Hill Life & People

The Weekend Q&A: what does Remembrance Day mean to you?

Conservative MP Erin O'Toole served in the Canadian Armed Forces for 12 years, and now says he visits classrooms to teach kids about veterans.The Hill Times photograph by Shruti Shekar

PUBLISHED :Friday, Nov. 10, 2017 4:33 PM

PARLIAMENT HILL—Remembrance Day is a day to remember all the men and women who served and fought for Canada, and a day to take a minute to honour those who have fallen in the line of duty.

For Parliamentarians across party lines, the day is important. Many rushed back to their ridings this week to attend Remembrance Day events. Some participate in events all week leading up to Nov. 11.

The House of Commons adjourned early for the week, on Thursday rather than Friday, to accommodate MPs heading back to their ridings, so The Hill Times could up with some on Wednesday, Nov. 8, to find out what they’d be doing for Remembrance Day, and how they feel connected personally to the day.

Every week on the Hill, we ask Parliamentarians a question or two on the culture of being an MP and publish their answers Friday as part of our weekly online feature, The Weekend Q&A. This week, we asked two questions, the second relating to the Paradise Papers debacle, but you’ll have to wait till next week for those answers.

  

Liberal MP Andy Fillmore said his personal connection to Remembrance Day is that his grandfather fought in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The Hill Times photograph by Shruti Shekar

On Remembrance Day, Liberal MP Andy Fillmore (Halifax, N.S.) said the day was incredibly meaningful for him because if his grandfather had not survived the First World War, he may never have been born.

“[He] was wounded at the Battle of Vimy Ridge 100 years ago, and he was a lucky one,” Mr. Fillmore said, adding his grandfather had a lead ball in his knee from an enemy rifle.

“It ended the war for him, so he was able to make it back home to Nova Scotia and start a family, which is why I’m here. So many of his brothers and sisters in arms did not make it back to have families,” Mr. Fillmore said.

Mr. Fillmore’s grandfather, James Garvock, was a foot soldier in the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light infantry.

  

Mr. Fillmore said he was going to be going back to his riding to visit three legions this weekend and would spend time with veterans and families of veterans.

Conservative MP Erin O’Toole (Durham, Ont.) said this time of year was important for him to teach younger generations about veterans.

“[I] try and bring stories on a personal level to school children that in many cases were born a century after the Great War almost, and to let them know about the Afghanistan conflict and our years there. So education is key to me,” the former veterans affairs minister said.

Mr. O’Toole is also a veteran himself, having served for 12 years in the Canadian Armed Forces.

  

“[I] was very fortunate that while I trained and deployed in operations, I was never in a theatre of war and I left the military without injury and with such a positive experience,” Mr. O’Toole said. “I keep that in mind because not everyone leaves with that experience. People leave with mental and physical injuries from their service and so as a veteran [and as a Parliamentarian]…I’m very active in trying to help draw attention [to veterans’ issues].”

Mr. O’Toole was set to leave for Toronto on Thursday to attend a gala hosted by the True Patriot Love Foundation charity that supports veterans and military families.

Mr. O’Toole noted that he was one of the founders of the charity.

Liberal MP Sean Casey (Charlottetown, P.E.I.) said he didn’t have a personal connection to veterans or the war, but his personal connection was with his riding.

Liberal MP Sean Casey goes back to his riding of Charlottetown, P.E.I., for Remembrance Day, where the Department of Veterans Affairs has its national headquarters. The department puts on special events there. The Hill Times file photograph

“There is one federal government department that has its national headquarters outside of the national capital region, and that’s the Department of Veterans Affairs in Charlottetown,” Mr. Casey said. “So Remembrance Day in Charlottetown at the national headquarters takes on a very special significance for the riding.”

In the House on Nov. 9, several members read statements to mark Remembrance Day.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale (Regina-Wascana, Sask.) spoke on behalf of Veterans Minister Seamus O’Regan (St. John’s South-Mount Pearl, N.L.) who was not in the House as he’s recovering from a recent surgery.

“We should think of Canada’s veterans and all those who gave their lives in service. Think of the current members of the Canadian Armed Forces across this country and around the world. Think of men and women from every region of our country, every walk of life, every ethnic, cultural, and religious background, from first nations, Inuit, and Métis communities, francophones, and anglophones,” Mr. Goodale said. “We should think of all those who have put service before self and thank a veteran or a Canadian Armed Forces member when we see them, ask about their stories, and listen carefully to what they have to say.”

Parliamentary secretary to the veterans affairs minister Sherry Romanado, Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan, and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan. The Hill Times photographs by Sam Garcia

Mr. Goodale noted that Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan (Vancouver South, B.C.) was at the time in Belgium for a torchlight procession travelling from the Canadian Memorial to the Passchendaele church to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Passchendaele.

He added that Sherry Romanado (Longueuil-Charles-LeMoyne, Que.), Mr. O’Regan’s parliamentary secretary, was going to be there on Nov. 10.

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