that the minister played a role in Operation Medusa, and indeed, several members of the Canadian Armed Forces in senior ranks have credited the minister for the leadership he provided and his service in Operation Medusa. However, the minister was not the architect of Operation Medusa.
What is worse is that this is not the first time the minister has misrepresented his role in Operation Medusa. Indeed, during the 2015 campaign, when the minister was then a candidate, he similarly claimed that he was the architect of Operation Medusa. When the minister was called on it at that time, instead of owning up to the fact that he had misrepresented the facts, instead of apologizing, he tried to claim that really, all he was doing was quoting something General Vance had coined. In other words, General Vance had called the minister the architect of Operation Medusa. The only problem with the minister's statement was that General Vance did not take command in Afghanistan until 2009, three years after Operation Medusa ceased.
The Minister of National Defence says that what he said was a mistake. It was not a mistake. It was a fabrication, and it was a fabrication the minister made not once but on at least two occasions. The words of the minister are not ambiguous. They are not at issue in terms of what he really said. Indeed, the minister's words were clear and unambiguous.
The minister said that he was the architect of Operation Medusa, full stop. Not only that, the minister actually physically inserted those words into the speech, according to his own spokesman. What we are talking about here is something that was planned, something that was deliberate.
Why would the minister misrepresent his record of service in Afghanistan? Clearly it was to impress a foreign audience in New Delhi. The minister thought he could get away with it, but he did not get away with it. He now sort of provides a half-apology. I do not know if I have ever actually heard a complete, full apology from the minister. I say that this is not good enough. It is not good enough for the brave men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces. Men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces, every day, are expected to adhere to the highest standards of excellence. They should expect no less from the Minister of National Defence who is charged with leading them.
The seriousness of what the Minister of National Defence did cannot be minimized. We are talking about one of the largest military operations in Canadian history, which the minister claimed he was the architect of. We are talking about the second-largest NATO operation since the Korean War. It was an operation that involved the service and sacrifice of hundreds of Canadian soldiers, service and sacrifice the minister has taken credit for. There is a term for what the Minister of National Defence did, and that term is “stolen valour”.
The fundamental values of the Canadian Armed Forces include duty, integrity, loyalty, and courage. The actions of the minister are the antithesis of those fundamental values of the Canadian Armed Forces. Moreover, they are in contravention of the Canadian Armed Forces' code of values and ethics. They would be subject to sanction, in fact, under section 129 of the Code of Service Discipline.
The actions of the minister have outraged many men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces.
William Sinclair, a 37-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Force, wrote on Facebook, “Minister, as a veteran of 37 years of military service, what the Minister of National Defence has done to the military and to Canadians alike is downright wrong. He has lost all respect, I think, of all veterans of Afghanistan and of all the military as a whole. He should be made to resign his cabinet post as minister. He is a disgrace to the Canadian military.”
William Sinclair, a 37-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, is just one of many.
Notwithstanding his record of service, his distinguished record of service, which no one calls into question, the Minister of National Defence, through his own actions, through his own choices, and through his own hubris, brought disgrace upon himself. As a result, he has dishonoured the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces. As a result, there is only one thing left for the minister to do to restore his own credibility and to demonstrate respect for the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces, and that is to resign immediately as Minister of National Defence.