Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

The Vimy Myth

Apr 11, 2017

This past weekend was the centenary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and I found myself getting irritated at the number of times I heard the old cliche that Canada was born at Vimy.

Much of the journalistic and academic commentary I read about the centennial made the point that this was not true, but nonetheless the generals and the politicians repeated it like a mantra. "Canada was born here," our prime minister said in his speech at the Vimy monument in France.

In their new book, The Vimy Trap, historians Ian McKay and Jamie Swift argue that this idea is at the heart of what they call "Vimyism": “a network of ideas and symbols that centre on how Canada’s Great War experience somehow represents the country’s supreme triumph… and affirm that the war itself and anyone who fought and died in it should be unconditionally revered and commemorated – and not least because it marked the country’s birth.”

In the next issue of Geist magazine, due out soon, my books column discusses The Vimy Trap and its demolition of the myth. Look for it where you buy your magazines.