United Against Racism

We look to history to remember, to learn, and to mature. The “War to End All Wars” was survived by a generation of individuals who pioneered many of the social support systems we take for granted. They took their fight to the streets, during their own pandemic, and they fought for labour laws, for healthcare, for the right to vote, and for human rights.

There are no remaining survivors of the First World War to attest to the tragedy and senselessness of hate, intolerance, and violence against innocent people, as we witness times of change and unrest within our country and across the world once again. 

At the Vimy Foundation, we are committed to doing our part to ensure that history serves as an educational tool for awareness, inclusion, and growth in the fight against anti-Black racism. Examining our own organisational structure and processes, we recognize that we too have work to do in order to embrace anti-racism as a part of our mandate. We are committed to continue working hard to foster a safe space for Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour within our organization and programming. 

We will lend our voice and share knowledge to join in the fight against anti-Black racism. We will provide resources examining the historic roots of systemic racism and include discussions of these issues in our programming. As we support the Black community, we must also educate ourselves about the entrenchment of racism in Canada in order to make a lasting change.

 

Researching the History of Black Canadians

Government of Canada List of Black history organizations and educational resources

Africville Museum in Halifax, NS

Amherstburg Freedom Museum formerly the North American Black Historical Museum

BC Black History Places of Interest

The Canadian Encyclopedia: Black Volunteers in the First World War, No.2 Construction Battalion, Black Voting Rights, Stanley G. Grizzle, Black Female Freedom Fighters

Nova Scotia Museum on African Nova Scotians 

Veterans Affairs’ History of Black Canadians in Uniform

Library Archives Canada resources about Black History in Canada

The National Film Board of Canada’s playlist celebrating Black Communities in Canada

Ontario Black History Society

The Secret Life of Canada a CBC podcast, look for the episodes on blackface, Black Nurses, Uncle Tom, the province of Jamaica, John Ware, Eleanor Collins, and Jackie Shane

Announcing the 2020 Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Recipients!

**The health and safety of our students is our top priority, as such, the 2020 Beaverbrook Vimy Prize will be postponed until the summer of 2021.**

Congratulations to the recipients of the 2020 Beaverbrook Vimy Prize! 16 students were selected to participate in an immersive educational program in Belgium and France. They will learn about our history during the First and Second World War.

Rayan Arifa – Ouroux-sur-Saône, FR
Mira Buckle – Corner Brook, NL
Troy Cheah – Coquitlam, BC
Cynthia Cui – Fredericton, NB
Nicole Damianidis – Richmond Hill, ON
Ian-Loïc Dore – Saint-Jérôme, QC
Sara Gehlaut – Toronto, ON
William Hu – Toronto, ON
Andy Liao – Richmond, BC
Brendan Lindsay – Victoria, BC
Pascale Ouellette – Saint-André, NB
Sarah Perry – Charlo, NB
Olive Tao – Richmond, BC
Jodie Williams – Worcestershire, GB
Jenny Wu – Calgary, AB
Yu Xin (Steve) Xia – London, ON

There were so many impressive applications that once again choosing only 16 participants was extremely difficult. We thank all those who applied and demonstrated their hard work and dedication.

This program is made possible due to generous support from the Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation.

Tribute to Katherine Maud MacDonald

As a part of the 2018 Vimy Pilgrimage Award, Jeriann Hsiao wrote a tribute to Nursing Sister Katherine Maud MacDonald, the first Canadian nurse killed in action during the First World War. Hsiao was the first of our pilgrimage participants to choose to pay homage to a Nursing Sister. Read the tribute below.

Dear Katherine,

Brantford has changed so much since you left. I thought this letter was the perfect opportunity to update you. 

Can you believe that Brantford, Brant County, and Six Nations had the highest per capita enlistment rate in the Great War? I was shocked when I heard that! I thought Brantford was the most boring town ever. You see, Brantford is no longer the economic powerhouse it was back in your day. Demand dropped, businesses left, and the city fell apart. But we have started to regain our footing, and I believe remembering our history will play a huge role in the revival of our hometown. 

