Two teens from Edmonton and Calgary won trips to Vimy Ridge as part of an event to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
The SPIRIT of Vimy Awards, held at the Federal Building in Edmonton on Saturday, is an initiative of Alberta’s Lt.-Gov. Lois E. Mitchell. This is the first time the event has been held and it is part of a larger program related to history education.
Young people from across the province were invited to submit artwork, ranging from song to dance to visual art, which would bring the history of Vimy Ridge to life.
Fifteen finalists were selected and a panel of judges chose two winners from two different age categories.
One winner, 19- year-old Rebecca Lappa of Edmonton, is a songwriter whose grandfather was a pilot in the Second World War.
“He flew a plane over the English Channel a bunch of times. When the contest came about, I thought this would be a perfect way to talk about history,” she said.
Lappa wrote a song about the experience of a soldier named Private Pattison.
“Then I created a slideshow of pictures of him and other people that were at Vimy and put the recording to the slideshow,” she said.
“I love history. I’m a songwriter and a musician primarily. I write a lot of stuff based on history. History is very important to me because some of the best stories come from history.”
Lappa understands she has a personal connection to the military but wants to encourage all youth to take a look into Canada’s past.
“I want to remind people that things that have happened in the past are still valued. You can learn things from the past to change the future,” she said.
The other winner, 16-year-old Lloyd Templeton of Calgary, compiled a slideshow of original watercolour paintings that depicted the Battle at Vimy Ridge and laid a poem overtop.
“I’m really interested in history. I’m really interested in art. So the opportunity to learn more about a battle I didn’t know much about and improve my art skills and make something meaningful was a really good opportunity,” he said.
Templeton said he was shocked as he learned more about the battle and the number of soldiers who gave their lives. He wants other youth to take an interest as well.
“Any Canadian can connect to it, regardless of if they were involved with the military or not,” he said.
“I think anyone can make a personal tie. I think whether you’re a child of a soldier or a grandchild of a soldier or a newcomer to Canada, I think anyone can really connect to the sacrifice they made.”
Col. Kirk Gallinger, the chief of staff for the 3rd Canadian Division, is responsible for all of western Canada. He addressed the crowd Saturday afternoon about the significance of Vimy Ridge.
“It’s recognized as the birth of our nation. Vimy is an example of our nation coming together from coast to coast. It was the first time that the Canadian core – all of our divisions – fought together,” he said.
When asked whether Canadian youth are as interested as they should be in the country’s history, Gallinger said competitions like SPIRIT of Vimy makes him believe they are.
“When you see the level of response we had for this competition and you see the amount of work that went into it, the proof is there – they are engaged.”
Lt.-Gov. Mitchell said the submissions show that young people do understand the impact and importance of historical events such as Vimy Ridge.
“I am so, so proud of our youth. We must never, ever, ever judge what our youth are capable of or their empathy or their understanding,” she said.
It has not yet been decided whether the competition will be held again next year but Janet Resta, communications officer for the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, said there is hope it will continue running.