Vimy Ridge Day Act

An Act respecting a national day of remembrance of the Battle of Vimy Ridge

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.

This bill was previously introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session.


Brent St. Denis  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill.


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Battle of Vimy RidgeStatements By Members

April 9th, 2008 / 2:15 p.m.
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Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, 91 years ago, on April 9, 1917, at Vimy Ridge, France, 100,000 soldiers from all over Canada fought shoulder to shoulder for the first time in international battle under the Canadian flag and under a Canadian commander.

Canadians representing all of Canada's regions fought together and won together. This victory has become known as the day when Canada truly became a nation and it earned for Canada a signature on the Treaty of Versailles.

The victory at Vimy Ridge is historic for both its significance and the losses our armed forces incurred. Some 4,000 Canadians gave their lives during this battle. They never saw the result of their sacrifice.

However, this important victory proved to our allies that Canadian soldiers were prepared to fight our common enemies. This enabled our country to take a strong position in the group of nations.

As of 2003, April 9 became an official military heritage day in Canada after the enactment of Bill C-227.

I ask all my colleagues to join me in commemoration of the bravery and courage of those who won at the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Older Adult Justice ActPrivate Members' Business

February 5th, 2004 / 6:05 p.m.
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Lorne Nystrom NDP Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I too want to say a few words in support of the bill put forward by the member for Sudbury. I congratulate her for doing this.

In case I forget, I want to ask the member to take a look at a bill I drafted and tabled some time ago, Bill C-227. It was a bill to investigate the difficulties encountered by seniors when they deal with the Canada pension plan, the old age pensions and the different tax liabilities. It might be complementary to what she is trying to do. I had some help on that by people who were experts in the field. It might be something worth looking at.

In any event, I do support the bill put forward in the House today. We are an aging society. I just looked at some recent statistics showing that in the year 2000 some 16.7% of our population was over 60 years old. In the year 2050, another 50 years from now, the population over 60 years of age will be 31.9%. In other words, Mr. Speaker, 50 years from now you will be among the oldest one-third of the Canadian population. That will be getting up there in age by that time of course. We are an aging society and the baby boom is going through the cycle.

I suppose one of the deficiencies in our social system has been in making sure our older people, our senior citizens, get a decent, fair and just break in our society.

I have been a member of Parliament now for about 32 years. I was elected in 1968 and was out for one term. I have had my attention drawn many times to elder abuse. It occurs in all kinds of places and forms that we would not expect: abusive families, abuse between spouses, abuse between strangers and elders, and patronizing attitudes toward senior citizens. One sees and hears about it all the time. It is something for which we have to be concerned in terms of discrimination based on age.

One reason for referring the bill to committee for study is that there are all kinds of aspects of how we should be treating senior citizens better which we can study at the same time.

I am glad the member has taken the initiative in this bill to get the ball rolling and establish an ombudsman for older adult justice and the Canadian older adult justice agency and amendments to the Criminal Code. Of course that would include the Prime Minister of Canada as well. We may have to be very careful with how we question him in question period.

I think the bill is a move in the right direction and it is something we should be supporting. It is not right to discriminate against anyone on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, colour, religious background or on the basis of age, and that certainly does occur.

Some day in this country we will have a serious debate on an issue called mandatory retirement. I happen to agree with the Prime Minister of Canada that age 65 should not be a mandatory retirement age. I think that is discrimination based on age. At the same time, we have to make sure that people have adequate pensions so they can make a real choice as to whether they can retire at the age of 65.

We have made progress since the 1930s and 1940s on pensions, on seniors and on poverty, but I do not think that progress has been continuing on in the last 10 or 15 years as it was in the previous 25 or 30 years. It has levelled off. We have a lot of senior citizens living in poverty and below the poverty line.

Those are some of my concerns. We need an improved pension system. We need to improve the Canada pension plan so people will have a more adequate income. Private pension plans have to be more portable. We need to ensure that we have a retirement safety net for people so they can have a decent living and not live in poverty after they retire.

I remember growing up on the Prairies and believing all my life that it was the older people who built Canada, the pioneers who came out to my part of the world, Saskatchewan, which became a province in 1905.

