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Gratitude colours Island MP's visit to France for D-Day 80th anniversary

Rachel Blaney invited as part of Canadian delegation to D-Day anniversary

North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney was among the Canadians who were invited to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day at Juno Beach.

Blaney was joined by Second World War veterans and their families, including some veterans who fought on D-Day during the Battle of Normandy 80 years ago.

“It really struck me how grateful the residents still are for the sacrifices that Canadian soldiers made,” Blaney said. “Throughout the ceremony on Juno Beach and during the parade we walked in, we could see the gratitude they still have. We placed wreaths at six different monuments to the Canadian soldiers who died on the beach. Hundreds of people attended the ceremony or watched the parade, many with Canadian flags.”
Touring such a historic place was emotional for Blaney, especially since she was there with the people who were there making history.
“It was so special and humbling to be part of these events with people who were there,” Blaney said. “One man I was with was caught and put in a war camp in Poland. We spent time in a courtyard where 20 Canadians were killed, including an Indigenous man whose relative honoured him by singing a song in his language. I had the extreme privilege of speaking with Major-General Richard Rohmer, who is now 100 years old and flew fighter jets in the Second World War. He spoke about always learning more and finding a positive way to move forward.”
During the trip to France, Blaney and other guests took part in a short ceremony and candlelight vigil at the Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, a national ceremony at Juno Beach, and a commemorative ceremony and visit to Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery.
“It’s so incredible that a lot of these cities in France have sister cities in Germany, so they can build relationships and find a way to work through their challenges,” Blaney says. “They had to find a way to be neighbours again, and they did. The direction of fear, hate, and division always leads us on a path towards fascism and destruction. If we want to ensure this never happens again, we must remember the history and ask how we find common ground and come together as people.”

Marc Kitteringham

About the Author: Marc Kitteringham

I joined Black press in early 2020, writing about the environment, housing, local government and more.
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