As we mark 85 years since the unveiling of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, the forests and trees surrounding the national historic sites in France are nearing the end of their lifespan. It is our duty as Canadians to ensure the sustainability of these sites for future generations. The battlefield terrain, the forest and the tree canopy are vital elements to retain the site integrity, original design and intent.
Today, the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, and the Honourable Seamus O’Regan Jr., Minister of Natural Resources, announced that about 70,000 trees will be planted at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial and the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial in France as part of a 10-year forest conservation project to rejuvenate the forests.
Land projects along the First World War’s Western front are very different than those in Canada. Even 100 years later, the French soil continues to turn up dangerous remnants – like artillery and gas shells, grenades, and other First World War vestige and artifacts. We must identify and safely remove any unexploded munitions that may be still located underground and in the areas where digging is required for tree planting. This necessary work will ensure the selected areas are safe for planting and soft logging practices.
Thousands of Canadians and Newfoundlanders went to France to serve during the First World War. Many never returned. This project will ensure a fitting tribute to all Canadians and Newfoundlanders who served during the First World War.
“When you visit our memorials overseas – when you walk the grounds where Canadians and Newfoundlanders fought and died – the feeling you get sticks with you. Those towering pillars and those thousands of names at Vimy; the Caribou at Beaumont-Hamel, keeping a watchful eye over a lost generation of Newfoundland’s sons – those are hallowed grounds, and caring for them is our duty. Making sure we preserve these sites is vitally important, and this project is part of those efforts.”
The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence
“These are hallowed grounds where Newfoundlanders and Canadians bravely fought and died. They made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms and their names live eternal. We’re planting trees to watch over them and to protect these memorials from a changing climate so generations to come will continue to honour them.”
The Honourable Seamus O’Regan Jr., Minister of Natural Resources
Veterans Affairs Canada is responsible for preserving and maintaining the Canadian National Vimy Memorial and the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial in France.
The forest conservation project is a part of Veterans Affairs Canada’s ongoing commitment to ensure the integrity and maintenance of Canada’s 13 First World War memorials in Europe.
The long-term forest management plan will ensure long-term sustainability and generate many other long-term benefits, such as help address climate change-reforestation improves biodiversity and forest resilience. Forests and trees sustain life on earth. They clean our air and water, capture and store carbon from the atmosphere, and provide a home for wildlife.
Investment in Canadian memorial sites ensures their long-term sustainability and dignity. The total Government of Canada funding allocated to this project is $5.7 million over ten years. Veterans Affairs Canada and Natural Resources Canada are collaborating on this project, which is over and above the #2BillionTrees commitment.