Centreville student ‘part of a moment in history’ at Vimy Ridge centennial

Published on April 18, 2017

Taylor Bickerton in front of the Vimy Memorial with a pair of boots representing one of the 3,580 fallen Canadian soldiers.


CANNING, NS - Sitting in the grass at the 100th anniversary commemorations of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, it crystalized with her that she was part of a moment in history.


17-year-old Taylor Bickerton of Centreville said that on her visit to Vimy Ridge, she kept having visions of what the First World War must have been like. It resonated with her that many young Canadians made the ultimate sacrifice on that hallowed ground so that those who came after them could have freedom.

Bickerton, a Grade 12 student at Northeast Kings Education Centre (NKEC) in Canning, was one of only three Nova Scotia students selected by EF Educational Tours as Canadian Youth Ambassadors for a trip to Vimy, France, for the 100th anniversary commemorations of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Beginning on April 9, 1917, the Battle of Vimy Ridge is perhaps Canada’s most celebrated military victory.

She left on April 6 and returned April 12. Aside from Vimy, the delegation visited other communities in France, Belgium and England, including London and Paris. They visited Tyne Cott Cemetery in Belgium, the largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces in the world.

She said being on hand for the 100th anniversary events at Vimy Ridge meant being a part of a moment in history. Bickerton said she didn’t know a lot about the infamous First World War battle before the trip. It was a chance to learn about our collective past as Canadians and to make connections with how this impacts our lives today.

She said it took a while to get through security to make it to the ceremonies. She heard Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak. Prince Harry and Prince William were there. There were also musical performances.

“It really felt like more of a festival,” Bickerton said. “There were about 23,000 people there in total.”

There was an unexpected surprise the next day when Bickerton and other delegates got to participate in a private ceremony with Veterans Affairs Canada. She got to place a flower on one of the monuments.

Bickerton got to explore Vimy and was allowed to take home a pair of boots that symbolized one of the 3,580 fallen Canadian soldiers.

Bickerton saw the gravestone of a 15-year-old boy at Essex Farm Cemetery in Belgium. The First World War Commonwealth cemetery is within a site associated with Lieut. Col. John McCrae, author of the poem In Flanders Fields.

“Just knowing that he was two years younger than me really hit home,” Bickerton said.

The delegation had an exhibit at the EF Educational Tours Expo in France. She said her face “lit up” to see her name listed among the EF Canadian Youth Ambassadors.

She would recommend a similar trip to other young Canadians if they ever have an opportunity to go. Bickerton said it’s important to remember those who made great sacrifices so we could have our freedom.

“One Idea” winner

Bickerton said she found out about EF Tour’s “One Idea” contest through social media. After considering issues facing society, participants were challenged to come up with an idea that could help address the issue. Students could submit videos or write essays. Bickerton decided to write about creating a sexual assault and violence awareness week at her school. She said 60 per cent of sexual abuse victims are under the age of 17.

“I want to make students more aware and informed and to really teach them not to be a bystander,” Bickerton said.

She said her long-term goal is to create programming that can be implemented as part of the Grade 9 curriculum.

Before they went to Europe, delegates met with Stephen Lewis, former Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations. She said it was inspiring to hear him speak, as he’s done a lot of work in Africa relating to gender equality, HIV-AIDS and sexual violence.

Bickerton explained her “One Idea” to him and made a “global connection.” She said he liked it and encouraged her to keep working toward it.

Bickerton and the 29 other EF Canadian Youth Ambassadors will travel to Ottawa from May 28 to 31 to meet with MP’s, Senators and community leaders to help make their ideas reality.