A renewed Remembrance as veterans start to vanish CTV
Kuumad uudised 10 Nov 2007  EWR
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Parminder Parmar, CTV.ca News

On a clear spring day last April, hundreds of Canadians gathered in Vimy, France, at the spot many say marks the birthplace of Canadian nationalism.

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People had come from around the world to remember the Canadian soldiers who fought and sacrificed their lives 90 years earlier to bring victory at Vimy Ridge, the site of one of the pivotal battles of the First World War.

Those in attendance recalled how following defeat after defeat by the Allied powers, the Canadians had done what their European partners were unable to do for nearly two years -- beat back the Germans to take the strategic ridge.

The stunning victory helped change and shape the Canadian psyche. No longer did Canada think of itself as a young and unimportant country. The soldiers fought hard and won, turning Canada into a nation that could stand confidently next to those of Europe.

The re-commemoration ceremony last spring for the Vimy Memorial was as much about history and remembrance as it was about how modern Canada was built.

The point was not lost on the Queen as she spoke about what the Canadian soldiers had accomplished.

"Those who seek the foundations of Canada's distinction," she said, "would do well to begin here, at Vimy."

Soldiers from more recent wars, their families, students, the French and other Europeans, and ordinary Canadians solemnly listened as Prime Minister Stephen Harper noted that Vimy is part of the nation's "creation story."

There was, however, an absence in the crowd. Not a single Canadian who helped shape the important chapter of Canada's national story was present.

All of them have died, save one. The last remaining Canadian veteran of the First World War is now 107. When he passes away, so, too, will the last human link to events that helped spawn a new Canada.

That's something that concerns Jeremy Diamond, the Director of Programs at the Dominion Institute, an organization dedicated to preserving Canada's heritage. He wants to make sure that Canadians don't forget what happened at Vimy or the sacrifices made by soldiers during any of the wars in which Canada has fought.

That's why the re-commemoration ceremony was so important, according to Diamond.

With just 220,000 Canadian Second World War vets remaining, Diamond says that memorials like that at Vimy and other cenotaphs in Canadian communities will now play an increasingly important role.

"Passing on that torch of remembrance is key right now," Diamond says.

"Many people didn't realize how touching the Vimy ceremony would be. These memorials humanize the experience."
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