The biggest testament to our history is the cenotaph across from the armoury. It was designed by Walter Allward, who later designed the Canadian National Vimy Memorial! How cool is it that the same architect of the memorial commemorating the most significant Canadian victory in the entire war also constructed a memorial for Brantford? I visited the cenotaph recently so I could take a picture to show everyone participating in the Vimy Pilgrimage Award program. And there it was – your name for all to see!

Of course, I can’t forget to mention our high school, Brantford Collegiate Institute. I walk by the plaque and portraits commemorating you and the school’s other alumni who were killed in the First World War almost daily. It’s very special that current students can remember our past students so easily. On Remembrance Day, the Grade 10 Laurier class organizes and presents a Remembrance Day assembly to the entire school. I was part of the assembly when I was in Grade 10, and that is a learning experience I will never forget. You and the many other students from our school who never returned home to Brantford will continue to be remembered at BCI. We have not forgotten you and the immense responsibility we have to preserve your legacy.

Visiting the Ring of Remembrance and seeing your name engraved on one of the many panels will be the highlight of the Vimy Pilgrimage Award program. I brought a backpack signed by many BCI staff and students, and I am taking a picture of it alongside your name to show our school that our history is real, and it cannot be dismissed, ignored, or forgotten. I also have the chance to visit a BCI soldier’s grave in Tyne Cot and locate the names of BCI soldiers on the Vimy Memorial and on Menin Gate. I am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to honour so many BCI students within one week.

Thank you for inspiring me with your courage and selflessness. You have shown me that Brantford women can accomplish great things. Thank you for making me believe in myself and in Brantford.

Lest we forget.

Sincerely,

Jeriann Hsiao

A Vimy Ridge Day Conversation

On April 9th, 2020, Vimy Pilgrimage Award recipient Alexandra Elmslie from Guelph, ON, had the chance to talk to Margaret Willoughby, daughter of Colonel Archer Fortescue Duguid who was at the Battle of Vimy Ridge and whose words are etched into the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. Elmslie writes about the significance of this Vimy Ridge Day call below.

As youth today, we aren’t often provided with the opportunity to reach into the past and make a personal connection with someone having first-hand knowledge of a historical event.  Recently, I was given the opportunity to speak with Margaret Willoughby, daughter of Colonel Archer Fortescue Duguid, one of the brave soldiers who fought at Vimy Ridge in 1917. Being one of the recipients of the 2020 Vimy Pilgrimage Award, I was very excited about this opportunity to learn more about Margaret’s father, who played an integral role in one of Canada’s historic military battles. 

Margaret was eager to share her remarkable story with me, speaking not only of her father’s involvement in the Battle of Vimy Ridge but also of his extraordinary influence in Canadian history. Margaret spoke very fondly of her father, primarily recalling memories of them together in his study as he wrote. 

She expressed great pride in his accomplishments, explaining how her father became the inaugural Canadian historian for the First World War and how his aptitude for writing led him to compose several historical publications. His penchant for writing was forever immortalized when his phrase, “To the valour of their countrymen in the Great War and in memory of their sixty thousand dead this monument is raised by the people of Canada,” was chosen as an inscription on the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. 

More importantly, however, she spoke to me about her father’s participation in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. She recalled her father’s stories about his time in the underground tunnels before the battle where his fellow comrades and him inscribed their names on the limestone walls. 

I am unable to express how truly incredible the experience was for me to personally hear about a soldier’s experience during Vimy through Margaret. It helped me appreciate the Battle of Vimy Ridge from another perspective, deepening and illuminating my knowledge of this historic event. 

When I travel to Belgium and France with the Vimy Pilgrimage Award, her perspective will undoubtedly influence my experience. When I look at the monument and read the inscription, her heartfelt pride in her father’s accomplishments will no doubt come soaring back to me. 

This experience also served as a reminder of the critical role our generation plays in preserving the memory of the First World War over one hundred years later. Throughout our conversation, Margaret was insistent that her father’s memory, and that of his fellow soldiers, be kept alive by our generation. 

As the past recedes further recedes from us, it is crucial to continue remembering the hardships endured and the sacrifices made by those who fought for a larger purpose than themselves, a task which Margaret and countless others like her hope our generation can fulfill.

