Mr. Speaker, the Village of Arthur in Wellington county is known as Canada's most patriotic village. It has that title because of the actions that its citizens took between 1939 and 1945.
On November 2, 1942, the Toronto Daily Star ran an article, and the headline of that article read, “Arthur Village Gives Sons and Money to Aid the War”. The article talked about how over 100 of the village's barely 800 citizens had enlisted to serve in the Second World War. By the end of the Second Word War, that number had more than doubled. The article talks about families, like the Day family, whose four sons were serving overseas, or the Colwill family, whose six of their 11 children were serving at the time, with the youngest five being too young to serve at the time. The article talks about how the Village of Arthur raised over $250,000 in mere days in the war bond program. At the time, this represented 64% of the tiny village's taxable income base, or taxable property tax value.
I raise this story about the Village of Arthur, because it reminds me of a mural that is proudly displayed in Arthur beside its fieldstone cenotaph. The mural proclaims the simple reminder that freedom is not free. It is not the actions of politicians in this place that make us free. It is not the words that we say in this place that make us free. Our freedoms as Canadians comes from those who have served our country in uniform, from the brave women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces who have served in the past and who continue to serve to this very day. To them we owe a duty of dignity, respect, and fairness. Bill C-378 would do just that.
Bill C-378 would elevate more expectation to that of a legal requirement. We owe our veterans more than we can ever truly repay, but it serves us in our requirement as legislators to ensure our veterans are provided with what they are owed. It is a very important matter that we provide them with dignity, fairness, and respect.
It is appropriate that we are debating the bill in 2018. Indeed, it was 100 years ago this year that the armistice was signed and we saw the end of the First Word War. We saw the end of the Great War. We saw the end of the war that would end all wars. We saw the first of those veterans return home to Canada.
I am reminded of one of Perth County's famous sons, the Right Hon. Arthur Meighen, one of the great orators of this place. During the First World War, he had this to say:
No one has seriously argued in this House—and in solemn truth no one seriously believes—that we can dispatch, as we have done, 350,000 men overseas, commissioned by us to stand between our country and destruction, pledge them the undying fidelity of a grateful people, watch them through harrowing years of suffering, bathe ourselves in the reflected glory of their gallantry and devotion, and then leave them to be decimated and destroyed. Surely, surely, an obligation of honour is upon us, and fortifying that obligation of honour is the primal, instinctive, eternal urge of every nation to protect its own security.
These words were uttered during the conscription debate of 1917. However, the duty we owe as legislators today to our veterans and those who have served our country remain just as strong today as the words uttered 101 years ago in this very chamber.
We have often heard phrases “military covenant”, or “social covenant”, or “sacred covenant”, the duty we owe to our veterans.
Those words and that thought came from our wartime Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden. Overseas, he said the following:
The government and the country will consider it their first duty to see that a proper appreciation of your effort and of your courage is brought to the notice of people at home, and it will always be our endeavour to so guide the attitude of public opinion that the country will support the government to prove to the returned man its just and due appreciation of the inestimable value of the services rendered to the country and empire; and that no man, whether he goes back or whether he remains in Flanders, will have just cause to reproach the government for having broken with the men who won and the men who died.
Those words remain true on this date as well. We owe so much to our veterans. My mind is drawn to the more recent veterans, those who have served our country in uniform over the past decades, particularly those who served our country in Afghanistan. There are more than 40,000 members of the Canadian Armed Forces who have served in Afghanistan, and 158 who lost their lives serving our country in the pursuit of freedom.
My mind is also drawn to Master Corporal Anthony Klumpenhouwer from Kurtzville, in North Perth, Ontario, who lost his life as a member of JTF2 and was the 54th casualty in 2007 in our battle in Afghanistan. My mind is drawn to those veterans who served us in Afghanistan and who continue to serve us. We owe them our undying gratitude. More tangibly, we owe them a duty of fairness, and that is exactly what this bill would do. It would enshrine in law for all Canadians to see and parliamentarians to respect, the principles of dignity, respect, and fairness.
It is my great honour to support this bill, and I hope all parliamentarians will do the same.