Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Edmonton Strathcona for her interventions, which are always extremely relevant, heartfelt and full of humanity.
To quote Shakespeare's Hamlet, something is rotten in the state of Denmark. I get the impression that something is rotten in the office of the Minister of National Defence. He has abandoned the men and women of the armed forces time and again. He has engaged in cover-ups, tried to ignore the facts, and tried to sweep things under the rug, and he misled the parliamentary committee when he was answering questions. The members of the armed forces deserve much better than that. They are courageous men and women. They take risks. They are prepared to make sacrifices, and they keep us and our country safe.
In my opinion, the men and women who serve in the armed forces must be respected. They deserve better. The Minister of National Defence abandoned them and chose to turn a blind eye to serious allegations, including allegations of sexual misconduct, and other problems, such as the things that happened in Iraq. He always tried to cover up instead. It seems that the minister's modus operandi is to avoid fixing the problem, look away or sweep problems under the rug. For him, it is out of sight, out of mind. However, that is not how it works.
The Minister of National Defence, protected by the Prime Minister and by the entire Liberal government, let down all the women who serve in the armed forces, first and foremost. That is unfortunate, because it blatantly contradicts the Liberal rhetoric about how they are a feminist government that cares deeply about the plight of women and their advancement to achieve real equality.
On several occasions, the minister, protected by the Prime Minister, failed the test. The people who work in the armed forces have a unique calling. We should be grateful to them. Personally, I am grateful for my grandfather, Urgel Boulerice, who served in the armed forces in World War II. It makes me think about my colleague from Edmonton Strathcona, who spoke of her grandfather. Her story was very interesting. These people have the right to work in a safe and healthy environment. The Liberal government failed to meet its obligations.
We are dealing with a deleterious climate, a culture of impunity and a toxic culture. Despite all the reports and recommendations, the Liberal government, the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence were unable to ensure a safe and healthy work environment. All workers in Canada have the right to a safe and healthy work environment, including those who serve in our armed forces.
I have not met many military personnel, since there is no military base in my region. In my riding, Rosemont—La Petite‑Patrie, there is a legion, and I have met with its members a few times. I am not as close to the issue as some of my colleagues. However, I spent three days on a frigate between Halifax, Nova Scotia, and St. John's, Newfoundland. For three days, I lived with sailors on the HMCS Ville de Québec, which, I must say, is a very nice name. I met extremely dedicated professional men and women who want to do their job well and who have absolutely unbelievable stories to tell, including about counter-piracy operations off the cost of East Africa. I salute their work and their bravery. If I mention this, it is because I am trying to address this situation as a matter of women's and workers' rights.
I want to take a step back and ask everyone here a question. For us, as members of Parliament, what does it mean to engage in politics? We must listen to people. We must connect with people. We must listen to their problems and try to find solutions. When Yann Martel spoke at an NDP convention, he said that politics requires empathy, the ability to stand in someone else's shoes to better understand their life.
I must admit that I have had a privileged life and that there are some hardships that I cannot understand. I am not a part of a minority, I have not been excluded, I have not faced discrimination, and I have not been the victim of racism or sexism. I think it is essential to be able to stand in someone else's shoes and demonstrate humanity, solidarity and friendship.
I want to take some time to read a poem from Jacques Prévert that puts us in that frame of mind. I think this kind of point of view is worthwhile and plainly relevant to this discussion. It will take two minutes, and then I will get back to the topic at hand. Here it is:
The sun shines for all mankind, except of course for prisoners and miners, and also for
those who scale the fish
those who eat the spoiled meat
those who turn out hairpin after hairpin
those who blow the glass bottles that others will drink from
those who slice their bread with pocketknives
those who vacation at their workbenches or their desks
those who never quite know what to say...
those you won't find anesthetized at the dentist's
those who cough out their lungs in the subway
those who down in various holes turn out the pens with which others in the open air will write something to the effect that everything turns out for the best
those who have too much to even begin to put into words
those whose labours are never over
those who haven't labours
those who look for labours
those who aren't looking for labours
those who water your horses
those who watch their own dogs dying
those who daily bread is available on a more or less weekly schedule
those who go to church to keep warm in their winter
those whom Swiss Guards send outdoors to keep warm
those who simply rot
those who enjoy the luxury of eating
those who travel beneath your wheels
those who stare at the Seine flowing by
those whom you hire, to whom you express your deepest thanks, whom you are charitable toward, whom you deprive, whom you manipulate, whom you step on, whom you crush
those from whom even fingerprints are taken
those whom you order to break ranks at random and shoot down quite methodically
those who go on forced marches beneath the Arch of Triumph
those who don't know how to fall in with the custom of the country any place on earth
those who never ever see the sea
those who always smell of fresh linen because they weave the sheets you lie on
those without running water
those whose goal is eternally the blue horizon
those who scatter salt on the snow in all directions in order to collect a ridiculous salary
those whose life expectancy is a lot shorter than yours is
those who've never yet knelt down to pick up a dropped hairpin
those who die of boredom on a Sunday afternoon because they see Monday morning coming
and also Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday
and Saturday too
and the next Sunday afternoon as well.
I think this tells us that we must be able to see those with different lives and different challenges who are suffering. Right now, in the Canadian Armed Forces, there are people who are struggling and who are suffering. That is why there have been allegations of misconduct and investigations. Unfortunately, the Minister of Defence, instead of trying to put himself in the shoes of those who are struggling and suffering, preferred to try to bury the situation time and again.
He did that in the case of the investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct, but that was not the first time. There are things that trouble me immensely about the current Minister of Defence's instincts. Remember that, before this whole unbelievable story, there were videos of Iraqi military personnel committing crimes against Iraqi women, including sexual assault, rape and maybe even murder. What was the Minister of Defence's response? He told us not to watch the videos.
In 2016, after becoming Minister of Defence, he decided to set aside an investigation into the transfer of prisoners in Afghanistan when they were handed over to local authorities who were known to routinely practise torture. This is a complete violation of all of our international commitments and the Geneva Conventions. We should not be transferring prisoners if we think they are going to be mistreated or tortured.
There is overwhelming proof that the minister is incompetent, and that he is not deserving of our confidence or of that of the House. For these reasons, the NDP is asking for his resignation.