Speeches | Speech on Korean War Veterans Day Bill

06 December 2012

Honourable senators, I want to congratulate Senator Martin for her bill and her presentation of it. It was very powerful and very emotional, and it meant a great deal to me personally.

My father spent a year and a half with the Canadian Forces in Korea, affiliated with the UN forces. I have a deep feeling for that particular action and his role in it. My father was an officer in the Canadian military for 32 years. He fought in the Second World War with the British Black Watch because he volunteered to fight for them. They lost so many officers that they borrowed Canadian officers. He ended up in Vietnam — that came up earlier tonight — in the International Control Commission. It was very much part of my life.

First of all, I was in Korea on a trip for the fifty-fifth anniversary of the armistice. It is interesting that it is not a treaty; that war is not over. It is an armistice.

I was there with the Minister of Veterans Affairs Greg Thompson, who found that maquette, and it was a powerful moment in that dinner when he unveiled that and told the story, which the honourable senator related very well.

It was at Kapyong that we did a wreath laying ceremony. The point was made that not only did the Canadian PPCLI regiment distinguish themselves immensely there, but they were being overrun. Other forces withdrew, but the Canadians held, and the PPCLI commander called the Canadian artillery on his own position. It was a turning point in that battle, and that, in turn, was a turning point in the war.

I will finish by mentioning that on this trip that I was on, there were a number of Aboriginal veterans. It is very interesting to note that those veterans, as soldiers, went and fought on behalf of Canada in Korea, in a war where 516 Canadians were killed. I believe I am right to say they gave up their Aboriginal status to do that, and they did not have the vote and did not get the vote for a number of years. Their bravery and commitment to this immensely important endeavour should always be remembered in that context as well.

I thank Senator Martin for giving us all the chance to speak to and support this important initiative.

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