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.

 

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.

Keneisha Charles’ Reflections on the Vimy Pilgrimage Award

Keneisha Charles, 2019 Vimy Pilgrimage Award recipient

In April 2019, I travelled to France and Belgium to experience First World War history with 19 youth from across Canada through the Vimy Pilgrimage Award program. My expectations were trepidatious. I never truly connected with Canadian history. The experiences of Black and other racialized people are typically either ignored or offered as a fragmented side-note of incomplete trauma and superficial reconciliation. History was a confusing, bitter, and often painful subject for me.

The VPA helped me find a new meaning. As we toured monuments, museums, and cemeteries, I was able to see, touch, and feel the past. But most of all, I was able to do it through a lens of Blackness with Private Aubrey Mitchell and Private Vincent Carvery.

We’re not related, and they died over 100 years ago. But over the week, they became family.

War was for the White man. Yet these Black men chose to serve in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. I grappled to understand the racism, the trauma they endured, but most of all, the humanity they exhibited in the face of it all.

This was a journey. It was filled with laughter and new friendships, but also pain and vulnerability as I asked questions of myself and of history that I had never known to ask. And as I learned the stories of Aubrey and Vincent, I learned more about my own, too.

I come from a legacy of resilience. And though they may not talk about Canada’s Black Battalion in textbooks or films, I will always know their names and I will always remember the place in history they carved for me—a place that I will not let be taken away.

To my fellow participants, thank you for reminding me what community feels like. Thank you for letting me draw on your strength. Thank you for walking this journey alongside me.

To the chaperones and the Vimy Foundation, thank you for giving me the space to ask the questions I needed to ask and feel what I needed to feel.

And to Aubrey and Vincent. You give me strength. Strength to face a world that I sometimes feel wasn’t made for me. Strength to continue to make space for myself and others where there wasn’t before. Strength to be Black, despite any and every thing. I am so proud to have ancestors like you.

Endless love and gratitude.

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 20, 2019

the journey back home begins

After two incredible weeks of learning, our Beaverbrook Vimy Prize participants said their goodbyes and flew home. For the last blog entry, we asked each of them to describe their program experience in one sentence. (Please note: students will blog in their language of preference).

 

Sûrement la plus belle expérience de ma vie, partager le goût de l’histoire, de la réflexion et de la mémoire avec des personnes aussi exceptionnelles a été une formidable aventure qui me marquera à jamais.

– Alliya Arifa

 

Le Prix Vimy Beaverbrook a profondément marqué ma manière d’aborder et de comprendre l’histoire et le monde dans toute son humanité et inhumanité, ce fut une expérience généreuse de connaissance, de créativité et d’amitié qui fut l’une des plus épanouissantes de ma vie.

– Andelina Habel-Thurton

 

Visiter tous ces sites m’a permis de visualiser et de trouver une compréhension plus profonde de ce qui s’est déroulé ici, il y a plus de 100 ans; j’ai beaucoup appris, le programme a été une expérience que je n’oublierai jamais.

– Andréa Jackson

 

The past two weeks have been the most transformational days of my entire life, and I cannot express how grateful I am for being given the opportunity to make this pilgrimage which I once thought I could only dream of.

– Evan Di Cesare

 

Le prix Vimy Beaverbrook a été pour moi une expérience incroyable m’ayant apporté nouvelles connaissances et rencontres inoubliables.  

– Florence Trigaux

 

Le Prix Vimy Beaverbrook m’a donné une nouvelle perspective sur le monde qui m’entoure, sur le passé comme le présent, en m’enseignant entre autres le devoir de commémoration et la réflexion critique, tout en me donnant la possibilité de partager des moments incroyables avec des personnes uniques.

– Isaac St-Jean

 

Bringing the memories back home to Canada of those who never had the chance to realize their dreams has been an invaluable experience and something I will never forget.

– Jack Roy

 

The Beaverbrook Vimy Prize has been a hugely transformative experience in helping build me into a far more analytical, thoughtful historian and embedding within me the desire to preserve the memory of the World Wars and the heroic fallen soldiers.

– Lily Maguire

 

This program has not just been a once in a lifetime experience, but also an incredible educational journey through time, I will remember all that I have learned here throughout my life.

– Nathan Yee

 

The Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Program has taught me to think critically about history and to understand the experiences of those in the past by immersing myself in the environment in which they occurred.

