That, in the opinion of the House, in recognition of the sacrifices made by Canadians in the liberation of the Netherlands, as well as the contributions made to Canada by those of Dutch heritage, the government should recognize every May 5 as Dutch Heritage Day to honour this unique bond.
Mr. Speaker, I will begin my speech by saying what a rare privilege it has been to serve as the member of Parliament for the riding of Chatham-Kent—Leamington these past 13 years. As I begin my final year, I would like to thank them as well as my family, and especially my wife Faye, who is here this morning in the House, for the support and encouragement they have given me throughout these years.
However, I rise today to submit my private member's motion, Motion No. 207.
Today in Canada, approximately one million people can trace their roots to the Netherlands, and they can be found right across Canada. There were three main waves of Dutch immigration that made their way to Canada from Holland. The first wave, from 1892 to 1911, saw a small group of men come across from the United States where they had first emigrated to from Holland. The lure of free land and the opportunities of the new frontier brought them to Alberta, and a few years later, approximately one hundred people followed them. They joined with Hungarians, Icelanders, Romanians, Chinese people, Ukrainians, Jews, Mennonites, Doukhobors, Britons, Belgians, Americans and Poles, who were told that the land was free and if you worked hard you would prosper.
The next wave of Dutch immigrants came in the period between 1923 and 1930. Some in this group went out west but the majority came to Ontario. It is estimated that from these two groups, approximately 25,000 Dutch immigrants entered Canada. In my riding of Chatham-Kent—Leamington, families like the Lugtigheids, Bruinsmas and the Vellingas can trace their roots to this group.
The last group, or third wave, came after the Second World War. This was the largest group of immigrants, numbering over 140,000 people who came between 1947 and 1960. They settled across Canada in every province except Newfoundland. The first part of that group came mainly from the agricultural sector. Large families like the DeBrouwer, Postma, Hoekstra and Vandersluis families came to my riding and worked on farms, as well as many others who did the same across Ontario, the maritime and western provinces. The Eking family was one of those who settled in the Maritimes and the Viersen family is an example of those arriving out west.
My wife Faye's parents were in the latter part of that group. Harm and Antje Dekens arrived in 1952 as newlyweds and came to Orangeville where they met their sponsors and employers, Harry and Margaret Brown. Although they were employees, they were treated like family and remained close friends throughout their lives. Like many other Dutch immigrants, Harm, or Harry as he became known, soon saw the opportunities that this county offered. He bought a farm in Acton and started work at Ontario Steelworks in Milton, Ontario, working day and night to establish himself and his young family while Ann cared for the children at home. His work ethic at the factory propelled him to the position of general foreman, but his love for farming culminated years later in establishing Harry and Ann as successful dairy farmers.
Their story could be duplicated hundreds of times over so that today across Canada Dutch immigrants are found farming on some of the most successful farms in the country, having passed down their skills to the first, second and even third generation of farmers. Labourers continued to arrive working in construction and factories as well as professionals, filling the need for thousands of occupations across Canada.
Along with these immigrants, Canada also paid for the passage of nearly 2,000 Dutch war brides and their children. Dutch Catholics and Protestants of the reformed tradition all had their links to their creeds and traditions. Today, we find a large string of Christian grade schools, high schools and even accredited post-secondary schools across Canada. The rate of assimilation is almost complete with Dutch immigrants. In the 2016 census, 104,505 people reported Dutch as their mother tongue, down 11,000 from 2011.
We share many things with the Dutch as a nation. Both countries practice the parliamentary system of government. Bilateral trade is flourishing between the two countries. The Netherlands is Canada's fifth largest trading partner. In 2016, trade in goods between the two countries was estimated at $6.5 billion and in 2017 that climbed to $7.5 billion.
Many Canadian and Dutch companies and institutions co-operate in areas such as urban planning, health care, agriculture and green energy. In my riding, where one finds the largest collection of greenhouses in North America, we have benefited greatly from the Dutch, who are the largest greenhouse growers in the world and leaders of greenhouse technology globally.
Today in Canada, 30% of all immigrant-run greenhouses are operated by Dutch immigrants. In my riding, families like the Verbeeks, Devries and Geertsemas would be examples of this group. One quarter of all immigrant-run nursery operations are run by Dutch immigrants. My brother Charlie and his wife Colleen Van Kesteren were examples of this skilled group.
The two countries enjoy visa exemptions and as a result Dutch citizens can travel visa free for up to six months in Canada, which has become a travel destination for Dutch tourists since 90% of Dutch citizens today can speak English.
We have entered into many bilateral agreements in the past with the Dutch as well, such as the UN ban on landmines in 1996. We fought side by side in Afghanistan. We co-operate in many foreign aid projects in third world countries. All in all, it is a bond of friendship that continues to grow as both countries mutually participate in a world of shared values.
However, our greatest bond began back in 1940 during World War II when the Dutch royal family took refuge in Canada and lived in Ottawa during the war. The Nazis had overrun Holland and after bombing Rotterdam to oblivion the Dutch government surrendered, facing the threat of the same bombing of all of their cities. The future Queen Juliana gave birth to her daughter Margriet in an Ottawa hospital, where the room was designated Dutch soil, and later that day the Dutch flag flew up on the Peace Tower, the first and last time a flag other than the Canadian flag has flown there.
