A remarkable friendship born of war

Steven Fletcher Taking Note
Steven Fletcher
Taking Note

In the month of May the people of many nations stopped to celebrate and mark VE Day’s 70th anniversary. The parades throughout Europe were joyous and filled with gratitude. The British always seem to have most pomp and circumstance celebrations, and the French seemed to love celebrating.

However, for many Canadian’s, I think the most moving celebration was in the Netherlands. We saw on our TVs the few remaining Canadians of the forces that liberated the Dutch and the few Dutch that once again remember saying thank you. We heard that this is likely the last journey back that they will take.

The images we saw did not have the fancy military equipment but simply Canadian veterans in Second World War vintage vehicles shaking hands, hugging and kissing the people they liberated and their offspring. The simplicity of the thank you highlights the genuine and long lasting appreciation of the veterans. The bond between the Dutch and the Canucks will last a thousand years. Before the Second World War, Canadians and the Dutch people were friendly, of course, but it was like any other relationship Canada had with other nations. In fact, I’d say other than the love of freedom there wasn’t much in common between the two nations.

It is amazing to me how terrible events can bring together two nations at opposite ends of the world who do not have historical ties. Princess Beatrice was born in Canada when the Dutch royal family was forced to flee. They came to Canada and the Ottawa hospital was declared Dutch territory for the birth.

We saw many Canadians killed or wounded in the liberation, just as we saw the starvation, cruelty and unspeakable horrors the Nazi inflected on the innocent nations overseas. Every five years since 1985, the Netherlands has celebrated their liberation alongside Canadians. What I find beautiful about our relationship is we both receive so much joy in the thank you.

Canadians tend not to celebrate themselves, and to see another nation celebrate us can only increase our admiration for the Dutch citizens for what they had to experience and the graciousness of their recovery. The spring tulip festival in Ottawa is another reminder of the beautiful relationship between our two nations.

In early May, I watched the 100th anniversary ceremony in Turkey of the battle of Gallipoli. I found it on the BBC channel live. Did you know that the Dominion of Newfoundland sent thousands of troops? British, Australian, New Zealand and Turkish representatives each offered their respects to everyone who was lost.

The ceremony is a reminder that no matter how bitter the foe, time can heal, and the foe can become friends. The Turkish government did an outstanding job in hosting that remembrance ceremony.

The next big celebration will be the 70th anniversary of Victory over Japan Day. There is not enough space in this column to properly recognize the price paid by the victims to the Japanese aggression On VJ Day, let’s remember the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Royal Rifles of Canada. Together these two battalions fought for 18 days. I urge you to take the time to read the historical accounts of those who bravely fought and eventually became prisoners of war.

VJ Day is every bit as profound as VE Day because, while s VE Day shaped today’s Europe, VJ Day shaped today’s Asia and Oceania.

I encourage the readers of this column to participate in remembrance services and share with younger generations the sacrifices that have been made for them and the lessons learned.

Hon. Steven Fletcher is MP for St. James-Charleswood-Assiniboia-Charleswood.

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