Actually my father was born at the end of 1909. He was one of the last pioneers in this country in terms of filing for a homestead under the homestead act. He had one of the last homesteads in central Saskatchewan.

People of my grandparents' generation born in the last part of the 1800s and into the early 1900s were the real pioneers. They built a country through sweat and tears and hard work. They made many sacrifices and passed on a pretty good country to all of us. It is imperative for us now to make sure we treat our senior citizens with respect and dignity and to provide the financial means to make sure that they can live a decent life.

I am also concerned about adequate health care. We have across the way the sponsor of the bill who is a former minister of health. She knows the challenges in that field and the challenges that we have now. At one time the federal government paid half the cost of health care and the provinces paid half, but now the provinces put up over 80% of the health care cost. This is a big issue. The senior citizens use the health care system more than any other citizen. If we have a squeeze for health care, it is the senior citizens that tend to suffer more than anyone else. We need more money from the federal government for health care as well.

I have mentioned an adequate pension system. I have mentioned the need for more adequate health care and the concern that I have that a lot of people are living in poverty. Those are some of the other issues we have to wrestle with.

The pension issue is a very important one because of the aging of the population. We have to make sure that we can afford to pay adequate pensions for people when they retire, whatever that retirement age should be.

I remember when the member was a cabinet minister. An idea was floated by the Liberal government of the day which was called the seniors benefit package and was part of the present Prime Minister's deficit cutting strategy. The legislation, had it passed, would have done away with the last social program that was specifically there to help seniors, namely the Old Age Security Act. It is thanks to the intense lobby of senior citizens, the public and the opposition that this idea was dropped.

I also remember back in the Mulroney days when the Conservatives wanted to partially deindex old age pensions. There are a couple of Mulroney fans sitting here in the House of Commons, members of the Conservative Party. In the end the Conservatives did that.

I remember when they brought it in. Mulroney was very popular in 1985. There was a big rally here in the House of Commons. I see two Brian Mulroney fans sitting in the House, one from Yorkton—Melville and one from Ontario, two Conservative MPs. In 1985 there was a big rally in the House. A little woman named Madam Denis, who probably stood about 4 feet 10 inches, said in French to the Prime Minister, “Vous avez menti, vous avez menti”. She said to the Prime Minister, “You have lied to us”.

I remember the galvanizing of public opinion at that moment. I think the member for Sudbury became a member in 1988 and this occurred before she came to the House. I remember how the public opinion at that time galvanized and changed because of Madam Denis.

The grey lobby is increasing in size. It is politically a very potent force out there and an important force. The senior citizens should be listened to. When governments have tried to tinker with programs that they hold dear, and I have mentioned a couple of examples, there have been very effective protests by senior citizens. This is something we should pay heed to. They are our constituents and a very important part of our constituency.

The member for Sudbury makes some excellent points in the legislation. One of the points is that there are crimes being committed against seniors. We have heard about different scams and different con artists that prey on seniors, who telephone them with different ideas about where they should put their money. I have had cases where seniors have called my office after being taken by con artists on different schemes. They go after seniors because they feel they are vulnerable. In many cases it is older women who they feel are vulnerable and they take their money.

In summary, I commend the member for Sudbury. We should send the bill to committee. We should study the whole area of how we treat seniors and make sure we have a fair and just society for them in the years that lie ahead.

Vimy Ridge DayStatements By Members

April 9th, 2003 / 2:15 p.m.
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Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma—Manitoulin, ON

Mr. Speaker, with the adoption of Bill C-227, today, April 9 is the very first Vimy Ridge Day. On this day I wish to express my gratitude to everyone for their support of this initiative, including parliamentarians in both the House of Commons and in the other place. In particular, I wish to express my appreciation to Robert Manuel, a Korean veteran and constituent of mine from Elliot Lake, Ontario, who initially inspired this idea and provided many letters and petitions of support throughout the process.

With the passage of the bill, the Parliament of Canada is honouring all veterans, those who lost their lives or were wounded in past wars or peacekeeping missions, and those who now serve or are retired from active service. We thank and honour them all.

