Statement in Parliament on Remembrance Day 2017


Ms. Irene Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe, NDP): Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to rise in the House today on behalf of New Democrats to honour the bravery and loyalty of the men and women who fought for the freedoms we cherish as Canadians. This week we remember the service and sacrifice of all those who served. We remember those who put their lives on the line for our country and did not return home and we remember those who did return but were forever changed.

     This year is a special year for Canada as we mark 150 years of Confederation. This year we also reflect on the anniversaries of significant military events in our history. One hundred years ago, 100,000 members of the Canadian corps took part in the arduous Battle of Passchendaele. In those dark and terrifying days of World War I, the allied forces launched an attack to take back Passchendaele in the region of Flanders in Belgium. The battle was long and difficult and the sacrifices were great. There were 4,000 Canadian soldiers killed, and almost 12,000 wounded. Canadian soldiers and their families paid a horrendous price for a battle that was later known for its senseless slaughter. All four divisions of the Canadian corps took turns in the assault on the ridge. One battalion, the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, lost most of its junior officers in the first hour of the assault on October 30.

    This year we also mark the 100 anniversary of Vimy Ridge. Approximately, 100,000 Canadian soldiers participated in the battle, fighting valiantly to capture the ridge, marking a strategic turning point for the allies in the war. The success of the assault is attributable to the careful preparation by the Canadians and the use of the creeping barrage. The precise and timely use of aimed shellfire forced the Germans to take cover while 15,000 Canadian troops followed behind the barrage and eventually overran and captured enemy positions before the German troops were able to react. The price was heavy: 3,600 Canadians lost their lives, and 7,000 were injured.

    In August of 1942, 75 years ago, almost 5,000 Canadian soldiers took part in the daring pre-dawn landing at Dieppe, Puys and Pourville. The raid resulted in heavy losses. More than 900 Canadians lost their lives, and nearly 2,000 were taken prisoner. This summer, Canadians had the honour to be in Dieppe, along with the minister, the staff for Veterans Affairs, and four Canadians veterans who landed on that beach 75 years ago. The people of Dieppe, Pourville, Puys, and France have not forgotten the sacrifice of Canadians all those years ago. Our veterans marched proudly along the town promenade to the applause and tears of the people who remain so grateful to them. I was taken by the fact there was a young French soldier, armed and in his fatigues. He looked to be about 21. He wept openly when our veterans passed.

    These battles left scars on the soldiers, families, and communities, scars that have never healed and should never be forgotten. We should also remember the people on the home front who made incredible and important contributions to the war effort, and in support of Canadian troops and personnel. Sadly, many are unknown to us, like the women in Stratford, Ontario, who worked in the rail yard repairing the locomotives and rail cars that took the supplies to the troops at the front during World War II. Most are remembered only in a photograph taken while they laboured for the war effort.

    Men and women continue to serve this country, and we would be remiss if we failed to recognize their contributions, their bravery and valour, including those who served in the Korean War, during the Cold War, in peacekeeping missions around the world, in the war in Afghanistan, and those who serve here at home.

     We must also recognize those who have served this country with honour, despite facing unique challenges to that service, including those from the LGBT community, indigenous people, and individuals who experienced military sexual trauma. We honour their service and their dedication to Canada.

And of course there are the families of serving members and veterans who welcome home family members forever scarred, and they support and advocate and care for their loved ones.

    On November 11, I invite all members of the House, as well as all Canadians, to honour the valour, devotion, and loyalty of the men and women who have served Canada. They deserve our ongoing support and gratitude and to be treated with the greatest respect.

    It is essential that this week's reflections translate to concrete actions for tomorrow. The transition to civilian life can be difficult and can come with great and many challenges. The road to healing is not a seamless one. Thus, we must listen to our veterans and their families to ensure that they receive the support, help, and recognition they need and deserve.

    We must honour our sacred obligation to these brave men and women. We shall always remember their courage and valour today and every day. We must make absolutely sure that we have lived up to the obligation we owe them.

    Lest We Forget