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July 1 reflection: Thank you Canada for liberating my homeland

On Canada Day, Erna de Burger-Fex reflects on the impact this country made on the people of the Netherlands

I love visiting the country of my birth, Holland, but Canada is my home. The Dutch people love Canadians unreservedly since the Second World War and have proven that in many different ways since the end of that war 70 years ago.

During the war, Dutch Queen Wilhelmina sent her daughter Princess Juliana and her family to Canada for safety, as the occupation by the German Nazis proved to be very dangerous. While the Royal Family was living in Ottawa, Princess Juliana gave birth to her third baby girl, whom she named Margriet. 

Canadians rejoiced with the family about this healthy baby girl and the room at Ottawa Civic Hospital where Margriet was born was declared to be Dutch territory.

Canadians were specifically given the job of liberating Holland, Second World War vet and Sudbury resident Wilbert Spencer tells us. 

The Dutch people responded to the gifts of chocolate bars, cigarettes and the presence of the Canadian tanks with great joy and gratitude. Many attempted to climb up on those huge vehicles and threw flowers, Dutch flags and shouted thanks wherever the Canadian forces were seen. 

That gratitude still exists today and the Dutch people have evidenced this in numerous ways.

Thousands of tulip bulbs are shipped to Ottawa every year resulting in our capital city exhibiting the largest tulip festival in North America. Thousands of tourists are drawn to the city in mid-May to enjoy the beauty of these colourful flowers.

The Canadian war cemeteries in the Netherlands are kept like parks. No weeds anywhere, roses planted between the gravestones and all of these cemeteries are visited annually by Canadian vets and their families. They are so pleased that their comrades who died in Holland are acknowledged in such a dignified way.

Visiting the large Canadian military cemetery at Bergen op Zoom in Holland, I unexpectedly discovered the grave of the father of my friend from Lively, Clifford Donahue. His daughter, Sharon, had told me her father was buried in the Netherlands, but I had no way of knowing that he lay in that particular graveyard. 

Through the Canadian Legion services, Sharon and her family were able to visit the cemetery. I cannot imagine her emotions as she finally saw where he was buried.

A new way that the Dutch people showed their gratitude to Canada is that a new tulip was bred to celebrate Canada’s 150th Anniversary in 2017. It was created in a partnership between the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the National Capital Commission in Ottawa, Communities in Bloom and Home Hardware.

The tulip is in our national colours of red and white and is beautiful. It will be sold at Home Hardware stores starting in September.

Erna de Burger-Fex is a writer and retired teacher who writes about the aging and the funny side of getting older. Got a question for Erna? Email: editor@sudbury.com.




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