Com­mem­o­ra­tions at home and abroad,

Trudeau, O’Re­gan shook hands with vet­er­ans, thank­ing them for ser­vice

Toronto Star - - FRONT PAGE - JOR­DAN PRESS

The iconic mon­u­ment at Vimy Ridge served Satur­day as a re­minder of Cana­di­ans’ wartime sac­ri­fice, as Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau made an­other visit to the me­mo­rial one day be­fore the world marks100 years since the end of the First World War.

Run­ning his hands along the carved names of Canada’s war dead and walk­ing among the graves — some with names, oth­ers sim­ply marked as “a sol­dier of the great war” — Trudeau and his vet­er­ans af­fairs min­is­ter shook hands with vet­er­ans and thanked them for their ser­vice. The mon­u­ment has be­come the sym­bol of Canada’s ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing the “War to End All Wars,” dur­ing which ap­prox­i­mately 650,000 Cana­di­ans and New­found­lan­ders served — a num­ber con­sid­ered re­mark­able given the pop­u­la­tion of the coun­try was roughly eight mil­lion. The prime min­is­ter vis­ited Vimy Ridge last year to mark the cen­te­nary of the bat­tle. On Sun­day, more than 60 world lead­ers are sched­uled to gather in Paris to mark the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of the First World War, mak­ing Trudeau’s stop at Vimy po­lit­i­cally sym­bolic. Many of them gath­ered Satur­day night in Paris, walk­ing a red car­pet and stop­ping for pho­tog­ra­phers be­fore hav­ing din­ner in­side the Musee d’Or­say.

Roland Paris, a former for­eign af­fairs ad­viser to Trudeau, says the com­bi­na­tion of events this week­end gives the prime min­is­ter sym­bols to put be­hind his re­peated pub­lic push for gov­ern­ments to not tear down in­ter­na­tional al­liances.

Sun­day will see Trudeau and other lead­ers stand along­side French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron at Armistice Day com­mem­o­ra­tions in Paris. Later on in the day, Macron will host a peace fo­rum the French gov­ern­ment hopes to make an an­nual draw for civil so­ci­ety and po­lit­i­cal lead­ers.

“Go­ing to Vimy and the Armistice Day cel­e­bra­tion ... pro­vides the op­por­tu­nity for the prime min­is­ter to un­der­score why it was that Cana­di­ans have sac­ri­ficed in the past and the im­por­tance of main­tain­ing the rules-based in­ter­na­tional order,” Paris said.

Some 66,000 Cana­dian sol­diers died dur­ing the First World War, be­tween 1914 and 1918, and a fur­ther 172,000 were wounded. Those buried at Vimy and else­where be­lieved de­fend­ing Cana­dian val­ues “were worth that sac­ri­fice,” said Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Min­is­ter Sea­mus O’Re­gan.

“We must re­mem­ber the les­son of th­ese con­flicts: that free­dom is not free. That it is not easy. In­deed it is hard fought,” O’Re­gan said.

“But to re­mem­ber those les- sons is to re­mem­ber those who fought th­ese bat­tles and who fight them still.”

A les­son world lead­ers have learned from the First World War is how a re­gional dis­pute can spi­ral into a broader, global con­flict, said Matthew Bar­rett, an ex­pert on Cana­dian mil­i­tary his­tory from Queen’s Univer­sity in Kingston, Ont.

That con­cern about be­com­ing en­tan­gled in a con­flict feeds into U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s un­ease with mil­i­tary al­liances such as NATO — which in turn keeps Trudeau talk­ing about main­tain­ing al­liances.

Trump was no­tice­ably not among the lead­ers to walk the red car­pet for the evening’s din­ner gala in Paris. Ear­lier in the day, he re­ceived crit­i­cism for can­celling a visit to the Ais­neMarne Amer­i­can Ceme­tery out­side the French cap­i­tal due to in­clement weather.

FRAN­COIS LO PRESTI AFP/GETTY IM­AGES

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau and Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Min­is­ter Sea­mus O’Re­gan take part in a cer­e­mony in trib­ute to Cana­dian sol­diers killed dur­ing the First World War.

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