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In April of this year, I travelled to France with 205 students and 32 staff from 12 high schools in the Ottawa Catholic School Board to pay our respects at the 100th anniversary celebration of the battle of Vimy Ridge. This battle is considered by many to be the most significant Canadian contribution in World War I. It is often referred to as the day that Canada truly became a nation. This nationhood came at a tremendous cost, with 3,598 Canadians making the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

On our trip, the students were assigned a soldier to research and represent at the commemorative ceremony. They created a tribute to their soldiers, and had the opportunity to pay their respects at their soldier’s final resting place.

Our group also had the opportunity to visit the Canadian memorial at Passchendaele and attend the Menin Gate ceremony at Ypres.

A hundred years later, we discovered that the memory of those Canadians who helped to liberate the towns of Ypres and Vimy have not faded. Their legacy lives on through the touching memorials, the stories of the locals, the numerous museums dedicated to them, and the passion of our students who gave these men a voice one more time.

This year on Remembrance Day, what will you do with your family to stop and acknowledge the great sacrifice made by so many men and women for our peace and freedom?

Photo caption: Students at St. Mark High School planted three “Vimy Oaks” at the entrance of the school to mark the 100th Anniversary of The Battle of Vimy Ridge. The oak trees are descendants of a handful of acorns gathered by Lieutenant Leslie Miller of Scarborough, serving with the Canadian Expeditionary Force at Vimy Ridge 100 years ago. The original acorns were planted at his father’s farm in Scarborough and he named the farm “Vimy Oaks.” Today, descendants of these trees are being planted at commemorative sites throughout Canada to honour the soldiers who fought at Vimy Ridge and other battles during the First World War. They will serve as a tribute and reminder to our students for years to come of the sacrifices these young soldiers made for Canada.

Photo caption: This tree at the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial was one of the few points of cover available at the front lines. Many lives were lost at this tree.

Erin Stokes

Erin Stokes is the Department Head of Contemporary Studies at St. Joseph High School. She has led OCSB student groups on ten commemorative trips to various battlefields in Europe, including the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge.


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