Madam Speaker, it is particularly poignant that this debate takes place on the 29th anniversary of the École Polytechnique horror.
I begin this evening by picking up where I left off on September 20 in the first hour of debate on my motion to create the institution of an ambassador for women, peace and security. At that time, I spoke of Canada's legacy of bringing peace to the world, our Pearsonian peacekeeping legacy, Prime Minister Mulroney's leadership in the Commonwealth in the fight against apartheid, foreign Minister Axworthy's Ottawa Treaty on the prohibition of land mines and Prime Minister Martin's call for the Responsibility to Protect, R2P, at the 2005 UN World Summit.
I turn to my colleagues in this 42nd Parliament. We cannot predict a year from today who among us will once again be the few elected to serve in the House. We only know that in these waning months of the 42nd Parliament we still have the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of millions.
In 2005, as I walked down a dusty road in Jowhar, Somalia to a waiting vehicle convoy, a small girl walked up to me and took my hand. She was barefoot with only a torn red T-shirt to wear, yet when she took my hand, she beamed the most beautiful of smiles. We walked hand-in-hand to my waiting car. I smiled back at her, however, it pained me that as I left, I had nothing to give her. I could not even offer her hope.
As we drove away, I watched the little girl in the red T-shirt disappear into the distance. In the years since, I have often wondered what happened with that little girl. Did she ever learn to read and write? Did her black curls turn reddish from malnutrition? Did she survive? Is she in fact still alive?
This past summer the Minister of International Development and I travelled into Ukraine's devastated Donbass region's grey zone, the area OSCE observers leave before sunset, as artillery and snipers set to work. In the zone's villages, it seemed that only older women, widowed or too poor to leave remained behind.
We stopped on a road next to shell-damaged homes. As we stepped into the ankle-deep mud, twin girls of about seven years shyly came out from the neighbouring house. They were adorable with ribbons in their braided hair. Their mother came out, and I asked why they had not left the zone. She took the minister and I inside. Her legless husband sat in a makeshift wheelchair.
I asked how the girls were doing in school and she responded, “poorly”. She said that every night as the sun set, the twins began to shake and then would hide under their bed throughout the night. Later, once again as we drove away, I watched the twins with braided hair disappear into the distance and I wondered if their shattered lives would ever be whole again.
I have travelled through multiple war zones. The harsh reality is that it is men who do the killing and women and children who do the suffering.
In October of 2000, the UN Security Council passed resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. For 18 years, we have repeatedly acknowledged that women's engagement is a critical key for peace and security. It has been studied and reaffirmed. Multiple international resolutions are passed regularly. It is time to act.
Two days after the first hour of debate on Motion No. 163, on September 22, our Minister of Foreign Affairs announced that Canada would create the institution of an ambassador for women, peace and security, which fits hand in glove with the minister's Elsie initiative announcement to increase the participation of women in peace operations.
I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the minister. We have made the commitments, we are creating the institutions. Now is the time to take the next step and to operationalize. Next summer's Ukraine Reform Conference, hosted by Canada, will provide an opportunity to put women, peace and security projects on the table.
We heard yesterday in the foreign affairs committee how a window of opportunity had opened up in Somalia and how Canada, with its Somali diaspora, could host a transformative international donors conference.
We are the privileged few, entrusted by the people of Canada to not just be the temporary custodians of Canada's peace inheritance. Through the institution of this ambassadorship, we have an opportunity to build upon our predecessors' peace legacies.
Let us build a world where every little girl, every child, no matter where they are born, can have the same hopes and dreams of Canadian children.