British Columbia

Documentary series revisits Canadian sites affected by wars

Remembrance Day ceremonies tend to focus on the battlegrounds of Europe but a new documentary series explores locations in Canada that played an important role in the First and Second World Wars.

'A lot of our Canadian war heritage is based on places overseas,' says producer-director

Valcartier Quebec served as the sole training centre for Canada's expeditionary forces in the First World War. (War Memories Across Canada)

Remembrance Day ceremonies tend to focus on the battlegrounds of Europe, like Vimy Ridge and Juno Beach, where Canadians fought and died in two world wars.

A new documentary series, to be screened in Victoria and Ottawa, shifts the focus to locations in Canada that played an important role in the First and Second World Wars.

"A lot of our Canadian war heritage is based on places overseas," producer and director Geoffrey Bird said. 

The 26 short documentaries in War Memories Across Canada profile historical sites including:

War Memories Across Canada will be screened at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa on Nov. 10.

Selected excerpts from the series will also be featured at the Royal B.C. Museum's Remembrance commemoration events on Nov. 11.

It will also be screened at the Canadian War Museum, Nov. 10.

Bar U Ranch near Longview Alberta, now a National Historic Site, provided Percheron horses to the British Army for use in the First World War. (War Memories Across Canada)

Inspired by tourism work

Bird, who is a professor and director at Royal Roads University's school of tourism and hospitality, said the documentary project was inspired by his work as a guide at the Vimy Ridge memorial in France long ago, as well as his later doctoral research on the D-Day landing beaches of Normandy.

He was struck by the power of both sites in France, especially the impact they had on people who visited, particularly Canadians.

Many people travel to see the open spaces of Normandy's beaches every year to learn about what happened in the summer of 1944, Bird said.

"The story is layered over top, and it results in this amazing experience for people, in terms of thinking about the past and feeling a connection with the past."

Over 80,000 men from China disembarked here on their way to France to ease the Allies’ labour burden. (War Memories Across Canada)

For the documentary series, Bird sought out sites across Canada that were affected by wars.

He also sought local voices to recount the cultural memory of the sites, passed down through families, local guides, Parks Canada employees, artists or folk singers.

"They become our guardians of memory," Bird said.

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Island


To hear the full story, click on the audio labelled: Documentaries examine war's imprint on Canadian soil

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