MP wants Dutch day de­clared

Sentinel-Review (Woodstock) - - NEWS - TOM MOR­RI­SON

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.”

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