Mr. Speaker, I am bringing it back. I would like to note that I am talking about veterans issues in regard to ocean war graves, which is the focus of this debate, and yet was not mentioned by the member across the floor. I am definitely returning to this issue in regard to veterans.
The Prime Minister signed off on a huge cash payout to Omar Khadr. He affirmed Veterans Affairs funding going to treat PTSD of an individual who has never served a day in the Canadian military, for PTSD incurred by murdering an off-duty police woman.
The backlog in responses to benefit claims is now over 29,000 cases. As well, providing access to personal service dogs as an option for treatment of mental health and physical injury has been delayed. In addition, it has been very difficult to get the government to focus on the significant issue around the treatment of mefloquine toxicity.
However, I am extremely pleased to say that scientific research has been growing among our allies. Now the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs has agreed to a study of new scientific findings about what our allies are doing on the issue of mefloquine. That is a very good thing.
Veterans are already anticipating validation of the anecdotal findings. The challenge will be to complete the study in time to submit a report and secure a response from the government before the House rises.
I will continue to advocate for Canada's veterans for the services they need and for the benefits they have earned. They deserve this, and Canadians expect it.
Today, on this specific issue, I am pleased to say I support this move by the government. I want to thank the Minister of Transport for allowing his bill to be amended in order to provide Canada's ocean war graves interim protection.
I look forward to the quick passage of the bill and I hope the government will do all in its power to expedite the regulation development process so that the final resting places of our sailors and merchant mariners lost at sea are protected from desecration. It is these sailors with the Royal Canadian Navy and the mariners of the Merchant Navy who I would like to thank before I end my speech.
I would like to encourage all parliamentarians to come and experience the Battle of the Atlantic parade and commemorative ceremonies on May 5 of this year at the National War Memorial. The struggle between the allied and German forces for control of the Atlantic Ocean during World War II was the war's longest continuous battle. The need to keep the vital flow of men and supplies going between North America and Europe brought the war to Canada's doorstep. U-boats torpedoed ships within the sight of Canada's east coast, and even in the St. Lawrence River.
With Canada's Merchant Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force playing a key role, the triumph in the Battle of the Atlantic came at a very high price. Nearly 400 allied ships were sunk between January and July of 1942. More than 1,600 Merchant Navy personnel from Canada and Newfoundland were killed.
Most of the 2,000 Royal Canadian Navy officers and men who died during the war were killed in this battle, along with 752 members of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Also, 136 civilians died when the ferry SS Caribou was sunk as it crossed from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland.
These brave men, who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the defence of Canada, deserve our thanks for the price they and their loved ones paid. We can honour them today by speaking to this recommendation and supporting these measures, which will provide protection to the final resting places of those who died at sea.
We must remember them.