Veterans Affairs Canada

Veterans Affairs Canada

February 24, 2010 14:29 ET

Remembrance in the Age of the Web

QUEBEC CITY, QUEBEC--(Marketwire - Feb. 24, 2010) - The Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture) today launched a new Veterans Affairs Web feature called La force francophone, which aims to keep alive the memories of the men and women who sacrificed so much for our country. Participating with Minister Blackburn were five Veterans from the 82 who shared their recollections as part of this unique Web project, including the Honourable Gilles Lamontagne, former Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec and a former aviator with the Second World War bomber squadron, Les Alouettes.

"This Web site is truly unique in that it provides access to so many human-interest stories and to the never-before-revealed personal archives of Francophones from Quebec and across Canada," said Minister Blackburn. "Francophones from all parts of the country like the Honourable Gilles Lamontagne and Madame Cécile Grimard-Masson rolled up their sleeves and stepped in to help with the war effort. La force francophone will ensure that their stories are never forgotten."

La force francophone features more than 360 never-before-seen video vignettes, seven short documentaries, photo albums gleaned from the personal archives of the participants, and four interactive stories.

The project was made possible thanks to funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage's Canadian Culture Online – Canadian Memory Fund program. Other partners, such as Library and Archives Canada, the Directorate of History and Heritage at National Defence, and the National Film Board, provided content for La force francophone.

To visit La force francophone, go to


La Force Francophone


Veterans Affairs Canada proposed the creation of a unique Web project made up of interviews with Francophone Veterans and civilians. The project arose out of three specific needs:

  • To highlight the participation of Francophone Canadians during the Second World War.
  • To honour the women—1.5 million of them—who stepped up to fill the gap when the men went to war.
  • To showcase the contribution made by all of Canada's Francophones during the Second World War. 


A total of 82 men and women agreed to participate in the project, including Veterans and many civilians. They generously shared their memories about the war effort, both abroad and on the home front. It is important to highlight the work of civilians, especially the women, who worked in the factories and arsenals. The war effort would not have been the same without them.


The Web project provides a host of relevant information on Francophone participation in the Second World War. It includes:

  • historical overviews that explain military and civilian participation in the Second World War;
  • two user-friendly search engines that provide access to more than 360 never-before-published vignettes;
  • seven short documentaries highlighting major themes such as fear, horror, ennemi, remembrance, returning home, the Merchant Navy and funny moments;
  • on-line albums based on numerous photos from the personal archives of some of the participants;
  • four interactive stories that explore the conflict from a social angle.

Possible use

The content of the new "La Force Francophone" Web project was developed to meet the needs of a wide range of users, from high-school students doing research for school projects to adults who want to learn and obtain information in a fun way. Its simple, interactive and multimedia design makes it easy for users to navigate the site intuitively.


The project came into being thanks to the participation of:

  • Canadian Heritage, under the Canadian Culture Online – Canadian Memory Fund program;
  • Library and Archives Canada;
  • National Defence, Directorate of History and Heritage; and
  • the National Film Board.

To learn more about Veterans Affairs Canada's new Web project, please visit our Web site at


Jean-Luc Dutil was born in Alma on September 7, 1927, and moved to Québec City with his family when he was very young. He was twelve years old when the war broke out, and meeting people who had been injured in the war brought him face-to-face with the horrors of war. In 1944, at the age of sixteen, he boarded a Canadian Merchant Navy ship and took on the trade of marine engineer. He also became a union representative. He left the Merchant Navy in 1949 and remains very active in the Canadian Merchant Navy Association.


Rollande Fortin-Poulin was born at L'Islet-sur-Mer, Quebec, on January 25, 1925. She enlisted in 1942 and attended training in Rockcliffe and Trenton, Ontario, after which she worked in a publications depot. During the war, she was given the rank of corporal in the Royal Canadian Air Force Women's Division. She was demobilized in 1946.


Cécile Grimard-Masson was born on April 20, 1924, in Québec City. She supported the war effort by working at the Quebec Arsenal, where she made ammunition. At first, she was a regular labourer, but she eventually became a mechanic and then assistant foreman of her department. At the same time, she signed up for the Women's Voluntary Service, and then the Canadian Women's Army Corps (CWAC). She did her training in Kitchener, Ontario, and was then sent to Montréal to work in a military equipment factory. After the war, Ms. Grimard-Masson left the army, married and had seven children.


Gilles Lamontagne was born in Montréal on April 17, 1919. He studied at Brébeuf college and at the École des Hautes études commerciales before enlisting in the Royal Canadian Air Force in May 1941. In March 1942, having obtained his pilot's license, he left for Great Britain. In October that year, he was assigned to the 425 Bomber Squadron, the Alouettes, made up mostly of French Canadians. In March 1943, his aircraft was attacked by a German fighter plane, forcing him to parachute down into a field in Holland, where he was captured by the Germans. He spent 27 months in prison camps. For having saved his crew, he was cited in the Orders of the Day for bravery and was included on King George VI's list of honour in January 1945. He left the service in August 1945 and settled in Québec City. In 1951, he re-enlisted in the Air Force Reserve, where he served until 1959. Since 1987, he has been honorary colonel of the Canadian Air Force Reserve.


Jean-Paul Savary was very involved in sports in Quebec during his youth. Later on, he worked as a ski instructor in Malbaie, Quebec and coached the Canadian biathlon team. His father was a batman in the First World War. During the Second World War, Jean-Paul Savary was a platoon commander and a company commander. He was also an artillery instructor. After the Second World Ward, he volunteered for service in the Royal 22e Régiment during the Korean War. 

Contact Information

  • Veterans Affairs Canada
    Janice Summerby
    Media Relations Advisor
    Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs
    Sophie Doucet
    Press Secretary
    Office: 613-992-3465
    Cell: 613-608-3252
    Veterans Affairs Canada
    Jean-Pierre Godbout
    Communications Advisor
    Office: 514-283-2198
    Cell: 514-209-1622