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Justin Trudeau, British royals pay homage to fallen Canadian soldiers at Vimy Ridge

Click to play video: 'Governor General, Prince Charles lay ceremonial wreaths at Vimy Ridge memorial' Governor General, Prince Charles lay ceremonial wreaths at Vimy Ridge memorial
WATCH ABOVE: Governor General, Prince Charles lay ceremonial wreaths at Vimy Ridge memorial – Apr 9, 2017

VIMY RIDGE, France – Canadians who died at Vimy Ridge helped shape Canada into a nation committed to peace, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Sunday at the commemorative ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Trudeau was among the dignitaries to speak at the ceremony at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in northern France, where as many as 25,000 people came to honour the Canadians who died in the First World War.

Vimy was the most successful part of the Battle of Arras in April 1917, as the Canadians pushed up and captured the strategically important ridge from the Germans.

READ MORE: The Battle of Hill 70: Canada’s forgotten Vimy Ridge

Many people in the crowd used umbrellas to guard against the hot sun – different from 100 years ago when soldiers here faced rain and sleet in battle. The ceremony was marked by performances from different singers and actors who have taken on the roles of different historic figures who were at Vimy.

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The area around the memorial was also lined with hundreds of empty black combat boots, representing those who died.

“As I see the faces gathered here – veterans, soldiers, caregivers, so many young people – I can’t help but feel a torch is being passed,” Trudeau said in his speech. “One hundred years later, we must say this, together. And we must believe it: Never again.”

Before the prime minister spoke, Gov. Gen. Johnston told the crowd that the Vimy monument symbolizes the enduring friendship between Canada and France, underscored by the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who helped liberate the country.

“Those spires stand for peace and for freedom,” Johnston said. “They stand for justice and hope. And they remind us that one cannot exist without the other.”

READ MORE: Justin Trudeau visits France for 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge

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WATCH: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau , French President Francois Hollande, Governor General David Johnston along with the British royals toured the tunnel system beneath Vimy Ridge.
Click to play video: 'Trudeau, Hollande, British royals given tour of tunnels beneath Vimy Ridge' Trudeau, Hollande, British royals given tour of tunnels beneath Vimy Ridge
Trudeau, Hollande, British royals given tour of tunnels beneath Vimy Ridge – Apr 9, 2017

Prince Charles – who was accompanied by his sons Prince William and Prince Harry – commended Canada for its sacrifice during the war.

“(The Canadians) succeeded in seizing the vital high ground of Vimy – a task in which many others before them had failed,” Prince Charles said.

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The Duke of Cambridge, right, and Prince Harry leave the stage after placing poppies next to a pair of boots during a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge at the WWI Canadian National Vimy Memorial in Givenchy-en-Gohelle, France on Sunday, April 9, 2017. AP Photo/Virginia Mayo
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Britain's Charles , Prince of Wales, right, Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Britain's Prince Harry visit the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in Vimy, near Arras, northern France, as part of the commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, a World War I battle which was a costly victory for Canada but one that helped shape the former British colony's national identity, Sunday, April 9, 2017. Philippe Huguen/Pool Photo via AP
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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Britain's Prince Harry, right, stand during the commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge at the WWI Canadian National Vimy Memorial in Vimy, France, Sunday, April 9, 2017. Philippe Huguen/Pool Photo via AP
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French President Francois Hollande, 2nd left, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his wife Sophie Gregoire, center, and son Xavier visit the WWI Canadian National Vimy Memorial in Vimy, France Sunday, April 9, 2017. The commemorative ceremony at the memorial honors Canadian soldiers who were killed or wounded during the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917. Philippe Huguen/Pool Photo via AP
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French President Francois Hollande, center right, and Governor General of Canada David Johnston walk past an honor guard as part of the commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge at the WWI Canadian National Vimy Memorial in Vimy, France, Sunday, April 9, 2017. Philippe Huguen/Pool Photo via AP
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From left to right : Britain's Prince Harry, Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Francois Hollande, Governor General of Canada David Johnston and Britain's Charles, Prince of Wales, attend the commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge at the WWI Canadian National Vimy Memorial in Vimy, France, Sunday, April 9, 2017. Philippe Huguen/Pool Photo via AP
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French President Francois Hollande, right, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walk in the Canadian WWI military cemetery in Vimy, near Arras, northern France, as part of the commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, a World War I battle which was a costly victory for Canada but one that helped shape the former British colony's national identity, Sunday, April 9, 2017. (. Philippe Huguen/Pool Photo via AP
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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Francois Hollande visit the Cabaret-Rouge cemetery near Vimy Ridge, Sunday, April 9, 2017 near Arras, France. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
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Canadian Mounted Police salute as French President Francois Hollande, left, Governor General of Canada David Johnston, center, and Britain's Charles, Prince of Wales, center right, arrive at the WWI Canadian National Vimy Memorial in Vimy, near Arras, northern France, to attend the commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, a World War I battle which was a costly victory for Canada but one that helped shape the former British colony's national identity, Sunday, April 9, 2017. Philippe Huguen/Pool Photo via AP
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A French police officer stands guard at a Cabaret-Rouge cemetery near Vimy Ridge before a visit by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Francois Hollande Sunday, April 9, 2017 near Arras, France. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

“However, victory came at an unbearably heavy cost. This was, and remains, the single bloodiest day in Canadian military history. Yet Canadians displayed a strength of character and commitment to one another that is still evident today. They did not waver. This was Canada at its best. … ”

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Earlier in the day, hundreds of citizens from this French city of Arras turned out in a heartfelt display of thanks to Canada and the thousands of Canadian soldiers who fought and died at nearby Vimy Ridge.

Arras Mayor Frederic Leturque thanked those other countries whose soldiers participated in the battle a century ago: Australians and British, New Zealanders and South Africans.

But he saved a special thanks for Canada, telling Trudeau and the hundreds of others assembled that the Canadians’ actions at Vimy was a turning point for the city – and for all of France.

 

 

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