Today, we recognize the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge – a transformative moment in Canada’s history.
For the first time, all four Canadians Corps divisions fought together under Canadian command against German forces On Vimy Ridge. The ridge was considered by most to be impregnable, but the Canadian divisions fought valiantly and triumphed – a monumental victory for Canada.
Although Vimy Ridge was an incredible victory for Canada, we cannot forget the 3,598 men who were killed in battle, and more than 60,000 lost their lives throughout the Great War. To honour their sacrifices, our ally France dedicated 250 hectares of land in Vimy for the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. On this land stands the iconic statue of Canada Bereft – a striking depiction of a woman overcome with grief as she looks down upon the brave soldiers who gave their lives for their country, and for justice.
In 2002, I had the opportunity to visit Vimy Ridge personally, and was touched by the significance of Canada’s sacrifice. I stood upon the land where Canada came of age as a nation. While standing there, I was struck by the significance of France’s dedication of that land to Canada, and the humble debt owed by our European allies to the brave Canadian men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice. It was a moment of both deep pride and deep emotion as a Canadian.
While we celebrate this year the 150th anniversary since Confederation, we also stand in solidarity with all of our fallen soldiers and veterans who gave their lives so we may live in a free, peaceful, and just society. As a father, I know it is imperative that we teach new generations about our veterans’ invaluable sacrifices, and these important moments in Canadian history. I have already spoken to my two sons about Vimy – lest we forget.