As we undergo this global pandemic, it’s important to remember all the difficult times our nation has endured. Speaking with Margaret reminded me of our ability, as a people and as a nation, to persevere in the face of adversity, a trait as prevalent today as it was in 1917. We are once again called together to unite as one people fighting for the common good; we are called to unite in the face of a common enemy and put the welfare of all Canadians at the forefront of our minds.

-Alexandra Elmslie

Una Chang’s Nursing Sister Tribute

2020 Vimy Pilgrimage Award recipient Una Chang from Vancouver, BC, wrote the following tribute after researching the life of Eden Lyal Pringle who died serving in the First World War.

Dear Ms. Eden Lyal Pringle, 

It’s me, Una. I’ll start by introducing who I am. I’m a seventeen-year-old girl living in Canada. I like reading, watching movies, and spending time with my friends and family. I live a relatively privileged life in 2020. The world that I live in today is no fairytale, but I do not have to worry about a war breaking out or a national famine in the near future. 

When I was doing research about you, I could not help but notice the evident differences between the two of us: our cultures, ethnicities, religion and age, to name a few. I grew up in a Korean household, while you grew up in a European- Canadian household. I’m protestant, and you were part of the Church of England. I’m seventeen, and you were twenty-three. I have two brothers, and you had none. 

But as I looked further, I found that similarities between the two of us can be found beyond the surface-level. Like you, I aspire to help others in need. Like you, I have a passion for the sciences. Like you, I want to take a stand for a cause bigger than myself. I hope to support others in need by becoming a Nurse. 

At the mere age of twenty-three, you made the decision that would change your life. How did you feel when enlisted? Did you think about the consequences? Did you think that you could potentially not come back? To not come back to your parents, your friends, your co-workers, to your home? 

With these questions in mind, I began to imagine myself in your place. I imagine that you would have been scared. At the same time, excited to take part in a nation-wide effort. If I was put in your position, would I have made the same decision? I suppose that is something that I will not have to worry about, because you volunteered your safe life at home to help those overseas. Because of you, I have the liberty and the privilege of wondering – and only wondering – “what if”. 

I want to let you know that I remember you. I will continue to remember you. I want to let you know that you will not be forgotten. That your life and your sacrifice is not wasted. Because of you, I’m even more inspired to pursue a career in Nursing and help those in need. Although you will never get a chance to read this letter, I will pass on your legacy throughout the years to come. Thank you. 

Sincerely, 

Una Chang

The Nation Born at Vimy Can Handle Any Challenge
- a Vimy Ridge Day message from Vimy Foundation Chair Christopher Sweeney

On April 9, Vimy Ridge Day, we will celebrate and commemorate the 103rd anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge. At Vimy, as we all should know, 100,000 Canadian soldiers fought together for the first time and secured a rare and stunning victory for the Allied forces. Arguably, for the first time ever, the world paid attention to something that our young country had done, and on the largest stage on earth at the time- the Western Front in the First World War.

From Vimy, the  emboldened Canadian Corps went to a string of victories starting with Hill 70, followed by the taking of Passchendaele, finished by the never to be forgotten final “100 days” when Canadian forces became the spearhead of the entire British Imperial war effort in Europe.

We recall these momentous events to remind Canadians of what we can do as a nation when faced with enormous challenges, such as the current Covid-19 pandemic. In the four years of war between 1914 and 1918 Canada changed enormously; from a small regular force militia to Canadian Expeditionary Force totalling hundreds of thousands, from a pre-war budget of $185 million to a wartime budget of more than $740 million, with a quadrupled federal debt of $1.2 billion and an additional federal income tax, a totally new initiative, of 4% on all households with income over $2 000 per year.  

By the end of the war, over 600,000 citizens had served in the Canadian Armed forces out of a population of 8 million, or nearly one out of every 10 citizens! We had lost 60 000 soldiers, had another 170,000 physically injured and an untold and uncared number suffering from what we now call PTSD.

No one could have foreseen how our young, sparsely populated country could muster such an effort of blood and material – and yet we did.

