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April 15, 2016

Passing the Torch of Remembrance at Encounters with Canada

“Being here for Vimy week made me realize how privileged I am to live in this country and has made me so much more grateful for what the brave men and women did for us all those years ago and also for the people still serving today. The highlight of my week was talking and connecting with the veterans. It is something I that I will remember for the rest of my life!” – Keaton McLean, Florenceville-Bristol, NB

This quote exemplifies the sentiments of all the lucky Canadian teens who recently attended EWC’s Vimy: Canada’s Coming of Age week. Offered in collaboration with The Vimy Foundation, some 130 students, from every corner of the country, travelled to Ottawa to explore the significance of the victory at Vimy Ridge.

During this jam-packed week, participants had the privilege of exploring Canada’s participation in the First World War, with a particular focus on the remarkable story of Vimy. The adventure began on Monday morning, with a VIP visit of Parliament and the Peace Tower. When they returned to the Centre, participants took part in diverse workshops, where they learned more about Canada’s Involvement in the First World War and the path to Vimy, and the nation’s mobilization efforts for recruitment, enlistment and training of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Participants also had the opportunity to visit historically important and majestic places, such as the Canadian War Museum and the incredible Diefenbunker. In addition to admiring the many exhibits and impressive artifacts, students took part in a workshop on conflict resolution. They also learned about the contributions of women on the homefront and overseas, and how to decode battle maps used by generals and troops on the frontlines of battle during WWI. Fun-filled days and fantastic learning opportunities!

Meeting veterans Ivan Fenton and Alex Polowin provided one of the most touching and memorable moments of the week. Mr. Fenton, who served 35 years in the Canadian military before retiring in 2007, very humbly shared his experiences commanding troop formations of up to 10,000 soldiers, and leading a wide range of missions, from exercises across Canada and in Germany, to deployments in Cyprus and Kosovo. Participants were very moved by his narrative, and also by that of Mr. Polowin, who served in the Battle of the Atlantic on the HMCS Huron and at DDay in 1944, as part of the Number 10 destroyer flotilla.

But the highlight of the week was the special memorial service on April 7, at the Peacekeeping Monument in Ottawa. Two EWC participants read the Commitment of Remembrance in both official languages and all were able to place poppies on the wreath that Vimy had ordered for the occasion.

Thus in one emotional and symbolic week at Encounters with Canada, Vimy: Canada’s Coming of Age participants were able to deepen their knowledge of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and of its significance to our Canadian identity, while making friends from across Canada and bringing home memories of a lifetime.