– Nimra Hooda

 

These last two weeks have defied all my expectations, I can’t even begin to describe how much I have learned, I am very grateful for this amazing opportunity.

– Noah Korver

 

The Beaverbrook Vimy Prize has been an amazing experience during which I have learned so much about the scale and impact of the wars on Canada and the rest of the world, and also about myself.

– Maya Burgess-Stanfield

 

I believe in the power of historical records; however, this program has taught me that human experiences are irreplaceable: life is more than the breath that we take, it is those special moments of growth that take my breath away – and this program has left me utterly breathless.

– Meaghan Bulger

 

My BVP experience was more wonderful and beneficial than I could possibly have imagined: between the experiences of seeing historic sites in person and talking with local civilians and veterans, I have gained so many invaluable experiences and memories from this program.

– Phillip Darley

 

I am incredibly grateful for this experience through which I have stepped outside of my comfort zone to learn about memory and interconnections between both World Wars, our present and our future, all the while making amazing connections along the way.

– Rose He

 

The BVP was, in a word, life-changing: I have gained new perspectives from my fellow participants, chaperones and visiting the battlefields. 

– Sophia Long 

 

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 19, 2019

at le Château de Versailles

For the last day of the program, the Beaverbrook Vimy Prize recipients participated in the commemoration of the 77th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid. On this occasion the students met with veterans, laid wreaths, and read the Commitment to Remember. They finished the day with one final group discussion to close the program in the gardens of le Château de Versailles. (Please note: students will blog in their language of preference).

 

L’opportunité de lire la Promesse de se Souvenir au Cimetière des Vertus de Dieppe a été une expérience que je n’oublierai jamais. Lorsque que je lisais le texte, j’ai eu l’impression que je représentais tout le Canada, et même tous les pays qui se sont battus pour la liberté pendant la Deuxième Guerre mondiale. Cela m’a fait sentir très fier et incroyablement honoré de pouvoir participer de cette façon à la cérémonie annuelle de commémoration du Raid de Dieppe. 

La cérémonie au mémorial de guerre canadien – Square du Canada – a aussi été un point culminant du programme pour moi. Contrairement à la première cérémonie, Sophie et moi avons accompagné un vétéran de la marine royale britannique, lorsqu’il a placé une couronne au mémorial. Ce qui m’a impressionné, c’est qu’Alfred, le vétéran, ait voulu partager le moment avec de jeunes étudiants.

– Phillip Darley

 

Today, we visited the iconic Château de Versailles where the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919. As we sat in the grass of the beautiful gardens, we had a wonderful discussion and reflection on the program. In my opinion, the best way to learn about history is to be surrounded by people who are passionate about the subject and by experiences and activities that help you to understand more than just the surface of a topic. This program has allowed me to be around amazing students who are all so passionate about history and teachers who are all so good at engaging each and every one of us. Our discussions throughout the program not only encouraged me to view historical events in new ways, but also to look at my life in new ways. One of the reasons I study history and am so interested in it is because it helps me to understand people today and history helps me to understand the world through learning from different perspectives. The Beaverbrook Vimy Prize program has allowed me to realize that the wars have affected countless lives and that the numbers that we study in a classroom are more than just numbers.

– Maya Burgess-Stansfield

 

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 18, 2019

on the beach at Dieppe

Today, our BVP recipients headed to the cliffs of Dieppe where Florence and Alliya presented on military geography and its impact on war. In the evening, the students participated in the candlelight vigil at the Dieppe Canadian Cemetery. (Please note: students will blog in their language of preference).

 

Il paraît qu’il n’est de bon stratège et tacticien sans la connaissance et la maîtrise du lieu. C’est en tout cas ce que disait le maréchal Foch avant la Première Guerre mondiale. J’ai aujourd’hui fait ma présentation à Dieppe avec Florence avec comme problématique : ‘’Comment le paysage physique a influencé les campagnes militaires ?’’. Durant la Première et Seconde Guerre mondiale, la prise en compte et l’étude des terrains et du paysage géographique était un élément majeur. Sur les falaises qui entourent Dieppe, j’ai réalisé que c’était un atout majeur pour les soldats allemands de les occuper et de les fortifier durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale, car ils avaient une vue sur une grande partie de la plage et sur la mer. Lorsque nous sommes allés à la plage, j’ai pu constater que non seulement elle n’était pas faite de sable, mais qu’en plus les galets qui la formaient rendaient le terrain très glissant et la marche vraiment bruyante. Ces quelques facteurs montrent que la plage de Dieppe devait être très difficile d’accès pour les Alliés et que le terrain et les reliefs étaient un désavantage certain pour eux. Il suffit parfois d’une guerre pour avoir de meilleures informations sur la géographie d’un pays.