Then as destiny would have it, Canadians found themselves fighting for the liberation of the Netherlands in 1944 and on May 5, 1945, after fierce fighting, Holland was made free once again. Seventy-six hundred Canadians died in the nine-month campaign to liberate the Netherlands, a tremendous sacrifice in the cause for freedom in battles such as the Battle of the Scheldt and the Liberation of Arnhem. At Randstad, where the people suffered from the horrific effect of war, 18,000 died from starvation and it would have been a far greater number were it not for Canadians who both collected food and provisions at home and Canadian airmen who dropped thousands of packages in Operation Manna.
In appreciation, the Dutch began to send tens of thousands of tulip bulbs every year, the Dutch national flower, followed by thousands more by the Dutch royal family. The donations became an annual tradition, resulting in the Canadian Tulip Festival here in Ottawa.
Each year, Canadian Veterans make a pilgrimage to the Netherlands and lay poppies at the graves of their fallen comrades. Each year, Dutch children along with their parents lay flowers and tend the graves of the cemeteries and memorials like Bergen-op-Zoom Canadian War Cemetery, Groesbeek Memorial, Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery, Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, Holten Canadian War Cemetery, Jonkerbos War Cemetery, Liberation Forest, Kamp Westerbork, The Man with Two Hats, and Uden War Cemetery.
Today, as then, “Thank you, Canada” is heard both in the Netherlands and by the many Dutch immigrants who have made this country their home.
On Oct 25, Prime Minister Mark Rutte addressed the Canadian Parliament, the first Dutch prime minister to do so. At the beginning of his speech he honoured World War II veteran Mr. Don White, a member of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, who helped liberate the Netherlands from Nazi occupation.
The prime minister said that this is what Don wrote to his parents on April 17, 1945:
We have liberated a number of Dutch towns and you never saw anything like it in all your life. Once the Germans have been driven out and you enter the town, the people come out and put up their flags and royal colours. They crowd around the cars so badly you can hardly move. Your car is just one big bouquet of flowers that has been given you. The girls kiss you and the men shake your hand off. There is a lot so happy they cry.
The prime minister continued:
Don and his comrades risked their lives so that we could be free. He survived, but more than seven thousand six hundred young Canadian servicemen did not. They made the ultimate sacrifice, and the Netherlands is their final resting place. So yes, we feel deeply connected with Canada, and we are forever grateful to those brave Canadian soldiers who carried the light of freedom to our country in its darkest hour.
This we will never forget.
Thank you, Canada.
My parents came to this country in 1953 with five children. They came to a strange land with a different language and customs, a land wide open and vast, so different from the one they left. They arrived in May 1953 at the docks of Pier 21 in Halifax and were issued a train ticket to Chatham, Ontario, where they were greeted at the CP train station by the Van Rynes, their sponsor family, with whom they shared a small house, together with the Van Rynes' five children, for a month until my parents found a one-bedroom house they rented in the country. Life was challenging, to say the least. They were not always treated kindly by their neighbours, who I am sure were suspicious of these intruders.
Times were tough for Canadians as well, and resentment flared up when newcomers challenged them for jobs. Memories of the war were fresh. Some people had lost loved ones fighting in their land. However, they were not unique in their attitudes toward immigrants. There were Italian fathers who laboured for years in places like Sault Ste. Marie before they could bring their families to Canada. There were Polish families, Czechoslovakians, Belgians, Hungarians, Romanians and Germans, many of them refugees, all struggling with the strange customs and difficult language.
This is a land of immigrants. Every group in southwestern Ontario, from the highland Scots to the Irish and then later on to the Europeans, would have to struggle and gain their place amongst the English and French who first carved out a place in the wilderness. It is the very nature of our country. We are all immigrants, and we all owe our unique existence to this rich and diverse country.
Over time and through hard work, faith and commitment, the Dutch became Canadian. Today, the children of Dutch immigrants number amongst farmers, contractors, teachers, accountants, doctors, lawyers, business people and, yes, even members of Parliament. Each one of these consider themselves to be Canadian. Yes, they are of Dutch descent first but are foremost Canadian. Many times I would hear my mother proclaim:
[Member spoke in Dutch and provided the following translation:]
I am so thankful that I may live in this country.
I, too, am thankful that our parents chose this country, thankful that we can share in the pride of remembrance of the lives sacrificed by the men and women who fought to liberate the land of our heritage, and thankful for the bond that has grown and continues to grow between these two countries.
It has been said that the Dutch are amongst those who best integrate into new societies. Of all the immigrants I grew up with, I know of none who kept or bought homes in the old country and, with the exception of one or two, none who returned to their former home. I remember growing up hearing:
[Member spoke in Dutch and provided the following translation:]
We are now in Canada.
Dutch Canadians love this country and consider it their home. They came from a country that loves this country and considers Canadians their greatest friends. On May 5th this year, and from this year on, let us celebrate this unique bond.
It is my hope that, in the establishment of Dutch heritage day, Canada recognizes the voice of a grateful nation that says, “Thank you, Canada” and in response Canadians recognize what the Netherlands has given to us and say, “Thank you, Holland”.