Transportation committee backs Vimy Memorial Bridge renaming
Matthew Pearson, Ottawa Citizen
Published on: October 1, 2014, Last Updated: October 1, 2014 11:40 AM EDT
More than a dozen members of the Royal Canadian Legion gave Ottawa’s transportation committee a standing ovation Wednesday after councillors approved a plan to rename the Strandherd-Armstrong bridge after the epic battle of Vimy Ridge.
Not long after the $48-million span over the Rideau River opened in July, two local Legion branches jointly suggested calling it “Vimy Bridge.” But, based on comments received during a 30-day public consultation, the city’s commemorative naming committee recommended the name “Vimy Memorial Bridge.”
The committee unanimously agreed and recommended that council do the same.
Barrhaven Legion president Ernie Hughes offered a quick history lesson about the famous First World War battle before telling councillors the bridge renaming honours veterans past, present and future.
Asked by Coun. Diane Deans if the bridge was a significant enough structure to honour such a deep sacrifice on the part of veterans, Hughes replied: “Yes, ma’am, it is.”
“I think it’s perfect,” he said.
Because the bridge spans the Rideau Canal — a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as a Canadian Heritage River, and because it connects two entrances to the nation’s capital, the veterans say the structure is more than a small local bridge connecting two communities.
The amount of traffic going by and over this bridge on a daily basis, both local and tourist, would mean that a lot of people would be reminded of Vimy and the sacrifices made by Canadian troops, the veterans said.
Renaming the new bridge is also seen as an appropriate way to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War and the battle of Vimy Ridge, led by Canadians to one of their greatest victories, the veterans said.
The battle of Vimy Ridge is seen as a defining moment in Canada’s history.
The three-day battle took place in northern France in April 1917 and claimed 3,598 Canadian lives. Another 7,000 were wounded, but the victory was significant.
Support for the proposed renaming wasn’t universal. The city received a total of 293 e-mails, two letters, four telephone calls and a petition signed by 352 individuals. Of these 651 responses, 560 were in support and 91 were opposed to the suggested name.
The city’s south end is also home to the Veterans Memorial Highway and John McCrae Secondary School, named after the First World War poet and doctor who wrote In Flanders Fields.