Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, colleagues.
My thanks to the Deputy Prime Minister for her very strong, very clear speech, and to all my colleagues here in this room
We are joined together today, as we join together on some occasions that are sombre, where we can put partisan rancour to the side.
I want to acknowledge that I'm standing today on the traditional territory of the Algonquin peoples and express gratitude. Once again, meegwetch.
I have the enormous privilege of being a close friend of two of the Canadians who were involved in the combat to liberate the Netherlands 75 years ago.
I'll be holding a virtual community meeting by Zoom on Friday night. I have invited one of those extraordinary people to join the meeting to speak to whomever from my community will be joining. Normally we would have done this in person.
I want to tell you a little bit about Major (Retired) Commander Charles Goodman. He served at D-Day. He was part of the liberation of the Netherlands. Fortunately, our Department of National Defence pays attention. The Department of Veterans Affairs brought him with the group that went to the Netherlands to celebrate the 70th anniversary.
Chic Goodman was one of those who liberated the Westerbork concentration camp. Anne Frank was once at the Westerbork concentration camp. It was somewhat of a transit station. People were rerouted from Westerbork. Anne Frank died at Auschwitz.
That liberation stands in memory of all.
When I was a child, a family friend, now deceased, was part of the Dutch resistance. I want to pause for a moment to pay tribute to the Dutch people who, under the occupying force of the Nazis, lived in the cruellest and most dangerous of circumstances and continued to shelter Jews, continued to fight in the resistance, and died fighting the Nazis in the period of time in which they were occupied.
Our family friend, Chris van Wiengarten, lived in The Hague. As a small child, I was riveted by the stories of him hiding in the family attic. There was a closet with a false front in which they hid the family's silver. Sure enough, the Nazis came one day and discovered that there was a false wall. They got through it, found the family silver but didn't go through a second false wall where they would have found the staircase to the attic.
There is tremendous courage and heroism among the Dutch people which I want to also celebrate today.
Chic Goodman, who is now in his nineties, will be joining the community virtual meeting on Friday night to share with some constituents his experience of war and, thank the Lord, his experience of peace.
Ironically, today is the anniversary of the death of my other very close friend who fought with the Canadian Forces in the liberation of the Netherlands. On May 6, 2014, six years ago today, we lost Farley Mowat. As many of you will know, Farley was a member of the The Hastings & Prince Edward Regiment. He wrote two books about the war. One is The Regiment, which is a tribute to the history of the the “Hasty Ps”. The other book is And No Birds Sang, which is the story of the Italian campaign. To read that is to know we should never go to war again—ever.
Farley never wrote of what he did with behind enemy lines intelligence just before the war ended. He met in secret with a German commander who was willing to be persuaded that there was a problem. The civilian population of the Netherlands was starving. People were down to eating tulip bulbs and horses. There was a very immediate risk of famine, even as the allied forces closed in and were ready to liberate the Netherlands.
In that meeting, Farley Mowat, a young officer, with another officer, managed to lay the groundwork to get to higher command with a plan that the Germans would stand back if there were prearranged food drops coming from Canadian, British and American bombers on prescribed routes to drop food in places where otherwise, the Dutch would starve to death before they could be liberated. It's an extraordinary story. Farley never wrote it. But Operation Chowhound, which is what they called it, came out of Prince Bernhard making a frantic call, a plea, to General Eisenhower. Eisenhower said, “I can't do anything”, but the Canadians put this together, and I think it bears mentioning.
This is a day to mark heroism, a day to mark sacrifice.
Today, I want to pay tribute to our veterans. I also want to pay tribute to those who have died this week.
We lost six brave Canadians in the Cyclone crash.
We are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands. We thank God for that liberation and for the courage of all the soldiers, including those from the countries that fought courageously against Nazi forces.
I want to close by reinforcing the words of the leader of the Bloc Québécois and picking up on the points made by our Deputy Prime Minister.
Among us today, the most vulnerable to COVID-19 is that generation. We can't turn our backs. It is urgent. I know there are things being done, but more needs to be done.
I want to echo the words of the leader of the Bloc Québécois, because I agree with him completely. We must do more for our seniors.
Today, I want to give thanks for those people I know.
Thank you, Chic, thank you, Farley, and thank you, Chris, the people I've had touch my life and who are the real heroes of a period of time that I hope we will never see again. We will embrace a post-pandemic period with the same spirit of courage that we exhibited postwar. Take care of each other. Rebuild our economies. Whether it takes a Marshall Plan or a new Bretton Woods plan, we work together.
Thank you, all of you. Merci.Meegwetch. Dank u wel.