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Preserving Canadian military gravesites

Once the snow melts, Nick Hébert is on the road travelling from cemetery to cemetery to conduct inspections of Veteran gravesites and grave markers. He and his colleagues on the Cemetery Maintenance team directly maintain more than 220,000 graves of Canadian and allied Veterans throughout the country.

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A retired Technician with the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Corps in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), Nick Hébert now works with Commemoration Division’s Cemetery Maintenance team at Veterans Affairs Canada. Veterans Affairs Canada and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission are responsible for maintaining the gravesites and grave markers of more than 220,000 fallen CAF members, mostly in Canada.

The state of each grave marker is symbolic of Canada’s pride and respect for its Veterans.

Nick appreciates that he can apply the knowledge and skills he gained from his time in the forces to complete his important work preserving the legacy of those who served and sacrificed for Canada. As a Veteran, maintaining the gravesites and grave markers of fallen CAF members takes on a special significance.

“Promoting the achievements and honoring the sacrifices of our Veterans is very important. The state of each grave marker is symbolic of Canada’s pride and respect for its Veterans. So it’s incumbent upon us [Veterans Affairs Canada] to ensure they are all well kept.”

The Cemetery Maintenance team consists of four program advisors, each with a designated region in Canada. Nick is responsible for Veteran grave markers in cemeteries throughout the province of Quebec and Northern New Brunswick. He locates, inspects, gathers information and initiates maintenance on every Veteran grave marker in his region. In 2019 alone, he conducted visits to over 290 cemeteries.

“I remember at the Cimetière Notre-Dame in Rouyn Noranda, I had trouble locating more than half of the graves on our list. There were rows of white crosses and bronze plaques, but the granite markers were all missing. I started probing the ground and found one, then two, and then three markers, all six feet from the white crosses. So, I went to the local hardware store, bought some tools and started digging. I uncovered 56 markers, including 30 undocumented veteran flat markers and three family markers.”

The Cemetery Maintenance team uses satellite imagery of the plotted graves. Staff then confirm the placement and look to see if the grave markers are clean, level, and sturdy, and verify that the inscriptions are correct and legible. Sometimes, they even find new markers during their inspections.

If you know of a gravesite that requires maintenance or is unmarked, or you require additional information about this program, please contact Cemetery Maintenance at or call 902-626-2440.

Date published: 2020-01-10

Nick Hébert

Nicolas Hébert, CD

Program Advisor, Commemoration Division, Veterans Affairs Canada

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