Inaugural Canadian Commemorative Ceremony of the 70th Anniversary of the Beginning of the Liberation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Bergen-op-Zoom, The Netherlands, Monday, October 27, 2014
I am humbled and deeply honoured to visit the final resting place of so many Canadian and Commonwealth soldiers who died in the liberation of the Netherlands, 70 years ago.
The city of Bergen-op-Zoom and the surrounding waterways, landscapes and communities will always hold a prominent place in the memories of Canadians.
It was here that many hundreds of Canadian soldiers and airmen lost their lives, so far away from their loved ones and homes in Canada.
To be precise: 1,118 young men are buried in this cemetery. The vast majority were Canadians who fought north of Antwerp in the Battle of the Scheldt.
It was a costly but critically important battle in the liberation of the Netherlands. The bravery and sacrifices of those who fought here were central to the outcome of the larger struggle against occupation.
About a year-and-a-half ago, I had the privilege of travelling to the Netherlands for the investiture of His Royal Highness Willem-Alexander. During that visit, I attended a reception in honour of Dutch volunteers who are preserving the history of the liberation in communities including Holten, Groesbeek and BerIgen-op-Zoom.
To the volunteers and to all who are here today: thank you for honouring the sacrifices of Canadians. This is in fact the inaugural Canadian Day of Memory in the Netherlands, which means a great deal to our veterans, and to our country.
The horrors of the Second World War forged a lasting friendship between the people of Canada and of the Netherlands. We have many ties dating back to those difficult days—some of them extending to our shores in Canada.
You may know that your Princess Margriet was born in Ottawa, where then-Crown Princess Juliana was living out the war in exile with her daughters.
In fact, upon their arrival in Ottawa, the young royal family stayed for a time at Rideau Hall, where I now work and live with my wife, Sharon.
To this day, Canadians are welcomed in the Netherlands and made to feel at home here. Certainly I have experienced the warmth and hospitality of the Dutch during my visits to this country.
Canada and the Netherlands are great friends and share much in common, and the liberation is an important part of our story.
As friends, I want to express Canada’s deepest sympathies to the people of the Netherlands for the loss of life of so many in the MH-17 tragedy. The value of life and of freedom is held precious by the people of this country.
And the same can be said of the people of Canada in light of the recent events that took place in Canada during which 3 soldiers were taken down. My wife and I were shocked and deeply saddened and we mourn the losses of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo, and extend our sincerest condolences to their families and friends. And we wish a speedy recovery to the injured soldier.
With this in mind, let us honour the sacrifices of those who fought here by always remembering and thanking our veterans. And let us work together for a just and peaceful world today.
Thank you again for being here.