Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pride to rise this afternoon in this place of piece to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe.
On May 8, 1945, before some of us were born, Canadians old and young paraded in the streets, gathered on Parliament Hill, lit victory bonfires; church bells rang and children shouted in joy. The second world war was over in Europe and loved ones would soon be coming home.
With the news that the great war was over so too was the worry that a father or a son, a sister or a friend would not live to see and feel the peace for which they had fought and for which so many had died.
In the homes of Canada the sounds of victory that bellowed from Europe echoed like a profound sigh of relief.
And for those who had lost a loved one in the war, there was at least the consolation that others would not have to suffer from the same pain that gripped them, and that the war would no longer make young widows out of young brides.
Today, thousands of Canadian veterans are commemorating this anniversary in a very special way: They returned to Europe's battlefields of 50 years past. They returned to say their goodbyes to friends who are dead but not forgotten. Several of them returned to Holland, a grateful country which warmly welcomed them. They were greeted as liberators. They were showered with the same love and exuberance that they received in the spring of 1945.
Today, as they did 50 years ago, the Dutch people are welcoming Canadians into their homes and hearts. They are showing the gratitude that a people have for their liberators; the gratitude of a people who know what freedom is because they had it taken away. It is the gratitude that a people have for the soldiers, some of whom are in the gallery today, who ended their starvation and who fought a desperate battle against a vicious enemy. It is the gratitude for the young Canadian soldier far away from home who fought beside a brother at one moment and then in a burst of fire became a memory the next. It is the gratitude for those young Canadians who fought through the cold and the mud, through the rain and the blood, through the pain, until the people of Holland found their liberation and Europe found its victory.
Ik bedaank het nederlandse volk for de gast vrijheid.
The battle in Holland was not a battle for conquest; it was a battle for freedom. It was battle that cost the lives of 7,000 young Canadians who lie buried in the peace they won.
Canada paid a great price for that peace. It is a price we measure each time a veteran sees a small Dutch child, as we saw today near Parliament Hill. It is the price of making the world safe and decent for all our children. It is the price our country was willing to pay.
This morning, the MPs of this House attended ceremonies to honour the sacrifice of those who served Canada in those six years of conflict. We gathered at the War Memorial to pay tribute to those who gave their lives for freedom and to honour the peace we inherited from them.
In his eloquent speech at the Groesbeek cemetery in Holland on Saturday, the Prime Minister said: "You made it possible for us to live, grow and prosper in peace. Your legacy is a proud and independent country which grew from infancy to adulthood during the war".
On this day, the 50th anniversary of V-E Day, we oblige ourselves to preserve this legacy for all the days to come. We oblige ourselves to keep this vigil of peace constant from parent to child, from teacher to student, from generation to generation.
We pay tribute to their great sacrifices and to the ideals that inspired those sacrifices. Canadians fought and died on the fields of Europe to preserve the democratic ideals that make Canada the envy of the world.
Today we stand proud on the world stage because 50 years ago our veterans dug in and told the enemy: "We are the Canadians. We are the bitter enemy of your oppression. We will not rest until your tyranny has ended. We will not rest until we share our freedom with the world".