Surreyites, along with other Canadians, honoured in 2017 two significant anniversaries in the history of this nation: the Battle of Vimy Ridge, and Canada’s 150th birthday.
April 9th – officially “Vimy Ridge Day” – marked the 100th anniversary of the battle, arguably the defining event in Canada’s history. It happened in 1917, during the Great War, in France. More than 3,500 Canadian soldiers lost their lives in that battle, in their successful campaign to take the ridge.
In Fleetwood, an oak tree commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge was planted in Francis Park. It was a descendant of a tree that had been destroyed by artillery bombardment during the historic battle. A soldier found some acorns and sent them home to Scarborough, Ontario.
Fleetwood-Port Kells Liberal MP Ken Hardie heard about the saplings.
“I bought one and brought it here,” he told Black Press.
Another sapling was planted during a ceremony as Surrey Centre Cemetery in Cloverdale. Cloverdale-Langley City Liberal MP John Aldag and Surrey city councillor Dave Woods planted that one.
Two Surrey residents were killed in battle at Vimy Ridge: Frank Donald Aish, of Hazelmere, and Harry Triggs of Tynehead.
Also, at Veterans Square in Cloverdale, hundreds of people commemorated the injured and fallen Canadian soldiers who fought at Vimy Ridge.
Surreyites also celebrated Canada’s seasquicentennial, or 150th birthday, in style.
(Leah McAuley and Bill Duncan of Surrey at the 2017 Canada Day celebration in Cloverdale.)
City hall billed Surrey Canada Day as Western Canada’s largest Canada Day celebration, which was held at the Bill Reid Millennium Amphitheatre, at 176th Street and 64th Avenue – on July 1, of course.
“Surrey is excited to host a Canada Day celebration that is bigger and better than ever,” Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner said at the time. “This year’s expanded Canada 150 zone will give attendees the opportunity to share and celebrate their national pride among tens of thousands of proud Canadians.”
That would be tens of thousands more people than lived in this area back in 1867, when the Dominion of Canada came into being on July 1 of that year. British Columbia didn’t join until July 20, 1871, making it Canada’s sixth province, and Surrey didn’t become a municipality until Nov. 10, 1879.
Fifty years ago, Surrey’s 1967 Centennial Celebration featured the installment of the Surrey Centennial Totem Pole, where it stands today, 50 years later, in the forest beside the old city hall off Highway 10 in Newton.
It was carved by John Edward Neel. A bronze plaque beneath it reads: “The Surrey Columbian Centennial Totem: A joint endeavour of the Surrey Columbian and its readers, this totem pole was erected in 1967 in observance of Canada’s Centennial and to preserve the art and legend of the Salish Indians.”
This year, Andrew Todd and Nicola Murray of AT Conservators Ltd. were hired by the city to bring the totem pole back to its original glory.
(Andrew Todd and Nicola Murray of AT Conservators Ltd. survey the work needing to be done to restore the Surrey Centennial Totem Pole in Newton. Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
“We’ve done the cleaning that was required to get years of mold growth and mildew and moss and dirt, and there’s a big forest cover around here so there was quite a bit of deposit on the surfaces, so that had to be cleaned off,” Todd told the Now-Leader in June.
“It’s stood up amazingly well. It’s in good condition, strong condition.”