Agreement Between Canada and France for the Cession to Canada of the Free Use of a Parcel of Land on Vimy Ridge for the Erection of a Monument to the Memory of the Canadian Soldiers Who Died on the Field of Honour in France in the Course of the War 1914-1918
This Agreement, drawn up on the 5th December 1922, was made by and between the French Government, represented by M. Charles Reibel, Minister of Liberated Regions, on the one part, and the Government of Canada, represented by M. Rodolphe Lemieux, Speaker of the House of Commons of Canada, on the other part.
Whereas the Government of Canada desire to erect on Vimy Ridge (Pas-de-Calais), in the centre of a park of 100 hectares, which they intend to layout and the maintenance of which they will assume, a monument to the memory of the Canadian soldiers who died on the field of honour in France during the war 1914-1918, the French Government put at their disposal the necessary ground of which the title will remain in the French Government.
Whereas, on the other hand, France desires to associate herself in the tribute which Canada wishes to pay its dead in the great war and as, moreover, the land concerned, comprised in the red zone, is to be acquired by the French Government in conformity with the provisions of Article 46, paragraph 7, of the Act of the 17th April, 1919:
The French Government grants, freely and for all time, to the Government of Canada the free us of a parcel of 100 hectares located on Vimy Ridge in the Department of Pas-de-Calais, the boundaries of which are indicated on the plan annexed to this Agreement.
The Canadian Government pledge themselves to lay out this land into a park and to erect thereon a monument to the memory of the Canadian soldiers who died on the field of honour in France during the war 1914-1918.
They moreover pledge themselves to provide for the maintenance of the park and monument, in default of which the French Government would resume the free use of the park, except however the land on which the memorial is to be erected.
The land granted to the Government of Canada by this Agreement will be exempt of all taxes and imposts. The French Government will take the responsibility of all difficulties with the borderers, except those arising from damages caused by the personnel or material belong to the Government of Canada and kept in France for the maintenance and protection of the park and monument.
There shall be obligatorily mentioned on the monument all the units of the same class of the Canadian Army having fought on Vimy Ridge during the same period of time.
This Agreement will become effective only on the passing by Parliament of a bill approving its provisions which the French Government has laid on the table of the Chamber.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, on the day and year above mentioned, this Agreement was drawn in four copies, each copy having the same force and effect as an original, by the French Government represented by M. Charles Reibel, Minister of the Liberated Regions, and the Government of Canada, represented by M. Rodolphe Lemieux, Speaker of the House of Commons of Canada.
JOINT RESOLUTION APPROVING THE GOVERNMENT'S ACCEPTANCE OF A GIFT MADE BY FRANCE OF A TRACT OF LAND ON VIMY RIDGE PASSED BY THE HOUSE OF COMMONS AND THE SENATE OF CANADA RESPECTIVELY ON FEBRUARY 9TH AND 28TH, 1923
Resolved, that Parliament do approve the acceptance by the Government of Canada of the gift graciously made by the Republic of France of a tract of land 250 acres in extent on Vimy Ridge at the site selected by Canada of a monument commemorating the exploits of Canadian soldiers in the great war, and in so doing records its sense of gratitude for and its high appreciation of the motives which prompted France to associate herself with a project so dear to the hearts of the Canadian people, in such a way as to Your Excellency may seem fit, in order that the same may be presented to the President of France.
Act Approving the Agreement Concluded on the 5Th December, 1922, Between the French Government and the Government of Canada and Relating to the Cession to Canada, on Vimy Ridge, of the Free Use of a Tract of Land of 100 Hectares, for the Purpose of Laying out a Park and Erecting a Monument to the Memory of the Canadian Soldiers Who Fell on the Field of Honour, in France, During the War 1914-1918
The Senate and the Chamber of Deputies have adopted,
The President of the Republic promulgates the Act, which is as follows:
The Agreement concluded, on the 5th December, 1922, between the French Government, represented by M. Charles Reibel, Minister of the Liberated Regions, and the Government of Canada, represented by M. Rodolphe Lemieux, President of the House of Commons of Canada, relating to the cession to the letter, on Vimy Ridge, of the free use of a tract of land of 100 hectares, for the purpose of laying out a park and erecting a monument to the memory of Canadian solders who fell on the field of honour, in France, during the war 1914 - 1918, is approved.
The text of the said Agreement shall remain annexed to this Act.
This Act, discussed and adopted by the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, shall be enforced as an Act of the State.
DONE at Paris, on the 24th June 1927.
