Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

2nd Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 144, Issue 26

Tuesday, January 29, 2008
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Afghanistan—Fallen Soldiers

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, on December 14, the Senate adjourned for the Christmas holidays so that we could enjoy our families. During this time, Canadian soldiers bravely represented us all over the world, and especially in Afghanistan. Since December 14, Canada has lost four more brave soldiers in Afghanistan. On January 23, Canadians mourned the loss of Étienne Gonthier, a 21-year-old combat engineer in the 5th Combat Engineer Regiment based in Valcartier, Quebec. His death was the result of a roadside bomb in the volatile Panjwaii district of Kandahar. His work in Afghanistan has made us all very proud.

On January 15, Trooper Richard Renaud, a 26-year-old soldier from Alma, Quebec, died when his armoured vehicle hit a roadside bomb. He is survived by his pregnant wife and 4-year-old stepson. His family remembers a proud soldier who wanted to make a difference in the world. May the example he set and his dreams of making a difference in the world pass on to his children. His work in Afghanistan has made us proud.

On January 6, Canadians mourned the loss of Warrant Officer Hani Massouh, a 41-year-old career infantryman on his sixth mission overseas. His colleagues recall a man with an infectious sense of humour who made sure they had all they needed in the trenches. He leaves behind his wife, Nathalie, and daughter, Laila. He had decided that this was to be his last mission. His friends recalled that he wanted to take on another adventure — that is, taking care of his family and daughter. His work in Afghanistan has made us proud. He died that day alongside 31-year-old Corporal Éric Labbé of Rimouski, Quebec, when their armoured vehicle rolled over in rough terrain near Kandahar. They both belonged to the Royal 22nd Regiment. Corporal Labbé’s family said that Eric was doing what he loved and that they are very proud of him. His work in Afghanistan has made us proud.

On December 30, Canada lost 27-year-old Gunner Jonathan Dion, from Quebec, when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb just west of Kandahar. He served in the 5th Régiment d’artillerie légère du Canada. He will be remembered for his distinctive smile and his joie de vivre. His family said that he loved being a soldier and being in the company of his brothers and sisters in arms. His work in Afghanistan has made us proud.

Honourable senators, I am reminded of something that I heard at the opening of our National War Museum in May 2005: “The reality of war includes uncertainty, human sacrifice, and destruction, but it also includes hope, perseverance and rebuilding. The desire is that Canada will be part of a future that heals, rather than destroys.”

These words take on greater meaning every time we mourn the loss of our military men and women.

Since 2002, 78 Canadian military personnel and one diplomat have died in Afghanistan. I rise today in respect for their work, lives and sacrifice.

I also recognize and honour the contribution and dedication of 2,500 Canadian soldiers working to rebuild and secure Afghanistan. We pray that our soldiers may come home safely to their families, friends and Canada.