Thank you, Mr. Chair.
On behalf of the Official Opposition, I have the pleasure of joining my hon. colleagues in commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands and Victory in Europe Day.
Seventy-five years ago this week, the guns fell silent marking the end of a brutal war that had cost tens of millions of people their lives. The silence was replaced by cheers and tears as citizens took to the streets to celebrate the German surrender and the beginning of an era of peace.
Today we remember the courage of the more than one million brave Canadians and Newfoundlanders who left their homes, their families and their friends to fight for freedom during the Second World War. Their service and sacrifice along with that of our allies allowed us to defeat the tyranny of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, but it came at a great cost. By the end of the war, more than 45,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders had made the ultimate sacrifice and 55,000 were injured. All carried scars, whether visible or invisible, that would last a lifetime.
While it is said that the First World War made us a nation, it was the Second World War that solidified Canada as a key player on the world stage. Despite our relatively small population, Canadian soldiers, sailors and aviators punched above their weight including at Dieppe, in Ortona, on Juno Beach and in the liberation of the Netherlands. In early 1945, the First Canadian Army helped free Dutch cities and towns from their Nazi occupiers. After five years of German occupation, the Dutch welcomed Canadians into their homes and formed lasting friendships.
Today, Canada is home to many proud Dutch Canadians. In my riding of Barrie—Innisfil, Tollendale Village just around the corner from where I live is home to many Canadians of Dutch descent who lived though this period of darkness in their homeland. When I visit Tollendale, I hear the stories of what they went through under German occupation. I also hear about the undying gratitude they have for Canada and for the brave soldiers who came to free them. It would not surprise me at all if Canadian flags are draped over the balconies of Tollendale Village today to signify that deep and profound level of gratitude.
However, the deep bond forged between our two countries goes beyond the battlefield. During the conflict, members of the Dutch royal family found sanctuary in Canada. In recognition of our friendship, the Dutch sent thousands of tulip bulbs to Canada after the war, which became an annual tradition and the inspiration for Ottawa's Tulip Festival, which we celebrate each May.
Like so many other celebrations, this year's Tulip Festival and the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands and Victory in Europe Day will be much different.
Normally, we would gather at community cenotaphs to honour those who gave their lives and to remind ourselves that freedom always comes at a price. Due to the current pandemic, this year we will gather online for virtual services or to pause for personal reflection.
While the crisis has affected Canadians from coast to coast, I know that the isolation has been particularly difficult for our seniors and our veterans. I ask Canadians to please remember to check in on the veterans and seniors in their communities. Let them know that they are not alone, that their service has not been forgotten and that help will always be available if needed. For they are the ties that bind this great nation together.
During these unprecedented times, Canadians continue to demonstrate the dedication, bravery and patriotism that defined our efforts throughout the Second World War. Our health care professionals are on the front lines each and every day fighting to keep us healthy and safe. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces are helping in long-term care homes. The Canadian Rangers are supporting northern and remote communities, and reserve units stand ready to help Canadians if needed.
Canadians are grateful for your service. On behalf of the Official Opposition, I want to say thank you.
Just this past week, we were reminded of the tremendous cost of service as six members of the Canadian Armed Forces were killed in a helicopter crash during Operation Reassurance. Our sincere condolences go out to the families of the fallen. May God bless them and comfort them during this difficult time.
Today and every day, let us honour our veterans, our brave service men and women and all those who continue to fight for a freer and peaceful world.
Lest we forget.