OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau evoked the legacy of war in his address to Canadians from the floor of the House of Commons Saturday, and acknowledged the disproportionate threat the novel coronavirus pandemic poses to the “Greatest Generation.”
Trudeau and a group of select MPs returned to the House to debate and vote on the government’s $73-billion wage subsidy bill to help workers and businesses stay afloat during the public health crisis.
Parliamentary approval is required for the money to be released related to the wage subsidy program. MPs and senators are expected to quickly pass the wage subsidy bill after the government and opposition parties struck a deal before the start of the sitting.
Read the prime minister’s full speech below:
English translation of spoken French is in bold.
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.
Il y a 103 ans aujourd’hui, des jeunes soldats canadiens se trouvaient dans des tranchées en France, à des milliers de kilomètres de chez eux. [A hundred and three years ago today, young Canadian soldiers found themselves in the trenches in France, thousands of kilometres from home.]
Le lendemain, ils prendraient d’assaut la cote 145 et participeraient à la dernière bataille de la crête de Vimy. Aujourd’hui, à l’aube de ce sombre anniversaire, nous nous souvenons de leur courage et de leur sacrifice. Nous nous souvenons des soldats qui ont façonné le pays que nous connaissons. [The next day, they mounted on hill 145 and took part in the final battle for Vimy Ridge. Today, on the eve of this sombre anniversary, we remember their courage and their sacrifice. We remember those 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 from 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.
Monsieur le président, nous sommes ici aujourd’hui pour faire adopter la Subvention salariale d’urgence. Il s’agit de la politique économique canadienne la plus importante depuis la Deuxième Guerre Mondiale. Cette subvention va permettre aux Canadiens de garder leur emploi et un chèque de paie pendant cette crise. C’est ce sur quoi nous voterons cet après-midi. [Mr. Speaker, we’re here today to enact the emergency wage subsidy. This is the largest Canadian economic policy since World War II. This subsidy will enable Canadians to keep their job, and get a pay cheque during this crisis. That is what we will be voting on this afternoon.]
Cette subvention s’appuie sur les démarches déjà entreprises pour venir en aide aux Canadiens, comme l’offre de prêts garantis aux petites entreprises et la Prestation canadienne d’urgence pour ceux qui ont perdu leur emploi. [This subsidy is based on steps that have already taken to come to the assistance of Canadians like loan guarantees to small businesses and the emergency response benefit.]
Encore une fois, dans cette Chambre, nous sommes appelés à soutenir ceux qui sont dans le besoin et je sais que nous ne les laisserons pas tomber. [Once again, here in the House, we are called upon to support those in need and I know we will not 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. Someone’s grandfather. 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 each other as we spare no effort to safeguard our collective future.
Au cours des prochaines semaines et des prochains mois, nous ferons face à de nombreux obstacles. Nous traverserons d’autres moments incertains. La peur et l’inquiétude continueront de faire partie de notre quotidien. Et malheureusement, nous pleurerons ensemble la perte des nôtres. [Over the coming weeks and months, we will face a number of obstacles. We will go through periods of uncertainty. Fear and uncertainty will continue to be a part of our daily lives. And unfortunately, together, we will mourn the loss of loved ones.]
Même si nous prenons toutes les précautions nécessaires, la situation risque de s’empirer avant de s’améliorer. C’est la triste réalité à laquelle notre pays est confronté. [Even if we take every possible precautions, the situation may get worse before getting better. That is the sad reality our country faces.]
Notre détermination à en finir avec ce virus – notre engagement à veiller les uns sur les autres – seront mis à l’épreuve. Mais je sais que nous sommes à la hauteur du défi devant nous. [Our determination to put an end to this virus – and our commitment to look out for one another – will be put to the test. But I know that we are up to the challenges.]
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.
That generosity of spirit and compassion was alive long before this virus reached our shores and it will survive long after it’s gone, because this is who we are.
Mr. Speaker – our country is in mourning. The COVID-19 pandemic has torn the heart from more Canadian families than we can bear. One of the great cruelties of this disease is that it denies us the opportunity to celebrate their lives and grieve among friends and family.
On behalf of all Canadians, I want to offer my deepest condolences to those who have lost someone they love to this disease.
Monsieur le Président, notre pays est en deuil. Trop de familles ont perdu un être cher en raison de cette pandémie. Cette maladie est d’autant plus cruelle puisqu’elle nous empêche de se rassembler pour pleurer la perte de ceux qui nous ont quittés et de célébrer leur vie entre amis et en famille. [Mr. Speaker, our country is in mourning. Too many families have lost a loved one because of this disease. One of the greatest cruelty of the disease is that it denies us the opportunity to celebrate their lives and grieve among friends and family.]
Au nom de tous les Canadiens, j’offre mes plus sincères condoléances à ceux qui ont perdu un proche. [On behalf of all Canadians, I want to offer my deepest condolences to those who have lost someone they love to this disease.]
However this holiday weekend also marks the coming of rebirth and new life. Easter is a time when 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.
Vaishaki 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.
Durant ce long weekend, prenons un engagement entre nous de faire ce qui s’impose aussi longtemps qu’il le faudra. Et dans cette Chambre, faisons notre part pour remplir cet engagement. Prenons nos responsabilités et venons en aide à ceux qui sont dans le besoin. [Over the long weekend, let us make a commitment amongst ourselves to do what needs to be done for as long as it takes. And here in the House, let’s do our part to fulfill that commitment. Let’s take our responsibilities and come to the assistance of 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 the Greatest Generation live in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. They’re in their small apartments and the homes they built so long ago with their own hands.
They are the ones 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.
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