We are again faced with an enormous challenge in the Covid-19 pandemic, but this too we have done before – the Spanish Influenza of 1918-1920, spread by soldiers returning from Europe after the war. The ‘flu’ raced across Canada, causing Canadians everywhere to wear a mask if they could secure one (does this sound familiar?), resulting in the loss of over 55,000 Canadians. Canadians once again mobilized their communities to fight the ‘flu’, converting public buildings into hospitals and creating the beginnings of a federal public health body to help create policy to manage the epidemic.  

Canada is in a new type of war now, where the fighting is done in our hospitals and our health care workers are the ones on the front lines, potentially sacrificing themselves for the greater good, for Canada. But like the two world wars, and other troubles that have beset us, we will weather this storm as we have weathered storms in the past, by being level-headed, organized, compassionate, united, and above all,  by rising to the challenge. The nation born at Vimy and during the First World War has untold strengths in its people and resources and is capable of anything required of it. The “Battle of the Pandemic” will be soon followed by the “Battle of Economic Recovery”, and Canada will emerge changed but unbowed by these challenges as we carve out our continuing grand destiny.

– Christopher Sweeney, Chair of the Vimy Foundation

New Water Feature Honours Legacy of Vimy Ridge

April 9, 2020

The Vimy Foundation and the Love Family Foundation are proud to announce a joint effort to commemorate the legacy of the Battle of Vimy Ridge- The Ridge: To Venerate A Buried History. The Vimy Foundation Centennial Park in France, an established living memorial, will soon be home to the water feature, which was commissioned after a competition with entrants from Canada’s leading design universities. 

The winning team combined the talents of three Thesis Level Masters of Architecture students: Scott Normand, Kevin Complido, and Brendan Dyck. In their proposal, the team states: 

The intention driving the project is for this theoretical interaction to be tranquil and thought-provoking and for it to reinforce the dialogue of peace and remembrance.

Jon and Nancy Love, selection committee members from the Love Family Foundation, felt strongly about selecting the design  as the competition winner: 

What made The Ridge stand out from other designs was its use of echo chambers and agitators below the surface which reverberate the sound of flowing water to create a contemplative environment in the Park.

The proposed design is to be realised this summer and unveiled in the fall.

The Vimy Foundation Centennial Park, designed by Canadian landscape architect Linda Dicaire, opened in 2018 to mark the centennial of the end of the Great War. Funded by the Vimy Foundation, the park provides a space of reflection on Canadian achievement at Vimy Ridge.

The message of Vimy Ridge is one of bravery, sacrifice and strength in unity. The battle, which took place on April 9, 1917, is commonly highlighted as a turning point in Canadian history, where the four Canadian divisions fought together as a single fighting force for the first time. The event is often cited as the beginning of Canada’s evolution from dominion to independent nation.

 

Anuj Krishnan’s Soldier Tribute

2020 Vimy Pilgrimage Award recipient Anuj Krishnan from Edmonton, AB, wrote the following tribute after researching the life of George Mason Lavell who died serving in the First World War.

When speaking of war, we often trivialize and generalize the experiences of those who served, clumping thousands if not millions of stories, circumstances, and dreams into one narrative. The danger in this is that we gloss over the individual. After all, wars are not just fought by nations, but more so through individuals, which means that we have a duty to honour their sacrifice, their story, and the circumstances that brought them to war. Crucial to this is to look beyond the service number to the actual name, for that will tell a story. 

George Mason Lavell even in the short time that he was alive had dreams, and goals. He had chosen to attend the University of Alberta, chosen to pursue a law degree, went to university mere minutes from his household- staying close to his family- yet throughout it all he was influenced by the military. 

While attending the U of A he enlisted with the 4th Universities Company and joined the war effort mere months before earning his law degree. 

In researching and learning about George Mason Lavell, I realized that above all else it was his background that led him to enlist. His father was British through and through but held roots in the Brittany region of France for which they gained the last name “Lavell”. On his mother’s side, she was part Irish, part Scottish. All in all, this reveals the strong ties, and patriotism Lavell must have felt for his motherland: Britain. 

