What should we make of Vimy Ridge a hundred years later? It was a staggeringly costly battle far from home in which more than 3,500 Canadians died and 7.500 were wounded. The sense of duty and raw courage required by those who were there might well make us marvel. Today some 25,000 Canadians will be on the ground to honour the sacrifice and perhaps, try to make sense of it all. Some will visit the graves of great, great relatives.
VIMY AT HOME
Here at home, the history of Vimy is a story all its own. In the early days, widows, orphans and those left alone came to grips with the terrifying bloodshed and loss by finding solace in victory. Empire and the reputed forging of a new identity for Canada were the focus. But the succeeding chasm over conscription divided Canada for decades. Robert Borden, a Toronto lawyer was prime minister. His government imposed mandatory duty on Quebecers. It inspired rioting and resentment that lasted for decades. In the sixties, the father of the current prime minister made it his business to submerge memories of military victories. For years no one, certainly not cabinet ministers, spoke of Vimy.