Claire Belliveau

From the first time she visited the Canadian National Vimy Memorial and the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial in northern France, Claire Belliveau knew she wanted to be a guide there one day.

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Claire Belliveau

Claire, who is originally from Nova Scotia, followed through on the promise she made herself and is now a student guide offering interpretive tours of the memorials. She first visited the memorials in April 2017 with her high-school classmates as part of the 100th anniversary the Battle of Vimy Ridge. To mark the anniversary, the Government of Canada held a series of commemorative ceremonies and events at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. For the signature event, thousands of people had gathered to pay tribute to all who served Canada in that battle and risked or gave their lives in the four-year struggle. Suffice to say that this trip had a profound effect on her.

“I’ve always known that I wanted to be a guide at the monuments, from the first time I was there I felt attracted,”

“I’ve always known that I wanted to be a guide at the monuments, from the first time I was there I felt attracted,” she says. When she returned home, the attraction she had felt, the sensation of pride and honour, continued to resonate within her. So, a few years later, she applied on the Student Guide Program. When she learned that she had been chosen, she happily took a semester away from completing her bachelor’s degree to fulfill a dream and work as a student guide at the Beaumont-Hamel and Vimy memorials.

She says the feeling she gets while working at Beaumont-Hamel and Vimy are quite different from one another. At Beaumont-Hamel, she explains, you can see the entire battlefield and therefore grasp the enormity of what occurred there a century ago. At Vimy, by contrast, silence is much more prevalent.

Earlier this fall, Veterans Affairs Canada sent a delegation of Second World War Veterans to Antwerp, Belgium, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Scheldt. As part of the commemorative events surrounding the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of Antwerp, a temporary encampment of historical vehicles, period actors, food, music and interactive experiences was assembled in the heart of the city.

The encampment, named the “Liberation Village”, offered a look into life at the time of Antwerp’s liberation. As part of the “Liberation Village”, Canadian student guides from Beaumont-Hamel and Vimy, including Claire, were brought in to operate an interactive exhibit that detailed the progress of the First Canadian Army through the Battle of the Scheldt.

Claire Belliveau interacted with Belgian locals who visited the Liberation Village and the interactive Canadian Exhibit  earlier this year in Antwerp, Belgium.”

Claire Belliveau interacted with Belgian locals who visited the Liberation Village and the interactive Canadian Exhibit earlier this year in Antwerp, Belgium.

When the Canadian delegation visited the “Liberation Village”, Belliveau was asked to escort Chief Warrant Officer (Ret'd) Anton "Tony" Pearson through the historical re-enactments. She says that listening to the Second World War Veteran share his stories with the locals who were touring the village was a very special moment for her. “It’s something I can’t put into words but it was an absolute honour. People were constantly coming over to thank him.”

“Never forgetting, it’s so easy to get caught up in the little things, but really you’re so lucky to even have those things.”

Belliveau says she and her fellow guides were constantly being thanked for Canada’s role in liberating the local villages in Belgium 75 years ago. She recalls feeling a little overwhelmed, since after all, the Canadians who had liberated those villages had been there decades earlier.

Belliveau believes that continuing to remember what others have sacrificed for us to live the way we do today is important and shouldn’t be overlooked. “Never forgetting, it’s so easy to get caught up in the little things, but really you’re so lucky to even have those things.”

Belliveau will finish her term as a guide in December 2019.

Claire Belliveau is this week’s Face of Freedom, an example of a new generation of Canadians who continue to commemorate and honour the sacrifices of Canadian Veterans, both past and present. The actions of those Veterans have allowed us to lead the life we do today – strong and free.


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