The spirit of remembrance is alive and well in our nation but can always be made stronger. Vimy Ridge Day will help us remember the heroism, the tragedy, the valour and the loss associated with war so peace may be our constant goal. Let it be the greatest gift of our fallen soldiers that for us peace be our future.

Veterans AffairsOral Question Period

April 8th, 2003 / 2:40 p.m.
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Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma—Manitoulin, ON

Mr. Speaker, with the very recent passage of Bill C-227, starting tomorrow every April 9 will be known as Vimy Ridge Day in Canada and on that day the Peace Tower flag will fly at half-mast.

Could the Minister of Veterans Affairs tell the House the importance of remembrance in Canadian society and how Vimy Ridge Day can help to promote Canada's military and peacekeeping legacy?

Message from the SenateRoyal Assent

April 3rd, 2003 / 5:30 p.m.
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The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall


April 3, 2003

Mr. Speaker,

I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 3rd day of April, 2003 at 4:35 p.m.

Yours sincerely

Barbara Uteck

Secretary to the Governor General

The schedule says that royal assent was given to Bill C-3, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act, Chapter 5; and Bill C-227, An Act respecting a national day of remembrance of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, Chapter 6.

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Vimy Ridge Day ActPrivate Members' Business

February 20th, 2003 / 5:50 p.m.
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Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support my colleague from Algoma--Manitoulin and Bill C-227 which would formally recognize Canada's important role in the Battle of Vimy Ridge during World War I. It was a battle that raged in France from April 9 to 12, 1917.

I support this bill because we should always do everything possible to remember and honour the efforts of the brave men who fought and died in Canada's wars. As a young Canadian I want pay specific tribute to the fact that I owe my freedom and that of my family to the ultimate sacrifice that has been made.

Recently, a paratrooper from the Korean war passed away in my constituency. I had the opportunity to give him a Queen's Jubilee medal, and at the same time we were able to get a Korean war memorial established. Mr. Jim Bradley is dearly missed in our community.

It shows the importance of why I support this bill. It is an excellent opportunity for young Canadians to once again revisit the heritage, the commitment, and the sacrifice that people have made, because we draw connections from that.

My simple message is to thank the member for putting this together, and more importantly, I am thankful for the sacrifice that Canadians have had to make for my personal freedom as well as for my community in this country of ours.

Vimy Ridge Day ActPrivate Members' Business

February 20th, 2003 / 5:40 p.m.
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Oshawa Ontario


Ivan Grose LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, as you know, I seldom rise in the House to speak. There is enough of little consequence that goes on here that members do not need me to add it. However, today I have something important to say. I am proud to join my colleagues in support of Bill C-227, an act respecting a national day of remembrance of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

I will begin my remarks by thanking all of my colleagues who have spoken in favour of this legislation. I would like to pay a special tribute to my colleague, the hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin, who has worked closely with his colleagues in bringing his private member's bill to this important stage in our parliamentary process.

I know the hon. member would prefer to pass the credit to his constituent, Mr. Robert Manuel, for inspiring this initiative, but this legislation would not have been possible without the hon. member's commitment and leadership. Both he and Mr. Manuel deserve our deepest appreciation on a job well done. I would also like to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage who reviewed and endorsed this legislation.

Bill C-227 is part and parcel of a wider discussion about how we can better remember the contributions of our veterans when so many of our firsthand witnesses are no longer with us. How can we best honour the memory of those who served and sacrificed their lives for their country? How do we preserve and promote their legacy for future generations of Canadians?

April 9, 1917, marks the day upon which Canada became a nation. It was a turning point in our history. Up until then we were colonial, part of the British army. The Battle of Vimy Ridge was the first time that Canadian soldiers would fight as one formation, the Canadian Corps under Canadian command. One major battle, one seemingly impossible victory, and the world began to look at Canada differently. As many have said, Canada became a nation at Vimy Ridge.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge is one of Canada's best known war stories for the ingenuity shown by those who planned the attack and by the men who carried it out. It was indeed the first time that all four divisions of the Canadian Corps had fought together, but it would not be the last. At Vimy Ridge the price of victory would be high. In those three spring days of 1917 there would be more than 10,000 Canadian casualties. Of those, 3,598 would lie forever in French soil.