-Alliya Arifa

 

Today, while on the cliffs above Dieppe, we organized a ‘’raid’’, which involved determining a landing spot and creating a strategic plan. We were given only certain information and I realized how the Allies were working with incomplete intelligence of the German defence. Planning an effective raid, both in capturing targets and preventing loss of life, was extremely difficult. This changed my perspective on Dieppe, as previously I had seen it as a senseless slaughter ordered by incompetent officers. Now, I understand that while Dieppe was a slaughter, it was not senseless; many lessons were learned that made the Normandy Landings, or D-Day, successful. Historical bias, which is using what we know in the present to evaluate the past, affected my view of Dieppe. There were many factors the generals could not anticipate. Being aware of historical bias can ensure we see history fairly, and that despite the terrible fate of the 907 Canadians who lost their lives at Dieppe, we see their sacrifice as contributing to the end of the Second World War. 

-Sophie Long

 

A seemingly endless row of unlit candles lined the street of the entrance to the Dieppe Canadian Cemetery. As we entered the grounds surrounding the final resting place of so many Canadians who died in the raid on Dieppe in 1942, I couldn’t help but feel sorrow for what they had to endure. The opportunity for us to participate in the Candlelight ceremonies tonight strengthened my conviction that remembering the horrors of war must continue to be passed down to us as youth. As we walked in front of the stone of remembrance, I envisioned the soldiers who 77 years ago landed on those deadly beaches. Ceremonies like this give us the chance to remember because they create moments of reflection. As the ceremony came to a close and our group walked out of the cemetery, the unlit candles now burned brightly. Each one honoured the fallen of that day. 77 years later, lest we forget. 

-Jack Roy

 

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 17, 2019

holding the New Brunswick flag on Juno Beach

Today, our BVP2019 recipients toured Juno Beach Centre with guide extraordinaire Louis Lebel. In the afternoon, they visited Pointe-du-Hoc American Memorial where Isaac and Andréa presented on technology in world wars. The day finished back at Juno Beach for Jack and Nimra’s presentation on the environmental impacts of war. (Please note: students will blog in their language of preference).

 

J’attendais la visite au Centre Juno Beach depuis le début du programme. Lors de la visite, j’ai été particulièrement touchée par l’une des vidéos que nous avons visionnées. Cette dernière décrivait les horreurs de la guerre et les cicatrices que celle-ci a laissées dans le temps. Le bruit des explosions et la faible luminosité me donnait vraiment l’impression d’y être. Ce film m’a énormément rejoint, car j’ai pu m’identifier à ces jeunes soldats. En effet, certains avaient mon âge lorsqu’ils se sont engagé dans l’armée. Je me suis rendue compte de la chance que nous avions de vivre une enfance sans bataille, dans un pays libre qui n’a pas été détruit par les affres de la guerre. Les images m’ont fait prendre conscience que la survie d’un soldat ne se traduisait que par un coup de chance. Certaines photos ont présenté des prisonniers de Gaspé. Étant moi-même de cette région du Québec, j’ai ressenti un élan de respect pour ces hommes qui s’étaient sacrifiés. 

– Florence Trigaux

 

Aujourd’hui à Pointe-du-Hoc, Andréa et moi avons donné une présentation sur l’utilisation de la technologie dans la guerre. La discussion de groupe qui s’en suivit eu pour sujet le jugement rétrospectif. Entre autres cas, la prise de la Pointe-du-Hoc par les Américains demande une remise en question. De nombreux points de vue sont mis de l’avant concernant la nécessité de cet assaut qui a causé de nombreuses pertes. Or, il faut considérer les différentes perceptions du passé, qu’elles proviennent d’historiens ou du public. On questionne régulièrement l’utilité et la justification de tels événements lors de leur analyse. Pourtant, je crois qu’il serait plus pertinent d’aborder l’impossibilité d’avoir une opinion non-biaisée d’un événement historique dans son contexte. 

