PM vis­its Vimy ahead of gath­er­ing of world lead­ers

Toronto Sun - - NEWS -

VIMY RIDGE, France — 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 marks 100 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 620,000 Cana­di­ans 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.

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 lessons is to re­mem­ber those who fought these bat­tles and who fight them still.”

FRAN­COIS LO PRESTI/GETTY IM­AGES

Justin Trudeau, left, and Vet­er­ans Min­is­ter Sea­mus O’Re­gan at Vimy yes­ter­day.

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