Calling on Canadians to be there for each other as we fight COVID-19
I rise here, in this moment, in this House, as our generation faces its greatest challenge yet.
We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.
Of all those Canadians who saw our nation through difficult, tumultuous times in our history.
103 years ago today, young Canadian soldiers were in the trenches of France, thousands of kilometres from home.
The next day, they would storm Hill 145, doing their part to win the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
Today, on this sombre anniversary, we remember their courage and sacrifice.
We remember these soldiers who shaped the country we know today.
20 years later, many would be sent to the front again.
On the evening of November 14, 1940, my grandfather, the young MP for Vancouver North, rose in his seat to speak to the war effort, but first thanked all those senior members who allowed him to speak before them, because his leave from the RCAF had expired that night, and he was to ship out soon.
Jimmy Sinclair would spend the next three and a half years in Europe and North Africa, far from his young family, far from his work in this House of Commons, far from his constituents in British Columbia, serving his country in the best way he knew how.
He would return to the chamber in early 1944, a mere few months before D-Day, to exhort Canadians to continue with the sacrifices and efforts required to win.
“This is the year which will decide a rapid victory or a long and protracted war; a year when our fighting men must be given every conceivable aid and support and encouragement by every man, woman, and child in Canada, no matter the personal cost.”
These were trials that shaped our country, and more, our citizens.
And now, once again, we are being tried.
But Mr. Speaker – this is not a war.
That doesn’t make this fight any less destructive, any less dangerous.
But there is no front line marked with barbed wire. No soldiers to be deployed across the ocean. No enemy combatants to defeat.
Instead, the front line is everywhere.
In our homes. In our hospitals and care centres. In our grocery stores and pharmacies. At our truck stops and gas stations.
And the people who work in these places are our modern-day heroes.
Separated from their family, risking their own health – they head to work every day so that we can eat.
So that we can heal.
So that we can do our part.
Because every one of us has a role to play in helping shield our country from the threat it now faces.
In hard times, courage and strength are not defined by what we say or do loudly, in public, but by the actions we take quietly, in private.
Like staying home.
Even as we stand apart, we stand united in our resolve to do what we must until COVID-19 is defeated.
Mr. Speaker, we are here today to pass the Emergency Wage Subsidy.
This is the most important Canadian economic policy since the Second World War.
This subsidy will allow Canadians to keep their jobs and paycheques during this crisis.
This is what we are voting on this afternoon.
This subsidy builds on measures already taken to help Canadians, like guaranteed loans for small businesses and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit for those who have lost their jobs.
Once again, in this House, we are being called upon to support those in need and I know we won’t let them down.
Mr. Speaker – As Canada confronts this crisis, we are all called to serve.
To fight for and alongside each of our fellow citizens.
To fight for someone’s mother. For someone’s grandfather. For someone’s neighbour.
Our job as Canadians is to uphold the dignity and sanctity of every single human life – whether they be rich or poor, young or old, ailing or healthy.
That is our duty.
Without reservation, without pause, we must fight for every inch of ground against this disease.
We must be there for one another as we spare no effort to safeguard our collective future.
In the coming weeks and months, we will face many obstacles.
We will go through more moments of uncertainty.
Fear and anxiety will continue to be part of daily life for most of us.
And, sadly, we will grieve together for the loss of our loved ones.
Even if we take every necessary precaution, the situation could get worse before it gets better.
This is the stark reality our country is facing.
Our determination to beat this virus – our commitment to being there for one another – will be put to the test.
But I know we are up to the challenge.
Canadians are among the most fortunate people on earth.
Despite the challenges we have yet to overcome, despite the wrongs we have yet to right – ours is a country where we look out for one another.
Where we take care of each other.
The generosity of spirit and compassion, this was alive long before this virus reached our shores and it will survive long after it’s gone, because it is who we are.
Mr. Speaker, our country is in mourning.
Too many families have lost a loved one to this pandemic.
This disease is all the more cruel because it prevents us from gathering to mourn the loss of those who have left us and celebrate their life with friends and family.
On behalf of all Canadians, I offer my deepest condolences to those who have lost a loved one.
However, this holiday weekend also marks the coming of rebirth and new life.
Easter is a time where Christians honour the Passion, sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth – and his teachings of compassion, forgiveness, and love.
Passover is a time when Jews recall the covenant made by God with the people of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah. And the heroism of Moses who led his people from bondage to freedom.
Vaisakhi is a time when Sikhs and Hindus celebrate the new year and the spring harvest.
And even for those who are not celebrating, spring is always a time for renewal.
These moments remind us that love, courage, and fortitude are the antidote to despair.
That there is no challenge we can’t overcome together.
So let us make a solemn promise to each other this weekend to do just that.
During this long weekend, let’s promise each other to do what we have to do for as long as it takes.
And in this House, we are doing our part to keep this promise.
We are fulfilling our responsibilities and helping those in need.
Mr. Speaker, as I stand here today, I think of the young men who died taking Vimy Ridge.
I think of the Greatest Generation, who grew up during the Depression and fought through the Second World War.
They showed us how to fight for what we believe in and how to sacrifice for what we hold dear.
Today, across this country, the last members of this Greatest Generation live in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. They’re in their small apartments, in the homes they built so long ago, with their own hands.
They are the most threatened by this disease.
They fought for us, all those years ago, and today, we fight for them.
We will show ourselves to be worthy of this magnificent country they built.
And for them, and for their grandchildren, we will endure, we will persevere, and we will prevail.