IN THE HOUSE ~ Speech-Debate ~ NDP Opposition Day Motion ~ Canadian military and RCMP veterans / Les anciens combattants canadiens et les vétérans de la GRC

41st Parliament, 1st Session ~ Context : Debate

    I want to continue talking about the credible moral debt Canadians owe to our veterans.

     I grew up in a family which sent two individuals off to the second world war. My grandfather and my uncle are placed at the monument in front of New Westminster City Hall in my community of New Westminster. They both gave their lives for their country, and as with so many Canadians, we feel deeply and profoundly about the debt that we owe the veterans who came back.

    As the House well knows, war comes with huge physical, mental, often psychological consequences to our veterans. One cannot go to those kinds of situations and come back unscathed. These brave men and women who have served overseas, who have served in the second world war, the Korean conflict, in multiple peacekeeping operations that Canada has undertaken, in Afghanistan, deserve only the best that Canada has to offer. They put their lives on the line, many of them gave their lives. Those who come back are entitled to the full support of our nation. That is why we find it so perplexing that after seven hours of debate here in the House today the Conservative government has not even signalled yet whether it is going to support the motion or not.

    Every year on Remembrance Day I go before the New Westminster cenotaph.

Context : Questions and Comments

    Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question and certainly the members on this side of the House share his family's sacrifice and contribution to Canada's roles overseas.

    That being said, I must say as a former financial administrator that I am beside myself with the priorities I see being advanced by the government and where it wants to spend money.

    The F-35s were untendered and have grown from a $9 billion budget to $30 billion, perhaps $40 billion. We have no idea. No one on the government side or the opposition side of the House has any idea of how many tens of billions of dollars those planes will cost and it was not even tendered.

     The prison agenda put forward by the government at a time when the crime rate is falling has been evaluated upwards of $19 billion. Those are expenditures we believe can be cut back on.

     Those are expenditures that we believe have to be fine tuned, certainly re-tendered or have a tendering a process for the F-35s, the F-18 replacements. That is what needs to happen. However, on cutting back on services for our veterans, we are unalterably opposed.

     I believe the member is in good faith and we hope that he will vote in favour of this motion that we are bringing forward in the House tomorrow.

Context : Questions and Comments

    Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, first I would like to praise the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. There is no stronger advocate for veterans in this country than the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore and he proves that every day. He proved it again today in question period and in his presentation in the debate. He is aware of how insidiously we are seeing the government cut back.

    When I go to the George Derby Hospital and I see those men and women who have given so much for this country, I see the insidious ways that things are gradually deteriorating, how things are gradually being cut back. I say to the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore that he is absolutely right, there are more cuts to come unless members of this Parliament take a very clear decision to tell the government that we do not want any more cuts. We want to preserve services for veterans. They deserve our respect and we owe them no less than providing those services each and every day.

Context : Continuation of debate

    Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, I am saddened that some members are not listening to this debate. I know that many Canadians and many veterans value this debate because without our veterans we would not be having this democratic debate on the floor of the House of Commons. We owe it to them to listen very attentively. We owe it to them to listen to their needs.

    All of the major veterans organizations have come forward and have said the government should be supporting the NDP motion, every single one without exception. They understand the contributions that veterans have made to building the country and to preserving the right to a democratic debate in the House of Commons. Veterans who have given their lives or have come back profoundly scarred, sometimes physically, sometimes psychologically, have the right to get the best possible services from a grateful nation.

    Every Remembrance Day I go to the George Derby Centre in Burnaby and visit the veterans. I listen to their stories. I see what has happened over time, which is a slow but steady deterioration in the funding that is allocated to that veterans hospital and other veterans hospitals across the country. It is clear and unmistakable. That is why we brought forward the motion today. We understand that the slow, steady and insidious cuts to funding is something that cannot be permitted to continue. We have to provide full support for our veterans, wherever they are found in Canada. We do this today with the full support of those veterans organizations.

    As members know, in the estimates there were cutbacks. The government would say that it only cut back certain categories, but unmistakably, and we have raised this in the House of Commons, there were cutbacks of millions of dollars in funding going to Veterans Affairs. The government is aware of this. It has said even further that it will be looking to make major cuts in ministries, including the Ministry of Veterans Affairs. We could be talking about tens of millions of dollars.

