Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 14, 2019

Meaghan presenting her soldier research at the Bois-Carré British Cemetery

Today, our participants visited the Ring of Remembrance and Notre-Dame-de-Lorette French military Cemetery where they had the opportunity to converse with veterans. In the afternoon, they discussed racism during the wars at the Neuve-Chapelle Indian Memorial and visited Hill 70 Memorial. (Please note: students will blog in their language of preference).

 

When talking about the World Wars people often talk about how Canada was fighting for freedom and equality for all. What often goes unspoken, however, is how many of theses ideals that Canada was supposedly defending were often only applied to select groups, mainly white Canadians of European descent. I was lucky enough to give a presentation about how this selective application of Canadian values has impacted minority communities. By presenting these stories at Neuve-Chapelle Indian Memorial and learning about so many people, including thousands of Japanese Canadians who were interned makes me reflect on reconciliation and about who memorials are dedicated to. The first step to reconciliation is recognition and by presenting my research today, it is my hope that our group has taken that step. The creation of permanent monuments could help this process by creating prominent, public reminders of the suffering experienced by minority communities during the First and Second World Wars. Would these be more effective forms of recognition than an official statement? These injustices can never be erased but awareness of them should become a larger part of our collective consciousness. 

-Noah Korver

 

Aujourd’hui, nous sommes allés au cimetière Britannique du Bois-Carré où j’ai présenté mon soldat. J’ai ressenti une connexion profonde avec lui pendant et après cette expérience. Tout comme moi, le soldat que j’ai choisi, James McBride, est originaire de l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard. Mon lien d’amitié avec l’une de ses descendantes m’a permis de recueillir une grande quantité d’informations auprès de sa famille. Je suis très touchée d’avoir eu la chance d’aborder son passé avec eux.

Durant ma présentation, j’ai eu une réaction très émotive. Je pensais aux succès des descendantes de James. Aussi, j’ai pris un moment pour prier. Je ne suis pas une personne très religieuse, mais, je ressens une connexion avec James, car il était Catholique, comme moi. J’ai pris quelques minutes afin de prier pour lui et aussi le remercier pour ses actions durant la guerre. Par la suite, j’ai beaucoup pleuré. J’ai dû prendre un bon moment pour me recomposer, mais après réflexion, je pense qu’aujourd’hui, j’ai vécu une expérience très profonde. Je suis honorée d’avoir eu la chance de rendre hommage à James et d’avoir pu préserver sa mémoire. 

-Meaghan Bulger

 

In between the rows at Notre-Dame-de-Lorette – the French National First World War memorial – there were multiple mass graves. Although we have previously seen mass graves, these ones specifically hit a more emotional note. In a sense, seeing the bodies and not the names allowed me to put myself in the place of the compatriots and families of the fallen and feel the pain and confusion they must have felt when they learned that they would never get a chance to visit their loved ones’ graves and pay respect to them. 

At the Ring of Remembrance, I really appreciated the monument architecturally. The simplicity of the names allows me to appreciate the human element of war, rather than focusing on the political, as is usually done in school and learning the history of the wars. To me, the circular shape felt like a symbol for how the loss and pain from the war were felt around the globe, regardless of nationality. I believe that the memorial effectively acknowledges that all families feel an equal sense of loss.   

-Nimra Hooda