Top military honour now cast in Canada: report
Published Saturday, March 3, 2007 11:21PM EST
A Victoria Cross medal has been produced in Canada for the first time, and there are reports it will be presented by the Queen in April.
The Globe and Mail reported Saturday that Queen Elizabeth will present the medal at a ceremony marking the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in France.
The move would restore the medal -- awarded just 1,350 times since it was installed by Queen Victoria in the 1850s after the Crimean War -- to the top spot in Canada's list of military decorations.
Only 94 Canadians have received the medal.
The Victoria Cross was first awarded to a Canadian in 1856, and most recently in 1945. None of the recipients are still living.
In the past, the medals were cast by Hancock, a London jewellery retailer, but a source has told The Globe the medal has now been designed and produced in Canada for the first time.
Emmanuelle Sajous, deputy herald chancellor at Rideau Hall, said it would be at least a couple of weeks before final decisions are made about how the made-in-Canada Victoria Cross will be presented to the public.
"Nothing is confirmed," Sajous said. "We don't have any details about how and who and where and when. There are a lot of options and a lot of different events being planned."
The departments of Veterans' Affairs, Defence, Canadian Heritage and Natural Resources -- along with the Royal Canadian Mint -- have all been involved in the design.
Military historian Jack Granatstein told The Globe the physical reinstatement of the Victoria Cross is a milestone for Canada.
"There is clearly an attachment to the VC as a pretty scarce gallantry award," said the former director-general of the Canadian War Museum.
"It will be a continuation of the past and it will be done in a Canadian context. I guess in a sense it's the capping of the Canadian honours system so I think it's a good thing."
Government sources have told The Globe the medal will be presented to Prime Minister Stephen Harper by the Queen at the Vimy Ridge ceremony in recognition of the gallantry of the Unknown Soldier, whose remains rest in a tomb next to the National War Memorial in Ottawa.
The soldier, whose body was exhumed from a cemetery near Vimy Ridge in 2000, was one of 1,603 unidentified Canadian troops who died in the First World War battle.
The battle, which took place on April 9, 1917, is often considered a key moment in Canada's military history. Roughly 10,000 Canadians were wounded and 3,598 of those succumbed to their injuries.
The ceremony in April will serve two purposes. It will commemorate the anniversary of the battle and serve as the dedication for the newly restored Canadian National Vimy Memorial.
The Royal Canadian Legion has lobbied the government for years to reinstate the medal, which was put aside in 1972 in favour of a Canadian honours system.
The move to design and cast the medal in Canada should put an end to years of controversy over whether Canadian soldiers should receive an award that has British origins.
The Canadian VC is awarded for "most conspicuous bravery, a daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy."
There are few differences between the Canadian and British medals. The Canadian decoration can be revoked and it bears the Latin inscription Pro Valore rather than For Valour.
The British medals are cast from bronze of Chinese origin that was used in Russian cannons captured at the conclusion of the Crimean War, but there is no word yet on what type of metal will be used to make the Canadian medals.