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WOMEN'S ROYAL CANADIAN NAVAL SERVICE

 

Honourable Senators, I spent Remembrance Day with our veterans at Legions in Port Elgin, Sackville and Cape Tormentine in New Brunswick.

This year, while celebrating their eightieth anniversary, the Sackville Legion also commemorated the seventieth anniversary of the establishment of the Womens' Royal Canadian Naval Service. I had the opportunity to meet one of the surviving WRENS in Sackville.

Valda Fisher was a young teen when the war started. She joined the WRENS only two days after she turned 18. WRENS like Valda played a crucial role in Canada's war effort.

In the beginning, National Defence Headquarters asked the army, navy and air force to determine what roles women could perform in the three services. At the time, the navy believed it could employ women only as drivers, and only a small number at that. By the end of the war, 7,000 Canadian women served in the WRENS occupying 39 different trades, proving this belief wrong.

During the war, a vice-admiral visiting schools in Ontario and Quebec remarked:

Many of these jobs are not spectacular, but they are vital to the service. They must be done, and done well, or the service will suffer.

Women like Valda Fisher worked behind the scenes, performing difficult jobs. Regardless of what they were asked to do, the WRENS performed with distinction, enabling the navy to transfer their fighting men to the front lines of World War II.

Although they faced less danger by virtue of not being posted directly to the front lines, they were by no means exempt. WRENS posted to Newfoundland or Great Britain were faced with the threat of U-boat attacks as they sailed in the Atlantic and with bombings as they served in England.

The WRENS attracted women from all walks of life. Many women left well-paying civilian jobs to join. These women were motivated by a desire to do more and to contribute to the war effort.

Our heroes come in many different forms. They are ordinary people who have accomplished extraordinary things in the name of our liberty, our democracy and the rule of just law.

Our people put themselves in harm's way every day for us. We must always remember them.