Mr. Speaker, members of the House, before I go to my speech, I also want to say that this will be my last speech. I said the other night when I spoke in the take note debate that it was my last speech, but this definitely will be my last speech in the House.
I want to thank all members for their co-operation over the years. I want to thank you, Mr. Speaker, and all the Speakers for the great role they play in the running of this glorious institution.
The government readily supports private member's Motion No. 134 to designate Canadian forces day. This day would officially recognize on an annual basis the significant contribution that our military forces make in promoting Canadian interests, peace and security, both at home and around the world.
Through the instituting of Canadian forces day, citizens across the country would be encouraged to learn more about our armed forces. It would provide them with an opportunity to personally thank the many men and women who work tirelessly in Canada's interests day after day, year after year.
A Canadian forces day would mean a lot to Canadians, and it would mean a lot to those in uniform. The Canadian forces are a vital national institution. They reflect Canada's cultural, linguistic and regional diversity, with a presence in every province and territory, in more than 3,000 communities across the country. The Canadian forces are made up of many faces, all of them serving as one under a single flag. They come from across the nation, from farms and from cities, from different ethnic and religious backgrounds, men and women alike, all of them united by the common cause of serving Canada and Canadians. The Canadian forces are an essential part of the national fabric.
Just outside this building on the lawns of Parliament Hill every summer, members of the primary reserve force conduct the colourful changing of the guard ceremony. Many of them, as trained infanteers, have also served overseas on peacekeeping missions or assisted during domestic crises, such as the ice storm of 1998, as has been mentioned. These Canadians live, work and study in this very community.
The Canadian forces are everywhere we look. Forces personnel are raising families in our communities, contributing to our local economies and working alongside many of us, sometimes without our knowledge or recognition. Defence research and development is stimulating Canadian innovation. The national cadet program is teaching responsibility and citizenship to our children. The Canadian forces, in short, are a very integral part of our society.
The Canadian forces are also an integral part of Canada's history. Since Confederation, their members have made great sacrifices in the building of our nation. Thousands of Canadians have died in active service with the Canadian forces, from Paardeburg to Vimy Ridge, from the beaches of Normandy to Kapyong. Many of the veterans who survived some of these battles are among us today, former members of the Canadian forces who fought with great courage for their nation.
The Canadian forces today continue to perform core functions of the government. Our men and women in uniform work every day to protect Canadian sovereignty, promote national interests and secure international peace and security.
Canadian forces members bring relief during natural disasters. They provide search and rescue services. They patrol our coastline and enforce Canadian law. They help fulfil our international obligations. They bring peace and stability to troubled regions of the world through peace support operations.
Over the last year or so the Canadian forces have been involved in the interception of over 600 illegal migrants, year 2000 preparations, disaster relief in Turkey, peacekeeping in East Timor, NATO operations in Kosovo, and North American security through NORAD.
The Canadian forces provided support to and helped co-ordinate over 8,000 search and rescue operations, a record number. These efforts resulted in the saving of over 4,000 lives.
At this very moment approximately 2,500 Canadian forces personnel are deployed on 16 operations around the world. We currently have more than 1,500 men and women in Bosnia-Herzegovina alone. The list of operations is long: Ethiopia and Eritrea, Iraq and Kuwait, the Golan Heights, Guatemala, and Sierra Leone. Just recently a Canadian officer, Major-General Hillier, assumed command of Multi-National Division Southwest in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
As these examples illustrate, all members of the Canadian forces, from privates to general officers, are making a concrete difference in improving the world in which we live. Much of their work is, by its very nature, thankless and hard. Members of the Canadian forces have chosen a profession that puts their lives at risk, all in the name of Canada and Canadian interests. They face down aggression and tyranny in distant lands every day so that we may live in peace and prosperity here at home.
The government is committed to providing the Canadian forces with the right tools for the job. With two consecutive defence budget increases, a comprehensive quality of life program, and a list of newly procured equipment, the Canadian forces are building a strong future on an even stronger foundation.
The government is also committed to ensuring that our soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen are properly recognized and publicly thanked for their national service.
On September 6 the Governor General and Commander-in-Chief presented the first Canadian peacekeeping service medals to recipients in Ottawa, including many members of the Canadian forces. As Canadians we recognize elements and individuals of the Canadian forces through various honours and events such as this one. However, we have yet to reserve a day when all Canadians from coast to coast can take a moment to thank all members of the Canadian forces for their dedication and hard work. By declaring a Canadian forces day today in the House, we will provide that opportunity.
People across the country will be given the occasion to recognize the accomplishments of our men and women in uniform. It will, in short, give Canadians an opportunity to thank Canadian forces personnel for their dedicated work. It is time for us to officially set aside a day when Canadians of all walks of life can thank members of the Canadian forces for their service and increase their knowledge of military issues in the process. It is time to officially establish Canadian forces day.
I urge my fellow members to support this motion. I would like to put forward the following amendment. I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the words “Canadian Forces” and substituting the following: “both at home and abroad, in such areas as humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, search and rescue and UN peacekeeping, should proclaim the first Sunday in June as Canadian Forces Day”.