A Whitehorse high school student’s long-term interest in history earned her a trip to Ottawa for the Remembrance Day ceremony in the capital and an educational program on Canada’s efforts in the First World War.
Isla Hupé, a Grade 12 student at CSSC Mercier, is one of 20 young people from across Canada selected for the Vimy Pilgrimage, an educational opportunity put on by the Vimy Foundation. Isla said she has been looking forward to an opportunity to get into the program since her brother Aidan was selected for it two years ago.
When Aidan was selected for the trip, before the COVID-19 pandemic, the students got to visit the Vimy Ridge memorial in Northwestern France. With international travel more challenging Isla said she is still looking forward to the trip to Ottawa.
The trip is fully paid for through sponsorships from Scotiabank and Air Canada.
According to the Vimy Foundation, those selected for the trip get their spot by showing outstanding commitment to volunteer work or other actions that benefit their communities. Isla said she also had to write an essay demonstrating her interest in First World War era history; the assigned topic was a comparison between the 1918 Spanish Flu and today’s COVID-19 pandemic.
She said she compared the similar effects that large numbers of returning soldiers had on spreading the virus in 1918 with widespread personal travel seen today. She also noted contrasting attitudes — sustained fear during the proportionally deadlier Spanish Flu compared to a more Laissez Faire attitude that has emerged in the second year of COVID-19.
Isla said both her and her brother’s submissions to the Vimy foundation contain reflections on her great-great-uncle who was killed while serving with the Canadian Army in France during the First World War.
“He was a farmer from Manitoba, he lived in St. Anne, which was a prominent Métis community,” Isla said.
“He decided to enlist in 1916 and then he was sent to France and went out to the front almost immediately.”
She said her relative was killed by an artillery shell then buried in the British military cemetery near the village of Caix in France.
According to information provided by the Vimy Foundation, Hupé and the other students will be busy on their five-day trip to Ottawa with visits planned to memorials, museums and a series of conferences and discussions. They will also be involved with the Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa on Nov. 11.
“I met a few people that did the France trip and they said it was life changing, they adored it. But seeing as the Ottawa program is a little new, it’s a little different. So I’m not exactly sure what to expect. But I know that there’ll be a lot of history learning and new knowledge that I’ll be able to obtain,” Isla said.
“My dad majored in history at university. I grew up just learning about history, and most things that I read are historical. I watched a lot of historical movies and documentaries and stuff. So I think it’s kind of been an enduring interest that my parents have very much fed.”
She added that she had watched the large Ottawa Remembrance Day ceremony on TV in the past. While she expects the ceremony to be scaled down somewhat due to COVID-19, she said she knows it will be much bigger than the one in Whitehorse that she has attended as a civilian and as an air cadet. Isla said she has been to Ottawa before on a ski exchange but she is looking forward to experiencing the city again.
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