Mr. Speaker, it seems everyone is in tune with the topic this evening, so I will try to continue.
We are talking about Bill C-27, and a lot has been covered on the bill itself. I look at it as one step toward what we are trying to do for veterans, together. There are probably a lot more steps that we have to take, and we realize that.
I will not go into details about the bill itself. That has been covered quite a bit. However, I would like to go into some of the background of what we have been attempting, together, members, private sector and veterans, to try to improve the lot of veterans and the opportunities for veterans.
For us in the House, it basically started with the new veterans charter. The whole idea was to move from an era where veterans were simply pensioned off rather to concentrating on getting veterans back into society. Those leaving the military should be given opportunities to get upgraded, to get skills and to find opportunities to transition into a full life within their communities.
I think every member of the House shares that wish and ambition. I do not think this is a political issue per se, although we do tend to get a little fixed sometimes on the difference of opinions. The reality is that our country expects us to honour these veterans. Our country expects us to invest in our veterans.
We know that taxpayers in fact have invested a lot in initiatives that take place right across the country. To quote a former veterans affairs minister, Hon. Greg Thompson, “Can you ever do enough for veterans?” We all know the answer is no. It is always a work in progress. There is always a lot that has to be done. Tonight is an example of one small step in the direction of trying to answer some of the questions they have, such as training opportunities, transition opportunities and certainly job opportunities. Not that government alone is ever going to fix it, but government has to set its own. Government has to work with the private sector. It has to work with the veterans groups.
Do we always agree? Absolutely not, whether it is members in a committee or whether it is people from various veterans groups themselves.
At the end of the day, we have to realize that over the years many military members have successfully retired into Canadian society and have not needed veterans affairs services. They are not clients of veterans affairs. They have successfully transitioned, in many cases on their own. With their wonderful training and mental outlook they have on life, they have become very productive members of society in a second career.
There are those who need our help. There are those who are really challenged either by mental or physical difficulties, some in active duty and some maybe in training exercises, but the kind of pressure and incidents they have run into means we have to pay attention to their needs.
What I have observed around the country, and in my particular riding, is there are those who are doing things and it is not government. One example I think of with great pride is Maple Grove Education Centre in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. It has a memorial club, all students, all volunteers. They built a monument to the Afghan soldiers who passed away. They did it with their own fundraising. It is an amazing memorial to those people who they believe, as young Canadians, sacrificed for the future and the betterment of our country, and did their bit in the world because they were asked to.
Surely, if young people can get that message, we can all understand the opportunities out there. We do have to listen. We will disagree. We will never totally be on the same page as to what is right and wrong, but we have to continue to make progress. We owe that to the military and to the veterans in our country.
I know most of us went through the Day of Honour not long ago. Next to the Greenwood air base in the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, in the village called Kingston, there was a big turnout of veterans, military and interested community citizens.
Some time ago I was fortunate to be on a special committee of the House, looking at Afghanistan. We had a lot of witnesses and heard a lot of stories. The one that struck me was from a very brave woman from Afghanistan who said to us that we should remember that Canadians would get impatient with the progress that was taking place, but that we were making a difference. Our military had made a huge difference. There were now water supplies where there had not been before. Thousands of young girls were being educated and it was now over seven million. She asked us to understand that it was not her husband's view as a male about women that would make a difference, it was her son's view. It was a generational change and that was what the military had done in helping a foreign country, in helping people they did not even know because they knew it was the right thing to do.
Our job is to look after those who are coming home. Our job is to provide opportunity. Our job collectively as parliamentarians is to understand and honour these people who have done so much for us. Tonight we are looking at one step, one piece of the progress we are going to make on this long road. We get frustrated sometimes in thinking about what could be or what should be. We have to remember, as we get in an animated conversation, there are a lot of good initiatives in place. A lot of good things are happening. A lot of progress is being made. Certainly a lot of people are gaining because we all have ensured they get the services and support they need. It is not the end of the story. It is not the end of the road. There is a long way to go and we have to keep at it.
I know we get quite worked up sometimes as parliamentarians. We get exercised over issues and details, but at the end of the day, I believe every member in the House believes and supports the military and supports the veterans. Whether we agree or disagree, at the end of the day we have an obligation to ensure initiatives take place that will support and help our veterans. They are watching us and measuring what we are doing. It is not about whether we agree or disagree. It is whether we together make progress where in a few years down the road we can look back and say that we supported the charter when it came in. It is supposed to be a living document. It is supposed to help veterans make the transition. All parties agreed when it first came in that it was the right way to go. We have to keep working to ensure it is the right initiative and the right document with the right results. We owe that to our veterans.
I will not go on any longer except I certainly hope we will support this initiative, not because it is the end of the progress and the end of the road we are travelling, but it is one step we can measure and put forward that offers more opportunity. Whether it is enough or not enough, we can debate that on and on. I expect there will always be a debate about whether we can do more. I believe we always will find that yes, we can, but let us do it together.