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Vimy education Centre op Vimy Ridge

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Geregistreerd op: 5-1-2006
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BerichtGeplaatst: 27 Apr 2013 20:21    Onderwerp: Vimy education Centre op Vimy Ridge Reageer met quote

Foundation hopes to raise money for Vimy Ridge education centre at Toronto gala

An education centre is to be erected on the Vimy Ridge battlefield.

On what is now a patch of French battlefield peppered with unexploded ordinance and shattered human remains, a Montreal group is planning to build the largest addition to the Vimy Ridge battlefield since the site’s iconic two-pillared memorial was opened in 1936.

“It’s not your usual building site,” said Christopher Sweeney, a board member with the Vimy Foundation, a Montreal-based group dedicated to promoting the First World War battle as Canada’s “coming of age.”

The foundation is laying plans for an 1,800-square-metre “education centre,” featuring display spaces and a lecture theatre, to be built on the Vimy battlefield, 100 hectares of which is a memorial site designated as Canadian territory.

The federal government kicked in $5-million towards the project in its latest budget, but the group is looking to raise another $15-million.

On Tuesday night, the foundation is hosting a fundraising gala at the Toronto Four Seasons hotel. Guests include federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, former Ontario premier Mike Harris, former chief of defence staff Gen. (Ret.) Rick Hillier and a smattering of Canadian veterans — one of whom is the son of a Vimy soldier.

Vimy Ridge was a successful Canadian-led assault on a German-held ridge in Northern France in 1917. It remains the bloodiest battle in Canadian history, with 3,598 men being killed on the battle’s first day and more than 7,000 injured.

Although the battle was a rare success in a war plagued by years of stalemate (as many as 150,000 French and British troops had previously died trying to take the ridge), its end result was merely to move the front line a few kilometres east. As the Vimy Foundations notes, the battle “did not lead to wider gains.”

“We’re very careful as a foundation not to be militaristic or jingoistic — front and centre is always the sacrifice,” said Mr. Sweeney. “We want people who go over there to be determined that it never happens again.”

For what was then an agrarian country of only eight million, the sheer scale of the battle was massive. Just over one per cent of Canada’s entire population (100,000 men) were at Vimy Ridge in early 1917, and more than 35,000 of those were sent into battle.

In the recent war in Afghanistan, by contrast, Canada’s deployment was roughly 3,000 soldiers in 2010.

“We did this, whether you agree with whether World War I should have been fought or not,” said Mr. Sweeney.

Founded six years ago, the Vimy Foundation currently sponsors scholarships and student pilgrimages to the battlefield, was a driving force behind the inclusion of the Vimy Ridge memorial on the $20 bill and is organizing celebrations for the battle’s centennial, which is expected to draw 50,000 Canadians to France.

Ultimately, the group hopes to make it a nationwide tradition for Canadians to wear Vimy pins on April 9, the anniversary of the battle.
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