Feds dropped ball with First World War centenary commemorations: historians


OTTAWA — Some of Canada’s top military historians say the federal government missed an important opportunity to commemorate the First World War’s centenary and that its efforts over the past four years paled in comparison to those of Britain, Australia and others.

Canada marked the 100th anniversary Sunday of the end of the four-year conflict, which claimed the lives of more than 60,000 Canadians and forever changed the country.

Veterans Affairs Canada says it has spent $13 million since 2014 on different events commemorating the war — with most of the money dedicated to last year’s high-profile ceremony for the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge.

But several respected military historians — Jack Granatstein, David Bercuson and Mark Humphries — say besides Vimy, the federal government has dropped the ball in commemorating the war and using the centenary as an opportunity to teach Canadians about their history.

The historians say the British government set a high bar by budgeting 100 million pounds, or about $170 million, for ceremonies, documentaries, school visits to the battlefields and other events — while Australia, France and Germany also did more.

Despite the criticism, Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan says he has personally seen more Canadians — especially young people — attending Remembrance Day events and other commemorations.

The Canadian Press