The citizens of the Netherlands for the past 70 years have been honouring and remembering Canada’s World War II men who paid the supreme sacrifice during the push of 1944-1945 to liberate the Netherlands from German occupation.
In fact, many families in Holland have been tending one or more Canadian graves since 1945 and the task of honour and remembrance for our fallen Canadians has been handed down from generation to generation.
Our fallen Canadian countrymen helped liberated an occupied Europe and liberated an occupied and starving population in Holland from the grips of a brutal German military. As a result of their sacrifice and the Dutch population being liberated by Canadians the population of the Netherlands has lived in Peace, Freedom and Democracy since 1945.
These events brought the peoples of Canada and the Netherlands together like nothing else in history. In 2015, seventy years on, school children and adults young and old assembled along roadways and gravesites to express their gratitude to any Canadian who went to Holland to mark the occasion. The Canadian sacrifice of 7,600 servicemen has never been forgotten by the Dutch people.
Two Huron County residents, Jim Rutledge and Sid Bruinsma, travelled to Holland and witnessed this outpouring of affection. They could not help but to be impacted by the people. It is this continued, remarkable expression of warmth that has inspired our community project to invite Princess Margriet, known as “Canada’s Princess”, to come here on the occasion of Canada’s 150th anniversary. She is a tangible Canadian connection to the Netherlands, since she was born in Ottawa while the royal family was exiled to Canada during the Second World War.
Huron County feels suited to receive Princess Margriet since in the aftermath of the war, our county benefitted from a large influx of Dutch immigrants. About eleven percentage of our population is of Dutch decent. They have prospered, and have marked their freedom by erecting the Dutch Liberation Fountain in Goderich on the occasion of the 25th liberation anniversary in 1970. Upon this foundation of remembrance, in 2005 a pavilion structure was added to mark the 60th liberation anniversary.
For Dutch Canadians, each has a personal family connection to the events seventy years ago. We want to help other Canadians understand the value we place on our hard won freedom and the Canadian sacrifice to make that a reality.
We feel a visit by Princess Margriet will be a catalyst to help the Dutch community on both sides of the Atlantic to reach out to Canadians in every walk of life, young and old, to learn what it means to be freed from the yoke of occupation. On this side of the Atlantic, in this generation we need to work at “remembering” what happened in a far away place in a distant time. In Canada, we want to nurture the wisdom in knowing what the people of Holland have kept alive. Freedom is never free. It sometimes comes at great cost.