By Richard Lawrence
The Battle for Vimy Ridge, arguably an event that helped define Canada as a nation, was fought one hundred and one years ago from April 9-12, 1917. It is commemorated with all the ceremony of any event that causes so much death and destruction (10, 600 plus casualties for Canadians). It was also the first indication of Canada being regarded as a nation and not just a junior member of the Commonwealth. It is worth commemoration. Or it was, until 2018.
In the past, there has always been a large remembrance ceremony held at the National War Memorial on the 9th of April. Last year, the 100th anniversary of the Battle, there was a vigil the evening before and a remembrance ceremony the following morning. The ceremonies were attended by thousands of people.
During the vigil in 2017 there were speeches and ceremony. Cadets were paraded out to stand vigil over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. There were veterans from every organization present, politicians galore, and children’s choirs. Then there was the ceremony of the Passing of the Torch, from the oldest veterans all the way up the line to the cadets and youth of Canada. In the morning, the cadets were relieved of duty and replaced by soldiers and a proper remembrance ceremony was held. This was again complete with contingents of veterans, Armed Forces, RCMP, politicians, and official delegations from many foreign governments. In all, the Vimy remembrance ceremonies are second only to the National Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11. At least, they were.
This year, there was no vigil at all. Nothing. In the morning there was a small ceremony that consisted of one member of government, MP Andrew Leslie, who laid a wreath for the Government. Also in attendance were two youth from the Encounters with Canada organization, delegations from the Vimy Foundation, a delegation representing the Portuguese Veterans of Ontario. No veterans were invited. There were no chairs, no speakers, and no choirs. Not even a microphone for someone to say a few words. The only soldiers on parade were four marched in to stand post at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. If not for the 120 youth bussed in from Encounters With Canada, it’s doubtful that any civilians would have been there at all. At least there was a bugler and piper so that the Last Post, Lament, and Rouse could be played. All in all, it was a quick ceremony.
Now that the 100th anniversary is past and there are no living WWI veterans, it seems that the government and Veterans Affairs is happy to sweep this event under the carpet. It makes one wonder what will happen to the remainder of the WWI remembrances once the 100th anniversary of the Great War passes into history, along with those who fought to make Canada the nation it is today.
For more photos go to: http://www.richardlawrencephotography.ca/rlpgalleries/2018/vimy101/index.html