The Memory Project
© 2009 FrontLine Defence (Vol 6, No 2)

As we approach the 65th anniversary of the D-Day Campaign during the Second World War, we must recognize the importance of what our youth know about Canada’s military history and what we are doing as a country to make sure future generations never forget.

Concerned about the erosion of a common memory and civic identity in Canada, The Dominion Institute’s Memory Project has been successfully connecting youth with veterans since 2001. The program began as a Speakers’ Bureau for Ontario area veterans of World War II and has grown into a national, bilingual program that consists of more than 1,300 veterans who visit 175,000 youth each year.

Educators and community leaders are encouraged to host a speaker to help bring key events of the 20th and 21st centuries to life for their students.

The Memory Project’s incredible volunteers consist of hundreds of veterans and currently serving Canadian Forces personnel from across the country. They represent World War II, the Korean War, as well as modern Peacekeeping missions and more recent operations such as the conflict in Afghanistan.

Elementary school audiences reflect on the visit using poetry, drawing or paintings while older students write thank you letters to the veterans and in depth essays detailing why they feel it is important to participate in intergenerational dialogue programs like The Memory Project.

The Memory Project also uses technology  to share veteran and CF experiences in The Memory Project Digital Archive. This initiative offers an unprecedented opportunity for veterans, Canadian Forces personnel, students, educators and all interested Canadians to view thousands of personal artifacts and hear the first-hand accounts of more than 1000 Canadian ­servicemen and women from across the country online.

The Memory Project has not only caught the attention of youth, educators and veterans but also Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. In 2005, to commemorate Her Majesty’s visit to Canada, the Government of Canada announced a major gift on behalf of the people of Canada to the Memory Project to help World War II and Korean War veterans share their stories with young people. Said Her Majesty, “The Memory Project has most successfully brought together veterans and young Canadians throughout the country. In the process it has safeguarded not only many remarkable stories of the veterans, but also a unique chapter of this country’s history.”

We all recognize that the window of opportunity is closing for young Canadians to meet the men and women who participated in this country’s defining moments, especially those who fought in World War II and the Korean War. The Memory Project has issued a ‘call to arms’ for more recently retired and actively serving Canadian Forces members to join the Memory Project and share their stories of service with young people, effectively passing the torch of Remembrance from one generation to the next.

The Memory Project provides an opportunity for inter-generational dialogue on these important historical and contemporary issues. If you are a veteran or currently serving Canadian Forces personnel, please contact us to see how you can get involved. Educators and interested community members are encouraged to visit our website for more information.

The Dominion Institute has focused its efforts on conducting original research into Canadians’ knowledge of the country’s past and building innovative programs – such as The Memory Project – that broaden appreciation of the richness and complexity of the Canadian story.

Jill Paterson is the Program Coordinator of The Memory Project.
© FrontLine Defence Magazine 2009