The accounts of bravery and courage are told in the four Victoria Crosses won in those few hours, and in the untold and unsung actions of the other Canadian soldiers who did what two other Allied nations could not do. They took Vimy Ridge.

There are some who have asked whether this legislation creates a precedent. In the past, it has not been Canadian practice to single out a particular Canadian battle or campaign in such a manner as proclaiming a national day of remembrance. Rather, it has been our custom to mark the major anniversary dates of significant Canadian contributions in the two world wars and in Korea through pilgrimages abroad and commemorative ceremonies at home.

Remembrance Day is a time when Canadians join hands to solemnly commemorate the service and sacrifices of all those who served Canada in times of war, conflict and peace.

We would not want to give the impression with the passage of this bill that somehow the sacrifices made on a particular day in history are more worthy than those made in any other campaign in any of the wars or conflicts that we have participated in.

Let me reiterate that Canadians value and honour the contributions, accomplishments and sacrifices of all of Canada's veterans.

There is little argument that there is something quite extraordinary about the actions at Vimy Ridge which led to equally extraordinary results for Canada as a nation.

Few events in our military history have played such an important role in the development of the Canadian nation as the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Before the war ended, Canadian courage and prowess had won recognition in the imperial war cabinet and a seat for Canada at the peace conference at the war's end.

Around Vimy Ridge lay dozens of Canadian cemeteries, some within metres and others only a few kilometres away. It was from one of those dozen cemeteries around the Vimy Ridge battlefield that an unknown Canadian soldier, known only unto God, was selected to return home and represent the tens of thousands of Canadians who have lost their lives in war. The Unknown Soldier lies in a place of honour in front of the National War Memorial here in our nation's capital.

Hon. members who follow the veterans affairs portfolio are aware that we hold annual ceremonies at the Vimy Ridge memorial in France to commemorate the Canadian victory. For those who have had the privilege of visiting the Canadian National Vimy Memorial the experience is emotional and compelling. One comes away more convinced than ever of the importance of keeping the memory of our fallen alive for future generations.

I have never had the opportunity to visit the memorial myself, but the beauty and importance of the memorial is brought home to me often when I visit the sergeant's mess of my local militia regiment, the Ontario Regiment. The Ontario, then named the 116th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, fought with great honour at Vimy Ridge.

Hanging in a prominent place in the mess is a reproduction of a famous painting, the Ghosts of Vimy Ridge , which was painted in 1931. It portrays the spirits of servicemen of the Canadian Corps in ghostly form climbing Vimy Ridge towards the memorial that stands dramatically on the summit beneath silvery moonlight.

Members will remember seeing this same picture often as it is commemorated in mural form in the Railway Room of the Centre Block. It is an awe inspiring picture that never fails to remind me of the sacrifice of those young Canadians who never returned from that terrible field in France.

The Vimy Ridge memorial is not immune to the effects of time, nature and environmental pollution. That is why the Government of Canada has committed $30 million to the restoration of the Vimy Ridge memorial and 12 other Canadian first world war battlefield memorials in Europe. The repair work required to rehabilitate these memorial sites, now an average of 75 years old, is beyond the scope of routine maintenance.

The program of work is being carried out by Veterans Affairs Canada in collaboration with Public Works and Government Services Canada, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and other specialists, consultants and military historians. The project work is expected to be completed in 2006.

By implementing this bill we would reinforce the commemoration initiatives that Veterans Affairs already provides to recognize and honour the significance of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

For many years, Veterans Affairs has concentrated much of its commemorative efforts overseas, with pilgrimages of veterans returning to old battlegrounds, monuments and cemeteries so they could pay tribute to their comrades who fell and remain buried in foreign fields. Some hon. members have participated in these pilgrimages.

As important as our overseas commemorative work is, over the past seven or eight years we have begun to pay increased attention to commemoration and remembrance here at home. Pilgrimages will continue, but in a more focused manner and with a greater emphasis on youth and getting the message out through more in-Canada activities.

