9.3 Official Monuments & Canadian War Memorials

Official memorials serve as reminders to the public of significant historical events and people (Bonder, 2009). According to the Government of Canada (July 6, 2020), official memorials consist of public monuments, ceremonies, or testaments that pay tribute to important persons or events. Remembrance Day, observed each year in Canada on November 11, serves to remember both past and ongoing war-related sacrifices (NSLA, n.d.). It is celebrated through national ceremonies, the wearing of poppies, and the reading of “In Flander’s Fields” by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae (NSLA, n.d.).

War memorials are another type of official memorial used around the world to commemorate the events of passed wars and the lives that were lost. The Canadian War Museum, for example, memorializes the lives of Canadians who have been impacted across all wars throughout history (Canadian War Museum, n.d.). The “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier”, near the parliament buildings in Ottawa, holds the unidentified remains of a Canadian solider repatriated on May 23, 2000 (Canada, n.d.-d) (there are similar memorials around the globe, including a Tomb of the Unknown Solider in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC). Some of the most significant war memorials in Canada honour those who lost their lives in WWI. For instance, the Peace Tower of Canada’s Parliament Hill was built to memorialize WWI losses and includes Books of Remembrance that contain the names of those who have died fighting for Canada since Canadian Confederation (Canadian War Museum, n.d.). There are also Canadian memorials that honour specific groups of veterans or other people from Canada who served in various wars (e.g., The National Aboriginal Veterans Monument, The Nurses’ Memorial).


View the following slideshow to see different examples of Canadian War memorials:

Canadian war memorials reinforce the notion of patriotism and a common sense of belonging, tied to military service and the lives lost in the battle for the freedom of the nation (Powell, 2018). WWI monuments, especially those constructed in the years between the two World Wars, mark the start of an age of memorialization, which framed the War as part of a national coming of age. At the end of WWI, many Canadians had family members who would never return from the battlefield, as dead bodies were not brought home. An effort was made to identify and register all graves for British Commonwealth citizens (which included Canadian’s) and the moving of their bodies to Imperial War Cemeteries in Europe (Manitoba, n.d.). These factors precipitated the construction of Canadian war memorials both abroad and at home (Manitoba, n.d.).

WWI memorials were meant to represent the values of the time in which they were built and the views of the people who commissioned and built them. These memorials provided a justification of the war, consoled citizens, and helped construct Canadian nationalism (Powell, 2018). The official site of the Battle at Vimy Ridge (1917), the eventual location of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France, serves as part of the foundation for Canadian national identity. The battle has been (and still is) referred to as “the birth of a nation” and as “Canada’s coming of age”, because it was the first battle in which members from all Canadian troops fought side-by-side as a single Corp and succeeded in their mission (CBC News, April 6, 2017). According to Powell (2018, p. 40), “the Great War provided an opportunity to create a national consciousness that would unite a deeply divided nation under a single Canadian identity with a single collective national history.”

Click the link to learn more about the importance of remembering and memoriali
zing war:

The World Remembers

VIDEO: Why the Battle of Vimy Ridge Matters 

The following video provides some history on the Battle of Vimy Ridge in WWI and explains why it is important to remember that event.


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On Death and Dying Copyright © 2022 by Jacqueline Lewis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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