Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his family attended a church service Sunday as he continued his tour of northern France to mark the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Holding the hand of his seven-year-old daughter Rachel, Harper entered thechurch in the town of Vimy for a special Easter Sunday service, along with his wife Loreen and 10-year-old son Ben.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper, with his children Ben and Rachel, visits a WWI Canadian cemetery near the Vimy War Memorial at Vimy Ridge, France, on Sunday. ((Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press))

A host of other dignitaries, includingformer governor general Adrienne Clarkson and interim RCMP commissioner Bev Busson, were also on hand, as were dozens of veterans from the Second World War.

Senator Norman Atkins, whose father was a gunner in the famous battle, also made the trip to Vimy. He read an entry of his father's diary to the CBC's Alison Crawford: "They got up early in the morning, fired a few rounds.The Canadians were winning, uh, flying, and they captured a number of prisoners."

After the service, the prime minister and his family travelled to the site of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. They toured a cemetery as well as the surrounding vibrant green meadows, whichto this day are still marked by enormous craters andtrenches.

The family of four later visited nearby Arras where they watched the "Freedom of the City" parade, marking the entrance of the Canadian Army Corps into the town in April 1917 following the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Soldiers lead parade

Canadian soldiers from all 50 regiments that served at Vimy led a parade through the streets and the prime minister was greeted in the city square by Mayor Jean-Marie Vanlerenberghe.

Harper later addressed a crowd 5,000 in the square, telling them that Canada and France still have troops defending freedom and human rights nine decades later.

As many as 25,000 people were expected to be in attendancewhen the Queen rededicates the memorial on Monday afternoon.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during official ceremonies commemorating the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge on Sunday in Arras, northern France. ((Michel Spingler/Associated Press))

Canada spent $20 million restoring the massive twin-tower limestone monument, which lists the names of Canadian soldiers who died in France and whose remains have never been found.

Steve Harris, chief historian for the Canadian Forces, said the monument, built in 1936,needed every penny of those repairs.

"You could see yellow streaks. It looked like rust, and you could see the odd crack," he said during his visit to Arras.

In Ottawa, a unique sunset ceremony marked the anniversary. Nearby lights from the Ch√Ęteau Laurier hotel and street lightsdimmedso that spectatorscould see a specialilluminationof themonument honouringCanada's war dead.

Starting at 7:53 p.m. ET,for 10 seconds at a time, the names of the 3,598 Canadians who died during the Battle of Vimy Ridge were projected onto the monument.