Lo­cal MPP among those honour­ing the fallen at 100th an­niver­sary of Vimy Ridge

The Woolwich Observer - - NEWS - LIZ BE­VAN

THAT THE FIRST WORLD War’s bat­tle of Vimy Ridge was in­stru­men­tal in the de­vel­op­ment of Cana­dian na­tion­hood was wit­nessed this week by the thou­sands who flocked to France to mark the event’s 100th an­niver­sary.

Four Cana­dian di­vi­sions, along with one from Bri­tain, took on three Ger­man di­vi­sions, emerg­ing vic­to­ri­ous. Three thou­sand, five hun­dred and ninety-eight men died in the bat­tle, and 7,004 were wounded. It was the first time in Cana­dian his­tory that troops from across Canada fought to­gether for a com­mon goal. The bat­tle raged from Apr. 9 to 12, 1917.

Kitchener-Con­estoga MPP Michael Har­ris was among the es­ti­mated 25,000 peo­ple gath­ered on the his­toric bat­tle­field last Sun­day, com­mem­o­rat­ing the cen­te­nary of the mo­men­tous bat­tle. He says he was touched and hum­bled by the two-hour cer­e­mony.

“It was some­thing that every Cana­dian should have had a chance to do. Of course, it has been 100 years since the bat­tle at Vimy Ridge and, as an MPP, I at­tend many Re­mem­brance Day ser­vices and each and every one is very touch­ing, whether it is at a ceno­taph or a le­gion, but to be able to par­tic­i­pate in a ser­vice ac­tu­ally on the bat­tle­field was truly breath­tak­ing,” he said.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande, Eng­land’s Prince Charles, Prince Wil­liam and Prince Harry were there to say a few words and lay some wreaths, honour­ing the Cana­dian sac­ri­fice in 1917.

Har­ris was there, in part, to rep­re­sent the 12 sol­diers from the Water­loo Re­gion who died in the con­flict 100 years ago.

“They came from Water­loo, two from Kitchener, one from New Ham­burg, one from Baden, sev­eral from the Galt area – it was ex­tremely mov­ing,” he said in an in­ter­view from France.

He high­lighted the im­mense hu­man loss for Canada, com­par­ing it to cur­rent con­flicts where Cana­dian sol­diers have been killed.

“Four Cana­dian di­vi­sions fight­ing to­gether for the first time, we were a pop­u­la­tion of around 8 mil­lion peo­ple then; 100,000 sol­diers went to fight at Vimy, 3,598 died in that four-day bat­tle, and some 7,000 were in­jured or wounded,” he said. “When you look at the war in Afghanistan, it was over a decade long, and I be­lieve that Canada lost over 100 sol­diers. To lose over 3,500 in four days was a mas­sive event, but more im­por­tantly, they scaled the ridge and over­took the Ger­mans. It was some­thing that Great Bri­tain and the French couldn’t do.”

One part of his trip that stood out was the warm wel­come Cana­dian vis­i­tors re­ceived on their jour­ney to

hon­our the fallen.

“On the way into Vimy, around some small towns and vil­lages, homes were fly­ing the Cana­dian flags and smil­ing peo­ple wav­ing at the buses go­ing to the cer­e­mony,” he said.

He was also happy to see so many young peo­ple in the crowd. There were more than 12,000 Cana­dian stu­dents at the cer­e­mony on Sun­day.

“Our plane was full of stu­dents in red coats and it makes you think, 100 years later, it is a great sign of how im­por­tant that bat­tle of Vimy Ridge was,” said Har­ris.

[SUB­MIT­TED]

Thou­sands gath­ered at the Vimy Ridge me­mo­rial in France last week­end to mark the 100th an­niver­sary of the First World War bat­tle that saw Canada come into its own as a mil­i­tary force.

Kitchener-Con­estoga MPP Michael Har­ris (right) and Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker were among the 25,000 peo­ple gath­ered at the Vimy Ridge bat­tle­field on Sun­day.

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