On April 9th, 1917 at 5:30am, the Battle of Vimy Ridge began. This was the first time ever that all four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought alongside together. In the week leading up to the battle, soldiers spent day in and day out within the trenches of Vimy Ridge protecting not only Canada, but a community of individuals that deserve rights and freedoms just as we do. As the Canadian’s successfully seized Vimy Ridge from the German army, many attribute this victory to the defining moment in which we became Canadians. Our national identity was built that very day. This historical moment however, came with the cost of 3,598 Canadian lives. This is not just a number that will be recorded in history textbooks—it’s a number that reflects someones son, brother, father, uncle or friend.
On April 8th, 2017 I had the honor of attending Airdrie’s own commemoration for the Battle of Vimy Ridge and reflect on the 3,598 lives taken, the 11,285 that were never found, and the total of 100,000 Canadian men who served. Bill Drummond, a special guest and speaker at the commemoration described the importance of remembering our Canadian history.
“I feel we’re not giving our children as much historical evidence as I had as a young man in high school. If we don’t teach the kids about history, then we’ll make the same mistakes again, and God forbid we should do that.” (source)
Standing alongside Nikaela Barton, candidate for the new Mayor of Airdrie, I noticed thelack of youth in attendance on such a historical day. A heartbreaking moment of reflection for myself, as my generation represents the legacy of these veterans and the future that is now in our hands. Remembering and honoring those who gave us the gift of freedom in our country is much more than just reading a textbook in class. We must continue to make strides in our personal life to recognize these sacrifices made for us. Member of Parliament, Blake Richards stated in his speech the haunting statistics of Canadian youth that didn’t know about the significance of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. In my own research, I’ve discovered that a shocking 82% of Canadians (ages 18-24) failed a basic Canadian history exam. Now, I’m no where near a historian of Canada but as I grow, I continue to learn about the importance of acknowledging and educating myself on the moments in Canadian history that have brought my family and myself to this very point.
“I became a Canadian on Vimy Ridge. (…) We became a nation there in the eyes of the world. It cut across French and English, rich and poor, urban and rural. Vimy Ridge confirmed that we were as good as, if not better than, any European power.” -Reginald Roy, WW1 Veteran.
As I soon head back to my school day, I would like to thank all those that served and those that gave the ultimate sacrifice so I could be here in my classroom learning today. I know one day when I have children, that I will never allow them to forget the lives that were given and the soldiers that were impacted in order for them to be Canadian. Today like most days, I am proud to call myself a Canadian.
Mackenzie, Miss Teenage Western Alberta 2017