VIMY, France, April 8, 2017 /CNW/ - On the eve of the centennial of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, the Honourable Kent Hehr, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, Mr. Jean-Marc Todeschini, Minister of State for Veterans and Remembrance, and Mr. Christopher Sweeney, Chair of the Vimy Foundation, joined dignitaries, youth, donors and guests to officially open the new Visitor Education Centre at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.
The Centre's We Will Remember exhibit uses new media, artefacts and personal stories to help visitors better understand Canada and Newfoundland's service, sacrifice and experience of the First World War. Recognizing that the site and the monument are the greatest teachers of all, the building's design incorporates a wall of floor to ceiling windows allowing visitors to remain firmly grounded in a powerful landscape that still bears the scars of war.
In keeping with the Centre's educational mission, Canadian youth played a central role in the opening ceremony as hosts, performers and presenters, culminating in a moving recitation of the Commitment to Remember.
The Government of Canada committed $5 million for the new Visitor Education Centre and the Vimy Foundation also contributed $5 million thanks to generous donations from the private sector and individual Canadians.
Following the official opening, a sunset ceremony was held at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.
- Construction began in December 2015. Public Services and Procurement Canada awarded the architecture and design contracts to Robertson Martin Architects (Ottawa) and Bisson Castonguay (Quebec). The construction contract was awarded to Léon Grosse (France). The building is approximately 600 m2 and includes a main exhibit hall and an education room.
- The Visitor Education Centre at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial opens to the public at 9:00 a.m. on April 10, 2017.
- Artefacts on display in the Centre include wooden hand tools used by the Vimy Memorial's sculptor, Walter Allward, as well as an original cross from the Battle of Vimy Ridge bearing the names of 57 members of the 15th Battalion (48th Highlanders of Canada) who fell in battle, and a reproduction of the Vimy Memorial's Peace statue.
- The innovative CANADIGM Souterrain Impressions exhibit featuring 100-year-old graffiti found in tunnels near Vimy Ridge will be on display in the Centre's education room until November 2017.
- The Canadian National Vimy Memorial commemorates all Canadians who fought in the First World War and remembers by name some 11,285 Canadian soldiers killed in France whose final resting places were unknown.
- The opening of the new Visitor Education Centre is part of commemorative events marking the 100th anniversary of the First World War and the Battle of Vimy Ridge, which began on April 9, 1917.
- Events commemorating the centennial of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and the opening of the new Visitor Education Centre are part of Canada's 150th anniversary of Confederation celebrations in 2017—a pivotal milestone for Canada to connect with our past, celebrate who we are, honour our exceptional achievements and build a legacy for tomorrow.
- The Vimy Foundation was established to preserve and to promote Canada's entire First World War legacy, through its educational programs for Canadian students and its awareness building activities.
"The Canadian National Vimy Memorial stands as a symbol of our solemn pledge to remember—today, tomorrow and always. Opening the new Visitor Education Centre supports this enduring commitment by providing visitors with the history and context needed to truly understand the stories of those who bravely served during the First World War."
The Honourable Kent Hehr, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence
"We are very thankful for, and proud of, the support of corporate Canada as well as of charitable foundations, philanthropists and individual Canadians whose generous contributions helped the Vimy Foundation reach its ambitious fundraising goal. We join the Government of Canada and all Canadians in celebrating the opening of the Visitor Education Centre and commemoration of the centennial of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, a defining moment in Canadian history."
Christopher Sweeney, Chair of the Vimy Foundation
2017 is a special year of commemoration for Canada as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation and we remember the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the 75th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid and the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele.