Thursday, August 23, 2007

Highway of Heroes Long Overdue

Dalton McGuinty promises to consider online petition

For decades, the Vimy Ridge memorial has been more to Canadians than merely a pair of concrete spires built on French land ceded to Canada after World War I.

It's become a part of Canadian culture.

Today, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty took a step toward making a similar emerging part of Canadian culture official: renaming Ontario's Highway 401 the "Highway of Heroes".

In recent years, thousands of Canadians have flocked to Highway 401 to honour many of Canada's fallen soldiers as they return from Afghanistan.

Joe Warmington, a columnist with the Toronto Sun was among those who coined the name for the now 60-year-old highway, completed shortly after the Second World War. "It is the Highway of Heroes because the history of Highway 401, particularly from Trenton to Toronto, has changed. And it's changed because dozens of Canadians have been carried home in flag-draped caskets from a war zone far away."

The highway indeed has changed. Just as Vimy Ridge has changed from a patch of French countryside into a symbol of sacrifice, Highway 401 has been changed from a mere stretch of freeway into a symbol of courage.

In the end, while McGuinty's promise may be encouraging, perhaps it matters very little.

"Thousands of people have come out to pay tribute along the routes, so this highway will always be the Highway of Heroes whether you put the sign up or you don't," Warmington announced.

Perhaps it's fitting. Vimy Ridge would have always been Vimy Ridge, regardless of whether or not it was recognized as an official memorial. And so it is with Highway 401, Canada's Highway of Heroes. Sometimes sacrifice doesn't need a plaque or a sign, it only needs respect in the hearts and minds of the people that sacrifice was made for.

That being said, Highway 401 already is, and will always be, the Highway of Heroes.

It's time to make that official.


  1. Not that I don't think our brave men and women in uniform shouldn't be recognized for their valour and sacrifices on our behalf, but ... Highway 401 already has a name. "The Macdonald-Cartier Freeway" remembers not only the two key Fathers of Confederation but the compact between Upper and Lower Canada that lay at the heart of this country even before it existed as a Dominion.

    Surely we might also remember some of the more important moments in our history, too?

  2. That's a fair point, Bruce.

    Then again, perahaps Macdonald and Cartier can both be incorporated within the "Highway of Heroes" concept.

    After all, I'm sure many people can conjure a case that both Macdonald and Cartier were heroes -- Jacques Cartier for all his exploratory work, and Macdonald for founding the country.

    Perhaps it can simply be known as "The Macdonald-Cartier Freeway: the Highway of Heroes".

    It may not have the same ring, but the idea remains intact.


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