Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Canadian Alliance)
Mr. Speaker, I think it is appropriate on what is undoubtedly the very last day of the 36th parliament that we should conclude our debates with such an important topic. I would like to congratulate my hon. colleague from across the way for having introduced this motion.
Just before private members' business began we were talking about water and how in this country we have an abundant, safe supply of it. We take it so for granted. We often take for granted the relative peace and safety of our land.
We are greatly blessed by the fact that we do not have to have active, armed troops in full combat gear going up and down our roads and highways, protecting our borders and generally using force to keep the peace. We have become accustomed in Canada to our freedoms, our freedom to move about and our safety, without fear and without worrying about being attacked by either internal or external agents. We are probably remiss. We do not think about this enough, nor do we express our gratitude enough to not only God, under whose charter this country was founded, but also for the people who serve us in the various peacekeeping capacities. Certainly I am thinking of not only our armed forces, but also our very notable police forces, the RCMP and the many other provincial and local forces that we have throughout our land.
I sometimes wonder what would happen if we did not have the restraint of our peace officers and our armed forces in order to protect the peace, because we realize when we look at other parts of the world that it could indeed be very fragile.
The member is proposing that we have one day a year in which we, in a specific way, acknowledge and give honour to our armed forces personnel. This is of course something which we already do to some degree annually on November 11 when we have Remembrance Day.
It has been my privilege over the last seven years as a member of parliament to participate in that very special day which we have on November 11 every year. I have had the occasion on that day to visit one of the local legion branches in my riding each year. There are five of them altogether. I have rotated around from one to the other. Last year I went to the community of Chipman where they do not even have a legion branch per se, but where they have a very fitting and a very respectful ceremony on November 11 to honour the armed forces.
On every occasion when I have picked up that wreath and approached the place where we place it, I have been touched by the emotion of realizing that the wreath represents a sacrifice which other people were willing to make in order to protect our safety, our society and our country, to protect and defend those things that we so strongly believe in.
I have had only a very small and indirect involvement with violence in the form of war, that is, in the sense that our son has served overseas. In fact, both of our sons did, but one for a greater length of time. He served, not with the armed forces but with the peace forces: World Vision, with which I am sure many of the members here are familiar; Samaritan's Purse; and Compassion Canada, agencies that are there to help people. He did go into areas where the land was wartorn. He came back from Bosnia and told us that the countryside was a lot like ours but that when he went closer to the houses, which also looked like ours, those houses were full of bullet holes.
There is no doubt that we owe a tremendously huge debt of gratitude for those in the armed forces who sacrifice their own safety and put their own safety at risk in order to defend the rights of others and keep the peace.
I happen to be a member of parliament who has the privilege of having a large armed forces base in my riding. The Edmonton base is actually in my riding since my riding sort of boundaries right up to the city of Edmonton. I have a number of people there who are working in the armed forces. It has been my privilege on a number of occasions to visit that base and talk to the different personnel.
Frankly, among other things, we ought to be showing these people the respect which they should have by making sure that their needs, financial and otherwise, are adequately met. It is one of the areas that I think we should address. Many of them are not paid enough in straight money to provide for themselves and their families. Besides having a day in which we honour them in addition to November 11, we should also be looking at providing them with adequate means of livelihood.
I concur with the member's desire to amend the motion that instead of having it fixed at the 15th day of June, we would have it the first Sunday in June. It is a good amendment and I would support it if it were put forward again.
It is important to have a day where everyone can participate. In our Canadian culture Sunday is a day when, despite the fact that we are becoming more and more commercialized on that day, many people do work less. Government employees, for example, enjoy Saturdays and Sundays off. Sunday is one of those days when we have a little more personal freedom to be together with families and do things.
Since many thousands of Canadians attend worship service or a synagogue on Saturday or Sunday, these ceremonies could also be included there. As people of faith, we also believe in being thankful, and to weave gratitude to our armed forces personnel into a religious service would be something very appropriate.
In principle I agree with this motion. November 11 is a fairly adequate acknowledgement of the work that our armed forces do, but that particular day is rooted more in history. We use the phrase “lest we forget” and think specifically of those who gave their lives and of those who suffered bodily injury in the great wars of the past. This would be a day to honour and give credit and tributes to those who presently serve in our armed forces.
In as much as we are indebted to them, we should seriously consider having such a day and making it part of our national culture and part of what we do once a year to emphasize the wonderful blessings that we have as a result of the things our armed forces personnel do for us and on behalf of us.
Subtopic: Canadian Forces Day