April 9, 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of an important event in Canada’s 150 year history, the Battle of Vimy Ridge. I watched the ceremonies live from the site on TV and was moved by the many performances and speeches made by Canadians, Prime Minister Trudeau and Governor General David Johnston. President Francois Hollande of France also spoke giving thanks and praise to Canada. One thing that was almost haunting as one watched was the over 3,000 pairs of boots situated around the memorial, one pair for every Canadian killed that day.
For me it was a history lesson. The imposing Memorial is situated on land that was granted to the Canadian people by the French government. Designed by Walter Allward, one of Canada’s famous sculptors, work on the structure began in 1925 and completed 11 years later in 1936 at a cost of $1.5 million. It is adorned by twenty symbolic figures representing faith, justice, peace, honor, charity, truth, knowledge and hope and is inscribed with the names of 11,285 Canadians killed on French soil who have no known graves. Front and centre is a statue depicting a mother in mourning. Amazingly, it survived the Second World War despite fears that it would be destroyed after France’s surrender. In 2007, after several years of extensive restoration work, the Vimy Ridge Memorial was unveiled to dignitaries and several thousand Canadians and is the principal site of Canadian remembrance and commemoration overseas.
This year, along with these ceremonies, was also the unveiling of the state- of-the-art Vimy Ridge Educational Centre, made possible by the Canadian government’s $5 million contribution in 2013 from Veteran Affairs in partnership with the Vimy Foundation. The foundations’ mission is to preserve and promote Canada’s First World War legacy as symbolized by the victory at Vimy Ridge in 1917. While the Vimy monument itself is stunningly beautiful, there was little information as to why Canadians fought and died at this site but now with the new Visitor Educational Centre visitors will learn and know why Vimy remains so special to the Canadians. Seeing the ceremony, and learning the history certainly makes one proud to call themselves Canadian.
Cheryl W – Coril Holdings Ltd.