The passage of Bill C-227 would not be the end of the matter, but just the beginning. If we are going to proclaim the 9th day of April as a national day of remembrance for the Battle of Vimy Ridge, we must do more than just pass a bill in this place. It is incumbent upon all members to spread the word among their constituents about the importance of this day in our history and how they might remember the day in their local communities.

Our challenge, really our duty, is to keep alive the memory of our veterans and their contribution to building a vibrant nation guided by the values of peace, justice, freedom and diversity.

We must continue to foster this sense of pride in our history and in our veterans for the youth of this country and for all Canadians. We must keep the faith with those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. We must remember those who risked their lives to protect what we all too often take for granted.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.

Vimy Ridge Day ActPrivate Members' Business

February 20th, 2003 / 5:25 p.m.
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Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise and support my colleague from Algoma—Manitoulin and his Bill C-227, an act to formally recognize Canada's important role in the World War I Battle of Vimy Ridge which raged in France from April 9 to 12, 1917.

I support the bill because I believe we should always do everything possible to remember and honour the efforts of our brave young men and women who fought and died in Canada's wars.

I come from a constituency with a very proud military tradition which predates the first world war. I am told that the cliffs of Dartmouth were used by General Wolfe to train his troops for an eventual assault on Quebec in the 18th century. As well, the Halifax harbour has been North America's staging ground for both commerce and war for the last 400 years. I know my constituents carry a deep respect for the accomplishments and sacrifices of our armed forces.

1917 is a very special year. It is a year that had a major impact on my city. During that year of the great war, while husbands, sons, brothers and sweethearts were away fighting in the muddy trenches of France, much of Dartmouth and north Halifax was destroyed by an explosion in the harbour of an ammunition ship bound for Europe.

Just imagine that, many of our fighting men and women in places such as the newly held Vimy Ridge survived terrible battles only to be told of the death of their loved ones in the largest explosion in history before the development of atomic weapons. Some of the damage from the Halifax explosion is still visible today. I am told that some of the ammunition still stored in the Bedford magazine dates back to that era as well.

The traditions which have been handed down from those times still live on in Dartmouth. Today the harbour is busy with the preparations for the imminent departure of the destroyer and command ship HMCS Iroquois . It is bound for the Persian Gulf as part of our contribution in the UN sanctioned battle against al-Qaeda and terrorism following the attacks of September 11.

That crew, like the soldiers who left Halifax harbour in 1916 to do battle on Vimy Ridge, sail off into unknown danger. I pray for their safe return and I know that everyone in this place offers their prayers as well.

The bill asks Canada to lower our flag to half-mast every April 9 in memory of the 3,598 young men who were killed and the 7,004 who were wounded on Vimy Ridge in that snowy April 86 years ago.

It is reasonable to ask why Vimy is so special, because Canadians have fought and died in many wars. Why is Vimy such a special day and battle to remember?

Many historians will argue that the Battle of Vimy Ridge gave Canada its right to act as an independent country both in war and subsequently in peace. They claim that on April 9, 1917 we became a really independent nation and that we paid the price in blood.

On April 9, 1917 after months of preparation, the Canadian Corps attacked the Germans on Vimy Ridge, an area which was considered to have great strategic importance as guns on that height threatened France's northern coalfields. The Canadians were sent to Vimy to force the Germans out and claim the area back for France. The battle ended four days later when the Canadians captured the ridge.

Claiming back Vimy Ridge was a great victory because it had been one of Germany's great positions and great strongholds in France. The Canadian Corps captured more land, guns and prisoners than the British during any of their earlier attempts. By the end of the fourth day, Canada had advanced 4.8 kilometres into enemy territory, taking 124 machine guns and capturing 4,000 German prisoners.

Unfortunately the attack took a heavy toll on Canadians. In all, 7,004 Canadians were wounded and 3,598 died at Vimy Ridge.

The final reason the victory was significant at Vimy Ridge was that the success of our soldiers encouraged our national pride. The battle of Vimy made Canadians proud of their young, independent nation. They were impressed that the men of the Canadian Corps represented many cultures from across Canada. Most of the men had enlisted as untrained volunteers. However by 1917 they were one of the world's most skilled and respected fighting battalions.

