Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Beauport—Limoilou.
Mr. Speaker, it is with a particular degree of sadness for the state of parliamentary democracy in Canada that I rise on behalf of the women and men of CFB Petawawa, located in my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, which is in the heart of the upper Ottawa Valley.
It is a sad day for democracy that it is even necessary to have today's debate. However, no debate in the halls of Parliament is more important than defence of democracy and parliamentary tradition. The motion of my hon. colleague, the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, can be summed in one word: honour.
Today's debate is all about honour, and in this case, lack of honour. The Minister of National Defence refuses to respect parliamentary tradition and resign from cabinet. The motion talks about losing the confidence of this House, but really this motion is about losing the confidence of the people the Minister of National Defence was appointing to serve in uniform as members of Canada's Armed Forces.
The minister has betrayed his constituents the first time he misrepresented his record of service, his party, his leader, this House, and his country, and the next time he dishonoured Canada by repeating this misrepresentation on an international stage. Without a doubt the worst by all is that by misrepresenting his service record during Operation Medusa, he is dishonouring every other soldier caught in the web of deceit, particularly those brave soldiers who lost their lives in Operation Medusa during the war in Afghanistan and the friends and families who are left to mourn those fallen soldiers.
The year 2006, when Operation Medusa occurred, was a tough year for Canadians during the war in Afghanistan. Military analysts referred to this period as having some of the fiercest combat Canadians troops had ever seen since the Korean War. More Canadians were wounded or killed in action during that year than in any other single year of the nine years of combat in Afghanistan.
As a member of Parliament in 2006, I found that year was particularly tough on our local community, as it was soldiers in Garrison Petawawa, in my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, who bore the brunt of casualties during the operation, principally the 1st Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment, which is based at Garrison Petawawa.
I want the Minister of National Defence to reflect on who he is dishonouring by refusing to follow democratic tradition and resigning.
As I continue with this debate, I ask all members of Parliament to join with me in paying respect to the brave Canadian soldiers who paid the supreme price, our most previous gift from the Creator, with their lives, in the service to their country during Operation Medusa.
Operation Medusa began on September 2, 2006.
The first casualty, on September 3, was Private William Jonathan James Cushley, aged 21. He was a member of the 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment. Petawawa, Ontario. His hometown was Port Lambton.
His friends and comrades said he exhibited strong leadership qualities, a fierce love of family, and a sense of fun.
He is survived by parents Errol and Elaine and three sisters.
There was also Warrant Officer Frank Robert Mellish, aged 38. He was a member of the 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, Petawawa, Ontario. His hometown was Truro, Nova Scotia.
A long-time auto racing fan and dedicated soldier, Mellish is survived by his parents; wife Kendra, who still serves in the Royal Canadian Air Force; and two young boys. He was buried in Summerside, P.E.I.
There was also Warrant Officer Richard Francis Nolan, aged 39. He was a member of the 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, Petawawa, Ontario. His hometown was Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Nolan was described as an adventurous soul who enjoyed riding bulls. He had a strong belief in family values and loved playing with his children and stepchildren. Friends said he would help anyone in need. He is survived by partner Kelly, three sons, a stepdaughter, and a mother.
There was also Sergeant Shane Stachnik, aged 30. He was a member of the 2 Combat Engineer Regiment, Petawawa, Ontario. His hometown was Waskatenau, Alberta.
Former high school buddy Randy Trenchuk remembered playing hockey with Stachnik, a combat engineer, and the frustrations with Shakespeare that they shared in English class. Stachnik, described as being dedicated and fun-loving, was to be married the next summer. He is survived by his parents, Hank and Avril.
On September 4, Private Mark Anthony Graham, aged 33, was killed. He was a member of the 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, Petawawa, Ontario. His hometown was Hamilton.
Graham was a member of Canada's Olympic 4 x 400 metre relay team in 1992. Comrades talked about his imposing physical size, warm smile, and great singing voice.
He had three brothers, one of whom also joined the military, and a young daughter.
On September 18, 2006, four Canadian soldiers were killed and 10 injured while on foot patrol in the Panjwai district after a man on a bicycle detonated a suicide bomb packed with ball bearings.
The attack came near the end of Operation Medusa being declared.
There is Corporal Glen Arnold, age 32, 2 Field Ambulance, Petawawa, Ontario, whose hometown was McKerrow, Ontario. Arnold was a medic who had served in Bosnia-Herzegovina and with the Disaster Assistance Relief Team in Sri Lanka following the 2004 tsunami. He loved playing hockey and was a devoted family man. He is survived by his wife Kerry, four children, parents, three brothers, and a sister. “We miss you so much...and can't wait to see you home for Christmas”, his wife Kerry Arnold wrote September 6, 2006, on a Department of National Defence website that relays messages to soldiers.
There is Private David Byers, age 22, 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, Shilo, Manitoba. His hometown was Espanola, Ontario. A friendly man and video game enthusiast in his high school days, Byers was killed before his fiance, Chantal Roy, was to give birth to their child. He is survived by Roy, his parents, and a brother.
There is Corporal Shane Keating, age 30, 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, Shilo, Manitoba. His hometown was Dalmeny, Saskatchewan. Keating was described by his comrades as good-humoured and hard-working. He is survived by his mother, Judith Budd. “Nothing is worth losing a son but everything—everything—is worth a man willing to take that risk and to die for what he believes in”, she told reporters in Saskatoon three days after her son's death.
There is Corporal Keith Morley, age 30, 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, Shilo, Manitoba. His hometown was Winnipeg. An animal lover and proud owner of a dog named Lokie, he is survived by sister Shannon and his mother Della. “Keith served two tours of Bosnia in 2001 and 2003. He served his country with pride and certainty that missions there and in Afghanistan would better the lives of the people in those troubled nations”, Della Morley told reporters before her son's September 29, 2006, funeral in Winnipeg.
On September 29, 2006, while out on a routine foot patrol along a Canadian-built road in the Panjwai district, Private Josh Klukie died after stepping on a booby trap and triggering an explosion. Another soldier was injured. Private Josh Klukie, age 23, was with the 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, Petawawa, and his hometown was Shuniah, Ontario. Charming and charismatic and with a passion for sports, Klukie was an enthusiastic member of his high school basketball team. Klukie is survived by his mother and brother.
On October 3, 2006, two Canadian soldiers were killed and five injured after coming under attack in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province. The Taliban were armed with mortars and possibly rocket-propelled grenades. The soldiers were working on clearing a route for a future road construction project.
There is Sergeant Craig Gillam, age 40, with the Royal Canadian Dragoons, Petawawa, Ontario, whose hometown was South Branch, Newfoundland and Labrador. He was a man who led his troops by example and whose bravery saved many lives on the day he died. He participated in sports such as hockey and tae kwon do with his children. “Craig was a loving father and husband, a dedicated soldier, and a proud Newfoundlander”, Gillam's wife Maureen said in a statement before his October 14, 2006, funeral. Gillam is survived by Maureen, two teenage children, and his parents.
There is Corporal Robert Mitchell, age 32, with the Royal Canadian Dragoons, Petawawa, whose hometown was Owen Sound, Ontario. Known to his friends as Jim, Mitchell strived to be the best. He is survived by wife Leanne, two sons, a daughter, and his parents.
These are the real heroes of Operation Medusa. I have had many conversations with soldiers and their families since this latest Liberal government scandal erupted. They all agree with the following assessment: having grossly inflated his role in one of the largest Canadian military operations in recent history, the Minister of National Defence should have resigned. Failing that, he should have been fired.
Members of the military have a term for doing the honourable thing. It is called “falling on your sword”. It is time for the minister to fall on his sword.