The Canada Gate: A ‘unique project’ to commemorate the Battle of Passchendaele

An early drawing of the Passchendaele Canada Gate designed by Nancy Keating. Nancy Keating

In the heart of Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, Al Simm turns pieces of recycled metal into ornate poppies.

The poppies are a small but critical part of a towering tribute to Canadian soldiers — The Canada Gate.

As he works, Simm is well aware that the job he has in front of him is far from ordinary.

“I’m always interested in unique projects,” says Simm.

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Once it is completed, the massive double arched structure will weigh more than a metric tonne.

It’ll be an imposing structure for the commemoration of a heavy subject – Passchendaele, a battle during the First World War in the Flanders region of Belgium.

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Between Oct. 26 and Nov. 10, 1917, soldiers of the Canadian Corps launched their final attack to capture the village of Passchendaele

For Simm, honouring such a monumental battle takes a deft hand and a cautious touch.

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Memorial arch marks departure of soldiers who fought in the Great War

The Canada Gate is set to be a companion piece to The Last Steps Memorial on the Halifax waterfront, one that commemorates the 350,000 Canadian soldiers who fought overseas during the First World War.

Nancy Keating poses with a portion of the Canada Gate, a structure she designed. Ross Lord/Global News

Nancy Keating, who designed both tributes, has ancestors who fought at Passchendaele.

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“It gives you a really strong sense of value, of importance. So it’s not a job, it’s an opportunity. It’s a rare opportunity to express how I feel and how Canadians feel about their families who were there,” Keating said.

After it’s assembled, the Canada Gate will be taken apart, shipped overseas, then re-assembled and installed at Passchendaele, in time for this year’s Remembrance Day.

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