MLA Lois Moorcroft pays tribute to Remembrance Day

Recently I had the privilege of attending, along with my colleagues in the Official Opposition, the world premiere of a documentary by my friend and constituent, local filmmaker Max Fraser — Bond of Strangers: the Operation Husky Story. It followed the route of World War II’s Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily in a full-scale combat engagement by a full-Canadian division. It’s a story of remembrance.

I want to acknowledge members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Royal Canadian Legion in the gallery today. The Whitehorse Legion contributed financially to the film project. In 2013, 10 marchers made the trek to visit former battle sites and retrace the steps of the Hastings and Prince Edward regiment through Sicily. Max Fraser was one of four whose fathers served in that regiment. The so-called “Hasty Ps” liberated Assoro, a small hilltop village west of Mount Etna, in 1943 in a daring and difficult surprise attack after scaling the surrounding cliffs.

Bond of Strangers captures that hidden history of the Canadian invasion of the Italian Front, which resulted in fascist dictator Benito Mussolini’s resignation in 1943. Bond of Strangers helps Canadians understand and appreciate the sacrifice of those 562 Canadian lives claimed by fighting in Sicily alone.

They are buried near Agira, not far from Assoro. The film showed a moving camaraderie between the Sicilian residents, some of whom remembered the Canadian troops, veterans and marchers on this journey of remembrance. Bond of Strangers demonstrated ways to treat our veterans with the respect they deserve in honour of their contributions and service to the country.

At the Golden Horn Elementary School ceremony this morning, the kindergarten students handed out doves to members of the audience saying “Peace is love, sharing, friendship, family”. We saw a moving video of soldiers in action and their haunting faces during combat, which told the story of how hard war is.

Just as I have spoken about one hidden war history from World War II, I am compelled to also acknowledge a crisis of war today — the hidden price of soldiers’ lives lost to suicide. Last September, statistics from the Defence department revealed 160 Canadian military personnel had committed suicide between 2004 and March 31, 2014. Compare that to the 138 soldiers killed in combat between 2002 and 2014 when Canada’s Afghan mission formally ended. Canadian soldiers’ rate of death by suicide was higher than soldiers’ rate of death in combat. We cannot say we are working for the peace soldiers have fought for if we do not also work for veterans’ rights to a full range of health services and mental health programs.

I will close with words of veterans about Remembrance Day: “By remembering their service and their sacrifice, we recognize the tradition of freedom these men and women fought to preserve. They believed that their actions in the present would make a significant difference for the future, but it is up to us to ensure that their dream of peace is realized. On Remembrance Day, we acknowledge the courage and sacrifice of those who served their country and acknowledge our responsibility to work for the peace they fought hard to achieve.”


Image: duncanh1 / flickr. Used under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 licence.