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The "Great War" was truly a world war. Sixty-five million men from 30 nations were involved in it: at least ten million men were killed; twenty-nine million more were wounded, captured or missing; and the financial cost was measured in hundreds of billions of dollars.
The First World War was a landmark in Canadian national development. In 1914, Canada entered the war as a colony and in 1918 was forging visibly ahead to nationhood. Canada began the war with one division of citizen soldiers under the command of a British general and ended with a superb fighting force under the command of one of its own sons.
Canada's war effort was remarkable. From a nation of eight million people, a total of 619,636 men and women served in the Canadian forces, and of these 66,655 gave their lives and another 172,950 were wounded.
While the Battle of Vimy Ridge has come to symbolize Canadian ability on the battlefield and Canada's contribution to the allied cause, Canadian soldiers also fought at Ypres, stormed Regina Trench, captured Passchendaele, and entered Mons on November 11, 1918.
The majority of our fallen troops are buried in France and Belgium. There are 13 Canadian battlefield memorials in France and Belgium commemorating the exploits of Canadian and Newfoundland troops. The names of our soldiers whose last resting places are unknown are inscribed on the Vimy Memorial, the Commonwealth Memorial at the Menin Gate in Ypres, and the Beaumont-Hamel Memorial. In addition, the Books of Remembrance contain the names of all Canadians who fought in the First World War (and other wars) and died either during or after them. All seven books are kept in the Memorial Chamber located in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill.
Our war record won us a separate signature on the Treaty of Versailles which ended the First World War, signifying that national status had been achieved and leading to our independence from the United Kingdom.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, established in 1917, is a joint governmental organization responsible for marking and maintaining the graves of members of the Commonwealth of Nations' military forces that died in the two world wars, to build memorials to those with no known grave, and to keep records of the war dead. The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and the Republic of South Africa are members of the Commission, sharing operating costs in proportion to the number of their war dead.
The Commission is responsible for the commemoration of 1.7 million Commonwealth servicemen and women in 150 countries worldwide. It has constructed and maintains around 2,500 cemeteries and is responsible for Commonwealth war graves in other cemeteries. There are 73,000 such cemeteries containing Commonwealth war graves worldwide, of which over 12,000 are in the United Kingdom. The largest cemeteries, built after the First World War, are in France and Belgium. The Commission maintains the graves of approximately 117,000 Canadian war dead in more than 80 countries.
More than 200 memorials were also constructed to commemorate the dead who have no known grave: the largest is the Thiepval Memorial, which is 45 metres high and carries the names of over 72,000 missing servicemen from the Battle of the Somme.
The Canadian Agency of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, established in April 1921, is co-located with Veterans Affairs Canada in Ottawa. It has responsibility for some 19,000 Commonwealth war dead buried in Canada and the United States of America.
In September 2007, Veterans Affairs Canada hosted the Senior International Forum, a co-operative grouping of Deputy Ministers and other senior officials from Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and New Zealand. The forum is focussed on exchanging information, identifying future strategic challenges and developing solutions to areas of common concern relating to each country's Veterans and their families. The inaugural meeting of the forum was hosted by VAC in 2001, followed by annual meetings in London, Wellington, Washington and Canberra.
The Ministers of each country endorse the collaborative activities of the Senior International Forum and its working committees. The Ministers held Ministerial Summit meetings in 2005, 2006 and April 2008.
VAC plays a lead role in the Federal Healthcare Partnership (FHP) which is a voluntary alliance of seven federal government organizations (Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Correctional Service Canada, Department of National Defence, Health Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and Veterans Affairs Canada) with responsibilities for ensuring delivery of healthcare services to specific client groups in the Canadian population. The FHP is supported by a Secretariat which reports to VAC's Senior Assistant Deputy Minister and is funded through VAC. The FHP has been shown to be an excellent model of horizontal issues management in government.
The FHP's mission is to identify, promote and implement more efficient and effective healthcare programs through the collaborative effort of the partners. Its objectives are to achieve economies of scale, while enhancing provision of care for clients and to provide strategic leadership on key healthcare issues. In 2007-08, the FHP made particularly significant strides in the areas of health information management, health human resources and pharmacy. The partners have been able to achieve cost savings and influence healthcare policy through collaboration, to the benefit of their respective programs and clients, and ultimately Canadians.
The following Web sites will provide more detailed information on material provided in this report. If further information is required, contact may be made through our general inquiries lines listed on the last page of this report.
If you wish to make a general inquiry about Veterans Affairs Canada, its programs or services, please call 1-866-522-2122 (English) or 1-866-522-2022 (French). If you wish to make a general inquiry about the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, please call 1-800-450-8006 (English) or 1-877-368-0859 (French).
The Portfolio produces a variety of publications on its programs and services. Copies of these publications can be obtained from your nearest Veterans Affairs Canada district or regional office.
Our staff in Corporate Planning are responsible for coordinating the development of this report, the associated Report on Plans and Priorities, as well as a number of other Departmental reports. These are available on-line at: www.vac-acc.gc.ca/general/sub.cfm?source=department/reports
For more information or if you have any questions, please contact:
Manager, Corporate Planning
Strategic Planning and Initiatives Division
Veterans Affairs Canada
PO Box 7700 (I.B. 428)
Charlottetown, PE C1A 8M9