Commemorations at home and abroad,
Trudeau, O’Regan shook hands with veterans, thanking them for service
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.
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.