Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise this morning to speak to Bill C-300, standing in the name of the hon. member for Saanich-Gulf Islands. The bill before us is being presented for the most laudable of reasons, to recognize the men and women of our country who have served with distinction in many peacekeeping missions.
I am glad to have this opportunity to pay tribute to the thousands of Canadians who have served wherever their country has sent them. The medals they have received represent our small attempt to tell them how much their service has meant to all of us. Without them we would be much diminished.
It is impossible to determine exactly how many Canadians have received medals. In the first world war over 427,000 Canadian military personnel were eligible for one or more medals. During the second world war some 700,000 were eligible to receive one or more medals. More than 25,000 Canadians served during the Korean war. To date, almost 100,000 Canadians have earned UN or other international medals.
In addition to the military, almost 500 UN medals were earned by members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other Canadian police assigned to these UN missions. As well, the UN has authorized and Canada has approved the issue of numerals on UN medals to note subsequent tours in a mission for which a medal has already been earned.
At the present time the UN has awarded service medals to personnel who served with some 30 UN missions. These medals are accepted for wear by Canada.
It is somewhat unfortunate, and likely only an oversight, that the bill before us refers only to UN veterans. There have also been five non-UN missions where Canadian peacekeepers played a significant role. I am sure the hon. member would not wish to exclude these worthy Canadians. It is in the interests of improving the discussion that I raise the issue here.
These five missions, two in Indo-China, one in the Sinai and two in the former Yugoslavia, each had a specific medal associated with it. These medals, like those of the UN, were also accepted for wear by Canada, and over 5,500 of these medals were earned by Canadians, including 52 members of the then department of external affairs who participated in the second mission in Indo-China.
A special medal was struck and issued for those Canadian personnel who took part in the gulf war in 1991. Just under 4,500 were awarded.
For those missions which were not recognized by a specific medal, the Canadian special service medal with peace-paix bar is available to anyone who has served on such a mission for 180 days or more. This medal, authorized in 1984, issued for the first time in 1990, is never issued without a bar.
Almost 65,000 Canadian military personnel, retired and serving, have been awarded this medal for one or more bars for special service with NATO, Alert, Pakistan and for humanitarian issues.
The peace-paix bar has been awarded to just over 1,000 personnel where the U.N. has not issued a specific medal for a mission. I am sure the Chair will recall the debate that took place in this Chamber some two and a half years ago around the motion of the member for Winnipeg-Transcona concerning his proposal for a medal for the veterans of the Dieppe raid.
While the original motion was amended, some interesting thoughts were developed during the debate and I can recommend it to my hon. colleagues for their information.
There was much goodwill displayed on the part of many during the debate and many participants went away, I believe, with a new determination to seek a solution. One was found, one which I know was welcomed by the valiant men who were a part of that historic battle and by their survivors.
On July 14, 1994 the Secretary of State for Veterans announced on behalf of the Government of Canada the awarding of a distinctive decoration for Canadians who participated in the August 19, 1942 raid on Dieppe, France. The silver bar to be attached to the ribbon of the Canadian volunteer service medal was designed featuring the word Dieppe in raised letters on a pebbled background. Above this the bar bears an anchor surmounted by an eagle and a Thompson sub-machine gun.
The design was created in consultation with Dieppe veterans and the Prisoners of War Association and was produced by the Royal Canadian Mint. Members will know the decoration was a long awaited, special recognition for a very special group of veterans who had waited 50 years for this honour.
I hasten to add that I do not raise the Dieppe decoration as a reason not to award a special recognition to those who have served us with distinction in many peacekeeping missions since then. I do raise it to suggest that there are alternatives to the separate medals proposed by the member opposite.
As I understand it, approximately 80,000 to 90,000 Canadians would be eligible for a medal such as that proposed by the private member's bill. I realize that the number is significantly higher than that mentioned by my colleague opposite and I can only say that we need to get our experts together so that we can give a very definitive answer.
This number is a very important reason to consider such a bill favourable and equally a very important reason why we have to be sure that it is right the first time.
I also want to take a moment to comment on the announcement on November 13 by the Minister of National Defence that the Government of Canada will seek approval from Her Majesty the Queen for a medal for service in Somalia.
In December 1992, almost 1,400 Canadian forces drawn from both the regular and reserve forces were deployed to Somalia under United Nations resolution 794.
As a chapter 7 mission, it is appropriate that a separate Canadian medal be awarded. During this mission Canadian forces members restored order, ensured that convoys of badly needed food and medical supplies reached people in desperate need and assisted in rebuilding war ravaged communities in Somalia. Now that the government has given its approval to proceed with the Somalia medal, an order in council must be established for this new honour. Once the order in council is signed, the Queen's approval will be sought through letters patent.
While we can wish that all was speedier and the process faster, it may take between six to twelve months before Canadian forces' members actually receive their medal. Much attention has been paid in recent years to certain tragic events that occurred in that theatre. The government is saying by proceeding with this medal that it wants to acknowledge the vast majority of courageous and self-sacrificing individuals who represented us all with pride and honour. I believe that Canadians have wanted us to take this action, to speak for them in recognizing those who served.
May I say in conclusion that I will listen very carefully to the debate on this bill and for the moment urge all members only to give it their earnest consideration. Perhaps when next we return to this debate we will find we have come a long way toward finding a common understanding of how we can achieve this objective.