Minister tours $4 million upgraded Veterans Cemetery

Minister of Veterans Affairs Lawrence MacAulay carries a Canadian flag to lay at a gravesite in Veteran’s Cemetery. Photo by Peter Mallett, Lookout

Minister of Veterans Affairs Lawrence MacAulay carries a Canadian flag to lay at a gravesite in Veteran’s Cemetery. Photo by Peter Mallett, Lookout

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

Minister of Veterans Affairs Lawrence MacAulay made a special visit to Veterans Cemetery in Esquimalt last Wednesday to recognize the historic site’s recent expansion.

At the iconic cemetery, more commonly known as God’s Acre, MacAulay was joined by Base Commander, Captain (Navy) Sam Sader and other dignitaries to celebrate the renovations and an expansion for 1,400 new internment spaces.

MacAulay, who is also the Associate Minister of National Defence, not only reflected on the universal feeling of appreciation for the soldiers, sailors, and aviators buried there, but also the countless individuals who have worked to maintain and preserve God’s Acre since its founding over 151 years ago.

“Years of hard work and dedication has led to the incredible transformation of God’s Acre – a reflection of Canada’s pride and respect for veterans,” said MacAulay. “As future generations walk through these rows and read the inscriptions on the grave markers, I hope they will understand what Canadians have achieved and sacrificed in the cause of peace and freedom.”

To further that effort, in the past five years Veteran’s Affairs Canada (VAC) has invested $4 million for the expansion, renovations, and upgrades to the cemetery. 

Approximately $1.9 million of those funds were used to construct granite columbariums that contain the ashes of the dead, and in-ground internments.

Capt(N) Sader congratulated Jennifer McFarlane, Chair of the God’s Acre Candlelight Committee, for helping honour those in  the cemetery. Every year on the last Thursday of May, a candlelight tribute is held  with children and veterans to remember those who have served and continue to serve their country.

“For every flag, grave, march, and trumpet there is a face, a name, a story that can be shared and experienced again and again by future generations,” said Capt(N) Sader. “So, while God’s Acre may hold those who have passed, its purpose and presence are very much alive.”

Following the introductory remarks, those attending were given a tour of the graveyard and new columbariums. MacAulay stopped to place a Canadian flag at the foot of a soldier’s grave.

Other dignitaries attending the ceremony included General (Retired) Walter Natynczyk, Deputy Minister Veterans Affairs Canada, and CAF Senior Advisor to VAC, Lieutenant General Stephen Bowes.

Veterans Cemetery was established in 1868 by the Royal Navy after Rear-Admiral George Folwer Hastings purchased an acre for $250 from the Puget Sound Agricultural Company and converted it to a cemetery for sailors of the British Royal Navy. Today the cemetery is nestled between the 12th and 17th holes of Esquimalt’s Gorge Vale Golf Club and occupies approximately 2.7 acres. In March 2016 VAC purchased a .62 acre parcel of land from the golf club to allow for the expansion and columbariums.

The cemetery also features a chapel containing several Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Navy artifacts and a Cross of Sacrifice. It is one of two cemeteries operated by VAC. The other is Fort Massey Cemetery in Halifax.

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