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While the idea to create a tomb of the Unknown for Canada dates back to the First World War, concrete action did not take place until 1996 when Jean-Yves Bronze and Dr. Robert Bernier sent a letter to the prime minister of Canada soliciting his support for this initiative. In a subsequent letter to the Department of National Defence, Bronze statement could have applied to any country: “The tomb of the Canadian Unknown Soldier will become a national site of memory to Canada’s contribution during times of war. Half of the Canadian population no longer has any memory links with Canada’s history and its important participation in the two large world conflicts during this century. Here is a magnificent consciousness-raising project to a determining page of our history. The repatriation project of a Canadian unknown soldier constitutes a powerful symbol of national unity. It demands of itself a memory of Canadians, of sacrifices consented by previous generations to affirm Canadian unity.” In 1998, the proposal was confirmed as a millennium project of the Royal Canadian Legion and of the government of Canada. It was decided that the soldier was to come from the Vimy Ridge area – due to its strong association with the ‘birth of the Canadian nation’ and that it was the first time in the Great War that all four Canadian divisions fought as a united force. In May 2000, an unidentified body was chosen from Cabaret Rouge British War Cemetery at Souchez, France and was interred at the foot of the National War Memorial in Ottawa. One of the most important aspects of the project was the design of the sarcophagus. As part the terms of reference for a national competition, it stated that its design was to be based on the altar of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France. Shown in the photograph are details of the sarcophagus of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that was unveiled at the National War Memorial on 28 May 2000. The sculptor was Mary-Ann Liu from Mission, British Columbia.
On this day, 28 May 2022, we commemorate the 22nd anniversary of the burial of Canada's Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, Ontario.
André M. Levesque