By the President of the Republic:
The President of the Council,
Minister of Finance,
The Minister for Foreign Affairs,
MEMORANDUM BY COLONEL H.C. OSBORNE, SECRETARY OF THE CANADIAN BATTLEFIELDS MEMORIAL COMMISSION, CONCERNING THE ACQUISITION OF LAND FOR A WAR MEMORIAL ON VIMY RIDGE READ IN THE SENATE OF CANADA ON MARCH 9, 1923
- Under French law a foreign Government is not competent to acquire title to land in France and erect structures thereon. This was the statement of the Vice-Chairman, Imperial War Graves Commission's legal adviser. The Imperial War Graves Commission has had extensive experience in connection with the acquisition of land in France and Belgium for some 2,000 British military cemeteries.
- The provisions of the Accord or Agreement between the French and Canadian Governments covering the gift to Canada of land on Vimy Ridge are substantially the same as those dealing with the gift of land by the French Government for British Military Cemeteries; that is to say, the land is to be acquired by the French Government at the cost of the French nation, and held in perpetuity by it for use by the Canadian Government for a specific purpose, namely the erection of a monument and the creation of a park.
- The conditions of the gift were in entire harmony with the views of the Canadian representatives. It was not considered advisable to bind the Canadian Government to definite undertakings. It was and is the intention of the Canadian Government to erect a memorial on Vimy Ridge; but account had to be taken of the fact that Governments may change their minds, or unforeseen circumstances may intervene. On the other hand account had to be taken of the fact that the gift was to be made for a special purpose and for no other. It seemed that the best and most effective form which the gift could take was the one adopted in the case of grants for military cemeteries, namely a grant to the Canadian Government gratuitously and in perpetuity, of the free use of the land for the purpose in question. Any possible future difficulty or complication was obviated in advance by the simple provision that should the Canadian Government change its plans the French Government would resume the free disposal of the land-excluding however the land on which the monument stood, should it be erected in the meantime.
- Furthermore the gift covers a parcel of 100 hectares (250 acres). It was impossible for the Canadian representatives to indicate with entire precision just what land would be required. It is probable that the proposed park will be limited to a much smaller area. In such an event any balance not needed will simply revert to the French Government.
In this connection, the use of the word "park" is perhaps misleading. Vimy Ridge is a barren tract of land, miles in extent, devastated and pitted with shell holes, etc. The object of the Commission is to reserve and develop in a suitable way sufficient land to form a background for the monument and prevent the erection of unsightly structures in its vicinity. Such further land as may be reserved for the proposed "park" will be left largely in its present state. The only development would probably be in the form of a moderate forestation scheme, that is the planting of some trees, and the construction of roads or paths leading to the monument. No large expenditure for this purpose is contemplated.
As to maintenance, it is altogether likely that in the future, some years hence, the maintenance of ground surrounding all British memorials in France will be undertaken by the Imperial War Graves Commission. This is a permanent body which will always have its forces in the field in connection with the maintenance of military cemeteries.
- The French Government imposed no conditions as to either the period in which the work should be completed or the extent or nature of the park to be maintained. Canada has an entirely free hand. There was on the part of the French Government an entire absence of any spirit of bargaining or bartering. The gift was freely and graciously made.
- The project of erecting eight memorial monuments on selected battlefield sites in Belgium and France was considered by a Special Committee of the House of Commons in April 1920. The report of this Committee was subsequently adopted by Parliament.
In accordance with the Committee's recommendation the Canadian Battlefields Memorials Commission was appointed composed as follows:
Major-General the Hon. S.C. Mewburn, C.M.G., KC., M.P.
The Hon. Rodolphe Lemieux, K.C., M.P.
Lt.-General Sir R.E.W. Turner, V.C., K.C.B., etc. etc.
Lieut. Colonel R.W. Leonard.
The Honourable J.G. Turriff.
Honourary Secretary-Colonel H.C. Osborne, C.M.G.
The scope of the Commission's work has been enlarged recently by two proposals:
- the acquisition by Canada of a tract of land on Vimy Ridge;
- the commemoration on the monument at Vimy of a large proportion (possibility 15,000) of the Canadian missing, that is those who lost their lives and have no know graves.
In connection with (a) above, Canada's expenditure will be controllable through the Canadian Battlefields Memorials Commission. The Commission's expenditure are subject to the approval of the Minster of Militia and ultimately of Parliament.
In connection with (b), a substantial contribution towards the cost of the Vimy Ridge Memorial will be received from the Imperial War Graves Commission. That body is primarily responsible for erecting memorials to the missing, and, as Canada is relieving it of that duty to the extent above mentioned, there will be an adjustment of accounts accordingly. This phase of the matter is at present being negotiated with the Imperial War Graves Commission by the High Commissioner for Canada in London.
Honorary Secretary, C.B.M.C.