His family had been situated in Eastern Ontario for all but four years of his life, and he must have grown a strong connection to his Anglophone roots so when the time came, Lavell was willing to drop all that he was about to achieve in Edmonton and defend his motherland. In this Lavell is similar to other Anglophones who decided to serve. They felt compelled to defend Britain because their families had only immigrated to Canada recently hence they felt more tied to Britain and more willing to lay down their life for their country. 

After his death, Lavell still carries a legacy, a legacy of hard work, patriotism, determination. A legacy that is still celebrated today with his posthumous admission into the Alberta Bar in 2018. A legacy that will not be forgotten, a name carved into the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. And that is the story, the life of George Mason Lavell, Service Number 475388. 

 

Coralie Bureau’s Soldier Tribute

2020 Vimy Pilgrimage Award recipient Coralie Bureau from Victoriaville, QC, wrote the following tribute after researching the life Eugene Auger who died serving in the First World War.

At the beginning of the First Word War, Canadian soldiers helping in Europe were volunteers. However, the lack of soldiers to send to the front resulted in a variety of techniques to promote enrolment. For example, recruiters were sent as early as 1915 to Victoriaville, my hometown, to solicit and enlist men. However, these men did not always act ethically. They were paid “by the unit”, which is why some of them didn’t hesitate to drink with young men and to pay for their drinks. When these young men were drunk, the recruiters made them sign the military engagement documents. Once these documents were signed, there was no turning back. 

Eugene Auger, of Victoriaville, enlisted in the army that same year when the conscription had not yet been voted. In my opinion, it was perhaps the presence of these recruiters that incited Eugène Auger to enlist in the army. It may have been done ethically or not, but he did serve at the front. 

I believe that the propaganda at the time to promote the war effort may have also influenced Eugene Auger’s decision. In fact, daily editorials, political speeches and posters exerted great pressure on men. They were very coveted to serve in the army. Some of these propagandists wanted to push men into enlistment and did so by questioning their masculinity. Eugene Auger was 21 years old when he joined the war effort, so I think questioning his virility may have encouraged him to enlist. 

To conclude, I believe Eugene Auger was a very courageous young man, because no matter what conditions led him to enlist in the Canadian army, he fought at the front and served his country in the most honourable way. Moreover, his life 100 years later is for me an example of bravery and reliability. Eugene Auger enlisted to fight at the front, and so he did. He lived up to his commitment despite the fact he was probably filled with fear during that war. I know it, because according to my research, he died at the front in the middle of a battle, two years after he enlisted. 

From now on, when I’ll walk past the Victoriaville cenotaph where Eugène Auger is commemorated, I will think of this man and the courage he has shown. On behalf of myself and the entire city of Victoriaville, I would like to thank him very sincerely for his bravery. 

The 2020 Vimy Pilgrimage Award Postponed

March 12, 2020

Given the recent developments in international travel bans linked to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Vimy Foundation, supported by program sponsors Scotiabank and Air Canada, has decided to postpone the 2020 Vimy Pilgrimage Award.

20 students from across Canada were selected for this year’s Vimy Pilgrimage Award. The prize recognizes the actions of young people who are dedicated to the betterment of society by demonstrating an outstanding commitment to volunteer work through positive contributions, notable deeds, or bravery benefiting their peers, school, community, province, or country.

The fully funded educational program usually takes place in Belgium and France in the week leading up to Vimy Ridge Day (April 9th). Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the Vimy Foundation has decided to suspend its educational programs involving student travel to Europe for the immediate future. The 2020 Vimy Pilgrimage Award is, at present, postponed to a later date to be confirmed.

The Vimy Foundation values the safety and well-being of its program participants and their communities above all else.

In the years surrounding the end of the First World War, the Spanish flu claimed more lives than both World Wars combined. The pandemic nature of the flu was downplayed, in order to preserve wartime morale which resulted in individuals coming home to Canada sick or contagious.

Transparency and caution are key factors in avoiding the reoccurrence of a Spanish-flu-like global pandemic. The Vimy Foundation aims to keep its award recipients, their families, and their communities safe and to ensure that the actions of Canada’s past inform contemporary decision making in a constructive manner.