05/14/2013 11:45 EDT | Updated 07/14/2013 05:12 EDT

Vimy Ridge memorial gets new visitor centre ahead of battle's 100th anniversary

VIMY, France - The federal government has set aside $5 million to help in the construction of a permanent visitor centre at the Canadian war memorial in Vimy, France.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who made the announcement today at the site of the defining First World War battle, says construction will be completed in time to mark the 100th anniversary in April 2017.

The Vimy Foundation, a charity founded in 2005 to promote Canada's war legacy, will also conduct a fundraising campaign to complete the project.

The Harper government's contribution was disclosed at media events in Quebec City and Edmonton, as well as at Vimy Ridge itself.

Flaherty says the sense of history is palpable at Vimy, where approximately 3,600 Canadians died in the effort to take the ridge from the Germans.

Flaherty says the new structure will replace a temporary visitors centre, which has served the memorial for decades.

Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney, speaking in Quebec, says the goal is to help strengthen pride and to "educate citizens and friends of Canada about the sacrifices and achievements" during the Great War.