November is when we pause to remember those who have fought for us in past and present wars; those who are still doing so in Afghanistan and in peace missions in other parts of the world; those who have come home, but injured in body and spirit; and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in giving their lives.
It is a time to say thank you, to remember--and in the spirit of thanks and remembrance, to reflect on how we can best promote peace, instead of war.
I am very proud of my family’s military history. My grandfather (from Willowdale) was a pilot in WWI, flying with Billy Bishop against the famous Red Baron. One of my uncles (also from Willowdale) was a pilot in WWII, but, sadly, he was shot down and killed, and never came home to his family. Another uncle (also from Willowdale) was a pilot with the naval air force. He made the navy his career, ultimately commanding a destroyer (the HMCS Qu’Appelle).
My own father landed on DDay. He was the first Allied soldier in Caen. He won the Military Cross for his work in laying and keeping open the signal lines under fire, and went on to help liberate Holland. I am able to tell you this story because he was one of the lucky ones who was able to come home and build a family—of which I am one.
I myself was able to “join the Navy” this summer, as part of a program offered by the Armed Forces to Members of Parliament. For five days, I was welcomed as ‘part of the crew’ of the frigate HMCS St. John’s. It was an extraordinary experience, and I learned so much about the incredible teamwork necessary for the survival of a ship at sea. (One night was so rough we had to use our “bunk belts” to keep from rolling out of bed!)
I am very proud of my family’s contributions. I am very proud of the fact that, when called upon to help internationally, Canada and Canadians have not only stepped up to the challenge, they have punched far above their weight and earned worldwide respect.
Unfortunately, our veterans have not been treated well enough. I, as the MP for Willowdale, along with many of my colleagues, are calling on the Harper government to properly honour our veterans, our military, and their families on all days of the year by (i) conducting an extensive review of the New Veterans’ Charter with real consultation with veterans across the country; (ii) immediately correcting the problems with the lump-sum payment system for injured veterans returning from service; (iii) clarifying whether the new benefits for seriously injured veterans will be retroactive to 2006; and (iv) helping the growing number of veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We must ensure that veterans, who have given so much, are given the support, and treated with the respect, that they deserve.
I also want us to do all we can, as a country, to promote peace, not war. We have a long tradition in this country, from Lester Pearson’s work creating UN Peacekeeping efforts, to Canada’s role in the anti-land mines treaty, to Jean Chretien’s refusal to send Canadian troops to invade Iraq, to the promotion by Michael Ignatieff of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine at the United Nations. These efforts are not perfect. The United Nations itself has flaws. But Canada can either sit back and refuse to help, or we can step up, once again, to the challenge of ensuring a multilateral approach to achieving world peace. I choose to have Canada step up to make the world a better place.
Martha Hall Findlay
Official Opposition Critic for International Trade