MP wants Dutch day declared
The MP for Chatham-Kent-Leamington plans to ask his fellow members of Parliament to officially recognize the anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands during the Second World War each year.
Dave Van Kesteren, who was born to Dutch immigrants in 1955, said he plans to put forward a private member’s motion to declare May 5 Canada-Netherlands Day when Parliament resumes in Ottawa Jan. 28.
“I thought about this for quite some time, knowing the sacrifices that were made by our Canadian Forces in the liberation of the Netherlands, but also recognizing the unique friendship we have as two countries,” he said.
Canadian forces, aided by their allies, played a major role in liberating Holland from Nazi occupation in 1945, with 7,600 Canadian soldiers, sailors and airmen dying in action.
Van Kesteren is retiring from federal politics in October and he said this will be his last chance to make a private member’s motion in the Commons.
“I think it’s timely and it’s a good way to go out,” he said. “I did have a private member’s bill in the last Parliament and that passed unanimously. I suspect this will pass unanimously, too.”
Canada’s close ties with the Netherlands were shown when the Dutch prime minister visited Ottawa in October, he said.
Van Kesteren attended the coronation of Willem-Alexander as king of the Netherlands in 2013 and met Prime Minister Mark Rutte. The two met again on the 70th anniversary of the liberation.
Though Dutch settlement in Canada predates the Second World War, 94,000 Dutch immigrants came to Canada between 1947 and ’54, with many choosing to live on farms in southern Ontario, according to the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax.
Ontario is now home to more than 527,000 people of Dutch ancestry, according to the 2016 Census. About 11,000 reside in Chatham-Kent, making up 11 per cent of the population, while London has 38,165 residents with Dutch ancestry.
Richard Dirk ter Vrugt, former Dutch consul in the Forest City, noted Ontario recognized May as Dutch Heritage Month in 2011.
“If Dave Van Kesteren wants to do this Canada-wide, then I think it will be a good move,” he said. “The Dutch love the Canadian veterans.”