Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE ICING (Prime Minister):
Mr. Speaker, in the Speech which His Excellency the Governor General was pleased to make to both Houses of Parliament at the opening of the session, mention was made of a gift by the Republic of Fi ance
to the Dominion of Canada of a tract of land on Vimy Ridge. His Excellency referred to this gift in the following words:
The Government of France has graciously offered to the Canadian Government a tract of land of 250 acres on Vimy Ridge, at the site selected for the erection by Canada of a monument commemorating the exploits of Canadian troops in the Great War. This gift has been gratefully accepted, and a bill approving the agreement has been duly introduced in the French Parliament. An appropriate resolution expressing Canada's appreciation of the action of the French Government will be offered for your acceptance.
There would appear to be something peculiarly appropriate and gratifying in the circumstance that His Excellency, whose name and fame are so inseparably associated with the achievements of the Canadian army at Vimy Ridge, should be the one whose privilege it was to announce to the members of our parliament this gift of the Republic of France to the Dominion of Canada.
I have the honour, Mr. Speaker, to move:
That it be resolved by the House of Commons,
That Parliament do approve the acceptance by the Government of Canada of the gift graciously made by the Republic of France of a tract of land 250 acres in extent on Vimy Ridge at the site selected for the erection by Canada, of a monument commemorating the exploits of Canadian soldiers in the Great War and in so doing records its sense of gratitude for and its high appreciation of the motives which prompted France to associate herself with a project so dear to the hearts of the Canadian people.
Hon. members will recall that in the consideration last session of the appropriation for the Battlefields Memorial Commission a general wish was expressed by the leaders of the different parties in this House that if at all possible the commission should acquire a tract of land on Vimy Ridge which would form a suitable environment for the monument to be erected at that place in commemoration of the heroism of Canada's soldiers overseas. It was in pursuance of that wish that you, Mr. Speaker, during the interval since last session, visited France and conducted on behalf of the Battlefields Memorial Commission negotiations with the French government for the acquisition of this tract of land. The fact that we have received as a gift, what we should gladly have acquired by purchase, while due to the generosity of France, which we acknowledge in the fullest measure, is no doubt also due in part to your well-known tact and diplomacy in dealing with international affairs.
I would like to read to the House the text of the agreement with respect to this grant of land. The agreement was drafted on the 5th December, 1922, and concluded as between the French government, represented by Mr. Charles Reibel, Minister of Liberated Regions
on the one part, and the government of Canada, represented by Hon. Rodolphe Lemieux, Speaker of the House of Commons on the other part. It reads:
Whereas the Government of Canada desires to erect on Vimy Ridge (Pas-de-Calais), in the centre of a park which they intend to lay out, and the maintenance of which they will assume, a monument to the memory of the Canadian soldiers who fell on the field of honour in France during the war of 1914-1918, the French Government put at their disposal the necessary land which will remain the property of the French Republic.
Whereas, on the other hand, France desires to associate herself in the tribute which Canada wishes to pay to the victims of the great war, and as moreover, the land concerned, comprised in the red zone, is to be acquired by France in conformity with'section 46 of subsection 7 of the Act of the 17th April 1919.
The French Government grants, freely and for all time to the Government of Canada, the use and free disr posal of a parcel of land of 100 hectares on Vimy Ridge in the Department of Pas-de-Calais, the boundaries of which are indicated on the plan hereto annexed.
The Government of Canada pledge themselves to lay out this land into a park and to erect thereon a monument to the memory of the Canadian soldiers fallen on the field of honour in France during the war of 1914-1918.
They moreover pledge themselves to provide for the maintenance of the park and monument, in default of which the French Government would resume the free disposal of the park, except however the land on which the memorial is erected.
The land granted to the Government of Canada by this agreement will be exempt of all taxes and imposts. The French Government will take thfc responsibility of all difficulties with the borderers, except those arising from damages caused by the personnel or the material belonging to the Government of Canada and kept in France for the maintenance and protection of the park and monument.
There shall be obligatorily mentioned on the monument the names of all units of the same class of the Canadian army having fought on Vimy Ridge during the same period of time.
This Agreement will become effective by the passing, by Parliament, of a bill approving its provisions which the French Government has laid on the Table of the House. .
In testimony whereof, on the day and year above mentioned, this agreement was drawn in four copies, each copy having the same force and effect as an original by the French Government represented by Charles Reibel, Minister of Liberated Regions, and the Government of Canada represented by Mr. Rodolphe Lemieux, Speaker of the House of Commons of Canada.
It is the purpose of the Battlefields Memorial Commission to erect, in all, eight monuments, three of them in Belgium, the other five in France. Of the eight monuments to be erected, the most important, indeed one of the most imposing and noble monuments in the world, will be the Allward monument to be erected on Vimy Ridge. As mentioned in the agreement I have just read,
this monument will record the names of other units which fought at Vimy Ridge of a like standing with the Canadian army. There is, however, another record to be placed on that monument which will, I imagine, touch even more deeply the hearts of all Canadians. It is the names of some 20,000 Canadians who were numbered among the missing, and for whom there are not individual graves in either France or Belgium. Happily their names will for all time be recorded on this monument to be erected at Vimy.
I need not say anything to the House of the significance of Vimy Ridge. There were many battles fought in the great war; and for many purposes, it would be unwise to seek in any way to draw comparisons between them. This possibly may be said of Vimy which could not be said of the others: that it was at Vimy that the Canadian corps first fought as a unit, composed of men from every part of Canada. It was at Vimy that the Canadian army was welded into an efficient fighting organization, so strong that no opposing armies could resist it; and that Canadian soldiers were able to achieve what no other army had been able to do in the meeting of the enemy at that point. Vimy Ridge stands as one of the world's great altars of sacrifice. As one reflects upon the significance of the Great War, one cannot but feel a resemblance, albeit on a world's scale, between that colossal tragedy and the tragedy of 1900 years ago, when the best life which the world has ever known was sacrificed through the materialism of its day that mankind might enjoy a wider measure of spiritual freedom. In the tragedy of the late war, it was not one life only, it was an appreciable portion of humanity, which was sacrificed for the sake of the larger freedom of mankind. History will look upon the battlegrounds of the Great War as the places of sacrifice. Among the number, no altar will be more conspicuous through the years than that of Vimy Ridge.
There is something which is more deserving of recognition in the gift of the French Republic. It is not so many years ago, as history records time, that Canada was a part of France in the new world, and that, in what was considered enlightened opinion of the day, Canada was referred to as so many acres of snow. To-day, under world conditions as transformed as any the human imagination can well conceive, the Republic of France, in a spirit of gratitude, grants to our Dominion, no longer her possession, not a few acres of land covered with snow, in some
remote and unknown part, but a tract of land, as sacred as any in Europe, consecrated with the blood of human sacrifice of Canada's own sons in the cause of the world's freedom. This is the gift which we to-day as a parliament acknowledge with gratitude to France, and this we do, deeply moved by all that it implies of a close relationship between the British and French people. We recognize in the gift this larger significance, that above and beyond all the changes that time may bring, changes of the past and uncertainties of the present, there is an enduring friendship between the French and the British peoples, which stands for all that is best in the maintenance of human liberty, and the freedom of the world.
Subtopic: FRANCE'S GIFT OF MEMORIAL SITE GRATEFULLY ACCEPTED