Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of the British royal family are among the dignitaries commemorating the centenary of the World War I battle of Vimy, in northern France.
About 20,000 people, including many Canadians, are expected to attend a ceremony remembering the day Canadian troops succeeded in taking a strategic post from the Germans where past British and French attempts had failed.
British royals Princes Charles, William and Harry.
WATCH: Prince William, Prince Harry place final pair of boots at memorial for the Battle of Vimy Ridge
Trudeau and French President Francois Hollande unveiled a “Poppy of Peace” monument on Sunday morning in the town of Arras, a few kilometres from Vimy. The monument consists of a red metallic base with sculptures of soldiers’ feet.
The government of Canada is hosted the ceremony, which will speeches from officials and performances by famous Canadian artists, including singer Loreena McKennitt. Princes Charles, William and Harry are expected to attend.
On April 9, 1917, the Canadians succeeded in taking the German’s strategic post on Vimy Ridge – where past British and French attempts had failed.
WATCH: Dignitaries including royal family, Justin Trudeau arrive for 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge ceremony in France.
Canadian troops prepared carefully, learning from the mistakes of past attempts. To protect soldiers from shelling, they built miles of tunnels one of the war’s great engineering feats allowing troops to pop up quickly into their positions.
The move cost 3,600 dead and over 7,000 injured in three days.
The battle has become an important part of Canada’s national identity, symbolizing the shift from a former British colony to a nation on its own.
Largely because of its military achievements, Canada was a separate signatory to the treaty that ended World War I.
WATCH: Replica World War I era airplanes fly past memorial for the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
Earlier in the day, hundreds of citizens from this French city of Arras turned out in a heartfelt display of thanks to Canada and the thousands of Canadian soldiers who fought and died at nearby Vimy Ridge exactly a century ago.
Arras Mayor Frederic Leturque thanked those other countries whose soldiers participated in the battle a century ago: Australians and British, New Zealanders and South Africans.
But he saved a special thanks for Canada, telling Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the hundreds of others assembled that the Canadians’ actions at Vimy was a turning point for the city – and for all of France.
With files from Canadian Press.