Mr. Speaker, I would like to say a few words regarding motion M-143 as proposed by the hon. member for Winnipeg Transcona. I am a great supporter of any honours for our veterans and I sympathize with the intent of the hon. member in putting this motion forward.
I certainly commend the hon. member for bringing the issue to the attention of this House. In that regard the consultative process now under way with the interested parties is commendable. I am certain all hon. members trust that the discussions will arrive at a successful conclusion.
I must also point out that this is a sensitive issue. It must be considered within the context of the protocol and traditions of the Commonwealth system of honours and awards to which we as a nation have agreed.
The Dieppe raid was a catastrophic moment in Canadian history. Every Canadian was touched in some way by the horrifying losses Canadians suffered on that day in 1942.
It was also of tremendous importance to the allied war effort. No matter how one interprets the events surrounding the plan of the operation, the hard lessons learned from the disaster contributed to the successful D-Day landings, the 50th anniversary of which we will mark this June.
The veterans of the Dieppe raid have made an enormous contribution to our country and they should be honoured in every way.
I understand the Dieppe veterans' frustrations and I sincerely hope their desire for further recognition can in some way be accommodated. I do want to remind the House that the Dieppe veterans have been honoured in many other ways.
The Dieppe veterans have not been forgotten. They have been eligible for Canada's outstanding veterans program, including POW compensation, a very tangible recognition of their contribution to the war effort and to this country.
Regimental memorials have been erected along the beaches where the Canadians fought that day. Monuments are also located at Puys, Pourville and Dieppe, as the hon. member has already mentioned.
These memorials pay tribute to the members of the Royal Regiment of Canada, the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, Les Fusiliers Mont Royal, the Calgary Regiment, the South Saskatchewan Regiment and the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada who gave their lives in the raid. These regiments also proudly display the Dieppe battle honour on their regimental colours.
The town of Dieppe has also created a small park where it has erected a monument of its own recounting the long relationship between Canadians and the people of Normandy, commemorating the raid on Dieppe.
At war's end Dieppe veterans also received a number of war service medals, including the 1939-45 star, the Canadian volunteer service medal, the war medal of 1939-45 and in many cases the defence medal. Many Dieppe veterans have also received individual awards for personal valour.
Perhaps best known among them are Charles Cecil Ingersoll Merritt and John Weir Foote, recipients of the Victoria Cross.
Lieutenant-Colonel Cecil Merritt landed that day at Pourville. As the men struggled to cross the bridge over the river Scie he walked calmly into the storm of enemy fire on the bridge and led party after party across the bridge with his example.
Despite their best efforts, however, the Canadians were forced to withdraw and again Cecil Merritt displayed his courage. Twice wounded, he led a vigorous rear guard action that enabled many men to reach the landing craft that waited to rescue them. Lieutenant-Colonel Merritt and his men were unfortunately not lucky. They could not reach the craft and were captured and taken prisoners of war.
Similar courage was shown by Reverend Foote that day. Through eight hours of fighting John Foote repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire as he worked again and again to move the injured to an aid post. He saved many lives with his selfless effort.
Then at the end of the battle when he could have sailed away safely, he climbed back down from the landing craft and walked toward the enemy lines to be taken prisoner. In this way he made himself available to minister to his fellow Canadians as they were held prisoners of war. Foote and his comrades were held captive for the next three years.
Cecil Merritt and John Weir Foote were most deserving recipients of the Commonwealth's highest military decoration for bravery. Their stories of courage deserve to be told again and again, as do many others.
For this reason, I am glad this issue has come to public attention. I am very pleased the story of Dieppe presented on national television not long ago has been brought to our attention. It is fitting that Canadians be reminded of the courage and valour displayed by their countrymen at Dieppe more than 50 years ago. We must never forget this chapter in our history.
That is why I heartily support a new commemorative program called Canada Remembers. Over the next one and a half years the Canada Remembers program will mark the 50th anniversaries of the final events of the second world war. It will honour the contributions of the Canadians who served overseas during wartime and the millions of Canadians who supported them back home.
I am particularly excited that this program will reach out to younger Canadians, providing them with an opportunity to learn more about the sacrifices made by a whole generation of Canadians to secure peace and freedom for all of us.
Initiatives such as these are important if we are to maintain an understanding of the impact of the second world war on the development of this country and if we are going to keep a sense of our military history alive.
Canada Remembers is for all of our veterans, the Dieppe veterans included. I hope they will attend the many national and local events being planned for them. The honours and tributes they receive will be well deserved. They have earned them many times over.
In response to the hon. member's motion I would like to recommend that the motion be amended in view of the remarks I have just made.
That the motion be amended by deleting the words "striking a distinctive medal" and substituting therefor the words "establishing an appropriate decoration".
I am sure the hon. member is aware of the reasons for this amendment. I thank him once again for the motion.