    How does that translate? That translates into fewer services available to veterans. It translates into fewer services available anywhere veterans are now receiving the support of a grateful population, whether that be the George Derby Centre in Burnaby, British Columbia, or Ste. Anne's Hospital in Québec. We will draw that line in the sand to stop further cuts. We want to maintain those services. We want to put forth a motion to the House of Commons that unambiguously states that the cuts, as insidious as they may be, shall stop now, and that the next budget will provide full funding for veterans. We are standing up for veterans in the House of Commons because we can do so. We can stand in the House of Commons and debate because of their sacrifice.

    Today we are asking for support from every single member of Parliament to say yes to veterans, to say no to cuts, and to say yes to maintaining the funding for our veterans who have given their lives and often their physical health for this country. They are owed that debt. We owe them no less than full funding in the next budget and no cuts.

    We hope that all members of Parliament will support this motion.

Context : Debate

    M. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NPD): Monsieur le Président, on a débattu toute la journée de cette question importante au sujet des anciens combattants. Mon collègue de Sackville—Eastern Shore et la députée de Québec ont lancé ce débat ce matin, et malgré qu'on soit maintenant rendu en soirée, personne du côté gouvernemental n'a clairement dit s'ils appuieraient ou non notre motion, s'ils appuieraient ou non le principe d'être contre les réductions des services pour les anciens combattants.

    Il faut donc passer par la présidence pour poser ces questions à tous les députés du côté gouvernemental. Pourquoi sont-ils tellement réticents à appuyer une motion qui relève du gros bon sens? Pourquoi sont-ils tellement lents à dire nettement et clairement qu'ils veulent absolument appuyer la motion? Qu'ils disent simplement qu'ils veulent que soit maintenu après le budget, le même niveau de services pour les anciens combattants d'avant le budget. C'est une question légitime qu'il faut poser. Pourquoi n'ont-ils pas répliqué? Même si on débat de ces questions depuis huit ans, on n'a eu aucune réponse.

    De ce côté-ci, on s'inquiète. C'est sûr que les familles des anciens combattants s'inquiètent. C'est sûr que beaucoup de gens de partout au pays, dans les hôpitaux pour les anciens combattants, dans les familles, dans les foyers où demeurent les anciens combattants, sont tous surpris du manque de clarté du côté gouvernemental.

    Le député de Sackville—Eastern Shore a posé des questions en cette Chambre aujourd'hui. J'aurais été tenté de demander aux conservateurs s'ils appuient, oui ou non, les anciens combattants. Ce serait une question légitime à poser. Mais on n'a encore pas eu de réponse à cette question encore, ce qui est très inquiétant.

    Il faut dire que ce n'est pas seulement le NPD qui appuie les anciens combattants, car l'ensemble des organisations des anciens combattants de partout au pays, telles que la Légion royale canadienne dont plusieurs députés du NPD et moi-même faisons partie, appuient pleinement cette motion et ce débat d'aujourd'hui pour appuyer les anciens combattants. Le syndicat des employés des anciens combattants appuie aussi cette motion, de même que l'ombudsman des anciens combattants.

    Il faut poser la question. Pourquoi le gouvernement conservateur n'était-il pas prêt à appuyer cette motion débattue pendant huit heures de débat? Il s'agissait simplement pour eux de se lever et de dire qu'ils sont d'accord avec le NPD qu'il faut protéger les services offerts aux anciens combattants.

    Je sais qu'il y a eu une citation dans le passé. Je vais aussi faire des citations, durant les quelques minutes que je peux accorder aux anciens combattants. Je vais citer Patricia Varga, présidente nationale de la Légion royale canadienne, qui dit:


Il est temps pour notre leadership fédéral d’admettre publiquement la dette morale que le pays doit aux Anciens combattants et leurs familles. Le gouvernement fédéral peut le faire en déclarant « coupez si vous le pouvez, mais ne touchez pas aux programmes et opérations qui affectent les Anciens combattants canadiens ».

    D'autre part, Guy Parent, l'ombudsman des anciens combattants, a dit à peu près la même chose:

Si les États-Unis et le Royaume-Uni affirment que les programmes dédiés aux anciens combattants sont exemptés, le Canada devrait faire de même. Soit les conservateurs font de même, soit ils s'assurent que les restrictions se limitent au minimum nécessaire.

    C'est très clair. Il y a consensus partout au pays; consensus parmi les gens qui nous regardent aujourd'hui; consensus au NPD et consensus parmi toutes les organisations d'anciens combattants. Il faut poser la question suivante: est-ce que les conservateurs appuient les anciens combattants, oui ou non? C'est une question assez simple.