Canadians have reason to be proud of their hard won victory at Vimy Ridge. I am very glad to be standing here today and supporting my colleague across the House on this very important bill.

Vimy Ridge Day ActPrivate Members' Business

February 20th, 2003 / 5 p.m.
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Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma—Manitoulin, ON

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the member for Mississauga South, for seconding my motion. It is most appreciated. I just learned a few minutes ago that he has had the privilege of visiting the Vimy Ridge Memorial at Vimy in France. I hope in the near future to have that same privilege.

I am indeed honoured to be the sponsor of Bill C-227, a bill which would establish a day in honour of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and in honour of all the Canadians who fought and won this vital and critical victory for the allies in World War I.

If I may quote from an excellent document produced by the Edmonton Public School Board, written by Douglas Davis, it states:

The Canadian success at Vimy Ridge was the first allied victory on the Western Front since the fall of 1914. Without a doubt, by the spring of 1917, the Canadians were the best equipped, best trained and best led allied troops on the Western Front.

I would point out to members that the bill would create a day of remembrance on April 9 of each year and would provide that on that day the Peace Tower flag be flown at half-mast.

I would also like to underline that it would not create a holiday.This is simply another opportunity that we would provide to Canadians, particularly students, with the tremendous support no doubt of Legions across the country that do a great a job on our behalf to ensure the memory of war remains strong, to reflect on our very important military history and to ensure that we never make the tragic mistake of unnecessary war.

I have a few people to thank and I would like to do that right now.

Robert Manuel, a constituent of mine, came to me in 1999 with this idea of a millennium project, that April 9 be declared Vimy Ridge Day. His initiative and great efforts over the last couple of years have provided tremendous support for this initiative.

I also want to thank the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, who knows very well how much she has helped me with this bill.

I also want to thank the ministers of the Crown, who have indicated their strong support for this bill, the Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command to Pierre Berton to the veterans associations and so many other people and organizations. They all have come forward and have said that this is the right thing to do.

I will not use my entire 20 minutes. I hope, with everybody's co-operation, that we can dispense with this issue today. In fact I believe, based on the response at committee and second reading, that there is a broad consensus to move forward.

I want to continue by asking this question. Why do we want to remember war in any of its forms, not just Vimy Ridge? It certainly is not to glorify war. Rather it is to remember those who sacrificed their lives, their bodies and their minds for freedom. Also we never want to forget the horror, tragedy and the heroism of war, and that forever we think carefully about entering the precincts of war again.

Why pick Vimy Ridge? After all Canadians have been involved in many great battles and in many terrible wars. In the first world war, names like the Somme, Ypres and Passchendaele hold strong memories for many. However Vimy Ridge stands out because it was the first time Canadians from all parts of the country fought together, under a Canadian commander. In fact every region of the country was represented among the 100,000 soldiers who were assembled for the very difficult task of taking Vimy Ridge. I look forward to the comments of my colleague from the riding of Kootenay—Columbia whose grandfather was there.

The fact that we lost 4,000 soldiers, including 10,000 casualties, was a huge number. When we consider that 150,000 French soldiers had been lost in previous efforts to take that ridge, this pales in comparison to the efforts and losses of previous attempts to take Vimy Ridge. It underscores the brilliance with which the Canadians undertook to seize that ridge from the Germans.

I could give my opinion on different things, but I think it is best if I tell the House in the words of people who were at Vimy Ridge, like David Debassige, the father of Gus Debassige, who was an aboriginal soldier from Manitoulin Island. There were people like Duncan McPhee, who came from the small town of Webbwood in my riding. Like all the others, he was a very young man. His town has honoured his memory with a piece in their local history book.

A female friend of his later wrote a beautiful poem in his memory. I will excerpt only a couple of verses at this point. I would point out that Duncan McPhee was actually born in Quebec and moved to northern Ontario with his family in pursuit of a career in the logging industry. She said:

He went on to the battle fields, He fought the deadly foe, Our brave Canadian soldier Was not afraid to go. He left his home and country His friends and all those nigh He gave his life for freedom He was not afraid to die.

