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Honourable senators, I rise today during Veterans' Week to pay tribute to the women and men who served and sacrificed their lives for the very freedoms that we enjoy today.

They are our grandfathers, fathers, brothers, grandmothers, mothers, sisters, neighbours . . . [our] heroes. Canada's veterans — their courage, service and sacrifices have kept us strong, proud and free.

Canadian women have played an important role in our country's military efforts over the years, overcoming many barriers to serve in uniform as nurses and in an expanding variety of other roles.

Canadian women's first military contributions were as nurses who tended to the sick and wounded in times of conflict. They were called "nursing sisters" because they were originally drawn from the ranks of religious orders. More than 2,800 Canadian Nursing Sisters served with the Canadian Army Medical Corps during the First World War.

During the Second World War, approximately 4,500 nurses were attached to all three branches of Canada's military, with more than two thirds of them serving overseas. On July 2, 1941, the very first women's division of the Royal Canadian Air Force was created. They were initially trained for clerical, administrative and support roles. However, as the war continued, women worked in other positions like parachute riggers and laboratory assistants, and even in the very male-dominated electrical and mechanical trades.

On August 13, 1941, the Canadian Women's Army Corps was officially established, and by war's end it had some 21,000 members. Initially, CWAC members' duties were quite traditional; they worked as cooks, cleaners, tailors and medical assistants. However, these duties would expand soon to include driving trucks and ambulances and working as mechanics and radar operators. The Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service was officially established on July 31, 1942.

After the Second World War, the Canadian military shut down the women's organizations. But with the onset of the Cold War and the Korean War, the military soon faced a shortage of personnel, and some 5,000 women were once again actively recruited.

With the unification and modernization of the Canadian military in the late 1960s, the doors finally began to open definitively for women to enlist and enter non-traditional roles. Today, women are deployed to combat missions; they captain vessels and command flying squadrons, their career paths are parallel to those of their male counterparts.

Women sacrificed a lot to serve throughout our military history. They had to overcome the inequalities of Canadian society, which viewed a woman's place as in the home. Many women lost their lives in service and, in particular, taking care of the wounded soldiers in field hospitals close to the front lines.

On November 11, Canadians will once again come together from across Canada for a moment of silence at 11 a.m. to remember all those whose sacrifices have given us the freedoms we enjoy today.

In Korea, an international ceremony will be held at the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Pusan on November 11 at 11 a.m. to pay tribute to all those who served and sacrificed in the Korean War.

On November 10 at 6 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, the ceremony in Pusan will begin. At that time, I would ask all honourable senators to turn west toward Pusan to remember the Canadian fallen who are buried at the United Nations cemetery. Thank you.

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