Les événements passés, se sont produits dans des circonstances difficiles à juger de l’extérieur. Qui sommes-nous pour former des opinions définitives sur une histoire à laquelle nous n’avons pas participé, malgré nos connaissances de cette époque? Voilà pourquoi je crois qu’il ne faut pas questionner la nécessité d’actes historiques; il faut plutôt les analyser tout en tenant compte des nombreux éléments liés à leur déroulement.

– Isaac St-Jean

 

At the Juno Beach Centre, I gained a better understanding of the diversity of experiences during the Second World War. On display is an exhibit which tells the stories of women during the war. Some were nurses, some were part of the resistance, and others were spies. People often choose to focus on remembering their own fallen or the sacrifices of certain groups. In the past few days, we have been learning more about the treatment of different groups of people during the war and how this treatment often carried on after the war. I believe it is crucial to recognize and appreciate the experiences and sacrifices of all people during the war, recognizing all experiences allows us to understand how the war altered the lives of diverse groups during the conflict and changed our society as a whole. It is important to know that people, such as women, contributed and lost as much as those who are typically remembered. It is also important to question why some groups of people are not remembered in the same way as others and work towards properly commemorating them.

– Nimra Hooda

 

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 16, 2019

at l’Abbaye d’Ardennes

Today the students took over social media duties while transferring to the coast and visited sites such as Amiens, Bény-sur-Mer, and l’Abbaye d’Ardennes.(Please note: students will blog in their language of preference).

 

Un homme qui s’occupait de chevaux derrière un cimetière militaire est venu à notre rencontre. À cet instant, je ne savais pas que je recevrais un témoignage d’une immense sagesse.

Cet homme âgé dont je n’ai pas eu l’honneur de connaître le nom, son père et son grand-père avaient tout trois vécu les guerres mondiales, la propagande et l’invasion allemande. Et tout de même, dans leur famille, depuis trois générations, rien de moins que le respect est attendu de leur part face aux Allemands. Chez eux, le mot « boche » était proscrit: « Nous nous battions pour notre pays et ils se battaient pour le leur. »

Ses mots exempts de rancune, mots de guérison et de compréhension m’ont marqués et m’ont inspiré, car cet homme et son père, malgré avoir vu leur village détruit, ont priorisé leurs valeurs de respect et d’humanité. J’ai alors compris que ces choses avaient le pouvoir de survivre à la destruction. Elles permettent aussi la reconstruction nécessaire au retour du quotidien. J’ai enfin réalisé la force morale qu’il fallait pour ressortir de la guerre et son importance.

Cet homme marquant et généreux maintient la paix ambiente autour du cimetière par respect pour les pèlerins et les soldats qui y réposent, tel un gardien des valeurs de son grand-père.

-Andelina Habel-Thornton

 

The Amiens Cathedral is an architectural marvel. As I explored it, I understood why both the Allied forces as well as the Germans tried so hard to keep it safe during the First World War. I could see clearly why this cathedral was specifically chosen to be kept intact as many solders were religious and felt strong ties with places where they could pray for their own safety during battles. For the citizens, the cathedrals were places they could go to after the war to mourn their loved ones as well as return to a sense of normalcy. This cathedral really tied all the points from our First World War discussions together, it showed how people still moved on with their lives despite the devastation of war, and it, like other monuments, helped pass down history through generations. 

-Nathan Yee

 

Today we visited many fascinating places that further instilled in me a passion for maintaining the legacy and memory of fallen soldiers. Whilst visiting the stunning Beny-sur-Mer Canadian Cemetery, I found that the area created an enhanced sense of personnalisation, be it from the increasingly detailed epitaphs from loved ones, mismatched flowers in an array of colours, or pristine dog tags with photos of the soldiers slung over many headstones. This made my experience more emotive here than at the First World War cemeteries. I gained a sense that the cemetery had been carefully constructed to focus on individual commemoration, with multiple benches at the sides of the rows of headstones and a viewing platform to allow an overview of the site. It was very powerful and added a personal connection to the sometimes desensitising, endless rows of names. I felt the cemetery gave me the space to sit quietly, visualising the vibrant personalities of the many soldiers whilst being aware of how lucky we are to be present, experiencing the simplicities of nature taken too early from those killed in the Second World War.

-Lily Maguire