This is another verse from this beautiful poem:

A place is vacant in our home Which never can be filled He died out in the trenches 'Twas there Our Saviour willed. He left his home and country To battle for the right, Our brave Canadian soldier Was not afraid to fight.

His female friend had to stay home and learn of the tragedy of his loss through the news or by telegram.

There are other stories. I think it would be appropriate at this time to read a piece from an essay done by a high school student, Joel Ralph from Sudbury, who in 1999 was a grade 11 student at Lockerby Composite School As a young person, he tried to imagine what it was like to be there. I commend the entire essay to the House and hope Joel will forgive me if I can only read a short piece of it right now. In part of his essay, as he helps us to try to imagine what it was like, he says:

The dawn of that cold and snowy April 9th would be greeted by one of the greatest explosions in history. The men in the trenches waiting for the attack to begin heard the sound of a single artillery gunfire and then 982 more heavy artillery pieces and 150 machine guns opened fire in unison. The sound was deafening and can only be described by those who were there.

The unsuspecting Germans, who did not expect an attack for at least a week, were caught completely off guard as the shells fell among them. The Canadians moved quickly forward behind the barrage and were at the summit of Vimy Ridge by noon.

The victory was one of the only decisive victories in the entire war and was to become the model of the final attacks of 1918. The Canadians suffered accordingly: some 4,000 dead of 10,000 casualties. Nevertheless, the attack proved the Canadians to be the best army in the world and they accordingly would form the iron tip of the spearhead that would end the war in 1918.

The day the Canadians attacked Vimy Ridge was the day Canada was born. For those troops who had taken part in the attack, some who had only been in Canada less than a month before signing up to fight, they were all Canadians. The name “Canada” on their shoulders would be the knot that held them together. The troops came from Nova Scotia to Montreal, Ottawa to Winnipeg, Regina to Vancouver, even the Northwest, and everywhere else in between.

These were Canadians who bonded together and found a comradeship that could only be found in the deepest trench or the biggest crater. They would fight together and go home to Canada together, those who survived.

That morning when they set out to seize Vimy Ridge, they were Commonwealth soldiers, but when they reached the summit they were Canadians.

I thank Joel Ralph for that.

I want to allow others to have time to make their comments. I am humbled by this opportunity to have a chance to pursue a citizen's initiative. I really believe that it will be some years before I truly have a chance to appreciate the import of what might seem a token acknowledgement of a great battle. Indeed, as a member of Parliament, Mr. Speaker, I am sure you notice, as I do, that the spirit of remembrance is getting stronger and stronger in this country.

The essay by this young person and the letters which I receive from classes of kids indicate to me that the work done by our veterans and legions deserves this offering that we recognize one important battle, a battle that Canadians first fought together, a battle that we can use as a symbol for all battles.

I very much appreciate the expressions of support from the members in this place. I look forward to hearing what other members have to say throughout this hour.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

December 5th, 2002 / 10:05 a.m.
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Tony Tirabassi Liberal Niagara Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. Pursuant to its orders of reference of Thursday, October 10, 2002, the committee has considered Bill C-227, an act respecting a national day of remembrance of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, and agreed on Thursday, November 28, 2002, to report it without amendment.

Vimy Ridge Day ActRoutine Proceedings

October 10th, 2002 / 10:10 a.m.
See context


Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma—Manitoulin, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-227, an act respecting a national day of remembrance of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1, I ask that the bill be reinstated at the same stage that it was when the session broke, which was that it had concluded second reading and was referred to the heritage committee. I appreciate the agreement of the House at that time.

I just want to point out that the Battle of Vimy Ridge, which took place on April 9, 1917, was a turning point in World War I. The Canadians, who fought together with numerous battalions for the first time and under Canadian command, took Vimy Ridge, which was a turning point in World War I, and earned Canada a place at the table of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

I want to thank Bob Manuel of Elliot Lake for his great effort to bring a citizen's initiative like this forward. For greater clarity, April 9 of each year would not be a statutory holiday but a day of recognition of this very important historical event.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)