Trudeau leads Battle of Vimy 100-year commemoration in France

Posted April 10, 2017

Marc Serré, Member of Parliament for Nickel Belt, hopes that all Canadians take the time to acknowledge and pay homage to the 100,000 members of all four Canadian Corps divisions who came together and served in the Battle of Vimy Ridge - a defining moment in Canada's history.

The Queen was not present at the ceremony, but sent a message reminding that "it is our duty to remember and honour those who served so valiantly and who gave so much throughout the First World War". People of many languages and backgrounds, representing every region in Canada, fought for the values we hold so dear: freedom, democracy, and peace.

Before the prime minister spoke, Canadian Governor General David Johnston pointed to the majestic Vimy monument, unveiled between world wars in 1937, and declared it a symbol of what the battle accomplished a century ago. Despite the fact the battle we recognize today happened a century ago, the sacrifices they made were, are and will always be for us.

But there was one key similarity between that Easter Monday on April 9, 1917, and the scene 100 years later: Canadians stood together, shoulder to shoulder, proudly and unabashedly as one people.

Those who were not among the 25,000 Canadians at the site of the battle in France to attend a ceremony on Sunday gathered in communities from coast to coast to remember those who risked or lost their lives in April 1917.

The battle of Vimy Ridge, near Arras, was part of a wider British-led offensive that acted as a diversion from a French attack to the south, and proved successful in its aim.

"Despite all of these efforts, the outcome was uncertain, the cost of victory very high".

The anniversary also includes the unveiling of the new state-of-the-art Vimy Visitor Education Centre at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.

But he saved a special thanks for Canada, telling Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the hundreds of others assembled that the Canadians' actions at Vimy was a turning point for the city - and for all of France.

"I feel the need to (have a ceremony)", he said.

Yet it wasn't Canada's fighting prowess that was being touted as the legacy of Vimy on Sunday: It was the creation of a country committed to peace.

Many like Toronto businessman Drew Hamblin, who will spend Sunday at Vimy with his father and two children, had grandfathers who told them about the rain and the cold and the rat-infested tunnels. That would come four months later, at Hill 70, when the Canadians fought under Currie.

Dana McKiel is a descendant of Vimy Ridge soldiers.

And while Deley has visited Europe and walked former battlefields from the First World War, being able to stand before the Cenotaph in the regiment's hometown fills him with a sense of pride and duty.

He says it took a toll on Canadian soldiers.

"So in that way, Canada was born here". "We're never the same after the First World War".

The crowd was the biggest for the series of centenary commemorations of World War I battles in France and five times bigger than for the commemoration of the Battle of Verdun in May past year.