State Dinner in Honour of Their Majesties King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands
Rideau Hall, Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Your Majesties, it is a great honour for Sharon and me to welcome you and the members of your delegation to Canada.
We are so pleased to see you again, and to have this opportunity to return the warm hospitality that you and the Dutch people offered us during our visits to the Netherlands.
I will never forget the experience of attending your investiture at the Niewe Kerk, nor the banquet held by Princess Beatrix the evening before at the Rijksmuseum.
These occasions underscored all that our two countries have in common.
In your investiture address, you spoke of the important bond of trust between the monarchy, the Estates General and the people, and of your commitment to serve rather than rule.
Your Majesties, I was and remain most impressed by your commitment to upholding the rule of law, constitutional principles and community values such as service and duty.
On that note, I’d like to take a moment to share a few biographical details about our guests of honour this evening.
His Majesty began his service to country at the age of eighteen when he enlisted in the Royal Netherlands Navy, eventually rising to the rank of Brigadier General in the armed forces of the Netherlands. He also has a strong interest in water management—a key issue in the Low Countries!—and has served as chairperson of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation. His Majesty is an accomplished athlete and has served as the Dutch representative to the International Olympic Committee.
Her Majesty has also had a varied and meaningful career. She has studied and worked abroad, in both Argentina and the United States, completing several tenures at international financial institutions. Queen Maxima serves as the UN Secretary General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, where she supports the effort to develop inclusive frameworks for poverty alleviation.
Both of Their Majesties are advocates of volunteerism, and have lent their support to the effort to strengthen the voluntary sector in the Netherlands.
This is an interest we share in common, Your Majesties, and I thank you both for your leadership and generosity.
The people of Canada and of the Netherlands are very fortunate to have inherited a strong and forward-looking relationship—a true friendship.
Our people-to-people ties are very strong. Roughly 1 million Canadians—almost 3 percent of our population—are of Dutch origin. Dutch-Canadians have enriched every aspect of Canadian life, from academia to the arts, politics, business and sports.
And of course, your Princess Margriet was born in a hospital in Ottawa in January 1943, while then-Crown Princess Juliana was living out the war in exile with her daughters.
The young royal family even stayed here at Rideau Hall for a time as guests of my predecessor, the Earl of Athlone, on behalf of all Canadians!
As you know, this year marks a solemn and significant anniversary: the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands. This anniversary calls us to reflect upon and honour the sacrifices of those who served our countries in the war.
Sharon and I travelled to the Netherlands last fall to participate in the Canadian commemorative ceremony in Bergen-op-Zoom, marking the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the liberation. I am pleased that Your Majesties’ visit to Ottawa will highlight the theme of remembrance between our two countries.
Today, our two countries work together on many common causes, including human rights, religious freedom, democracy and international peace and security. We are partners in the United Nations and NATO, and numerous other international organizations.
Canada and the Netherlands are both home to many leading thinkers, companies and academics. During your visit you will meet with representatives from Canada’s business and academic communities with a focus on innovation—a theme of great importance to our two countries and a strong interest and priority of mine.
We also enjoy a strong and dynamic commercial relationship—one that is poised to grow with the conclusion of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) negotiations.
With an open, safe and stable economy, world-class infrastructure and leading-edge research and development, Canada is an attractive destination for Dutch investment. The Netherlands is Canada’s fifth largest European trading partner and second largest source of foreign direct investment. Two-way investment has grown to a record high of almost $90 billion, with the potential for yet more growth.
Your Majesties, as you travel across the country, you will meet with Canadians who seek to build ties and work with the people of the Netherlands. We trust that your visit will showcase the breadth and depth of our enduring relationship.
Canada is eager to deepen its connection with the Netherlands. I thank you for visiting our country, and wish you a successful visit.
Now, let us raise a glass to the many ties that bind our two countries in friendship.
To Canada and the Netherlands!