PM visits Vimy ahead of gathering of world leaders
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.”
Justin Trudeau, left, and Veterans Minister Seamus O’Regan at Vimy yesterday.