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Prime Minister Stephen Harper marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands

Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivers remarks at the Wageningen National Commemoration Capitulations 1945 and Liberation Parade, as part of the commemorations to mark the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands. PMO photo by Jason Ransom.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivers remarks at the Wageningen National Commemoration Capitulations 1945 and Liberation Parade, as part of the commemorations to mark the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands. PMO photo by Jason Ransom.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper wrapped up a two-day visit to the Netherlands, where he participated in a range of activities to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands.
A delegation of more than 60 Canadian veterans and close to 1,000 Canadian students and cadets joined the prime minister in the Netherlands for this historic commemoration.
“It was a moving experience to be alongside Canadian veterans who fought with such passion 70 years ago to liberate the Netherlands from Nazi occupation and tyranny,” Harper said. “It is our duty to remember that these brave patriots, along with our Allies, fought for the freedoms and rights that we enjoy today. Sadly many died in this noblest of undertakings. We owe them a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.”
As part of the commemorations, the prime minister participated in a ceremony at the Holten Canadian War Cemetery and attended the Wageningen National Commemoration Capitulations 1945 and Liberation Parade, honouring the memory, achievements and sacrifices of Canadian and Allied soldiers.
“It is a privilege to be marking the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands alongside the very same brave Canadian soldiers who participated in this historic military campaign, the Allied countries who fought by our side, and of course the Dutch people, whose resistance fighters provided invaluable support and intelligence to retake their homeland,” Harper said. “Our countrymen worked together as brothers in arms to free the country from the grip of Nazi tyranny.”
Harper honoured the courage and sacrifices of Canadians and Allies who participated in the Liberation of the Netherlands, and heard from Canadian veterans first-hand who bravely fought in the country 70 years ago.
“In the fall of 1944, the First Canadian Army began its assault on the occupying Nazi forces to break their stranglehold on a war-ravaged and starving nation,” Harper said in his remarks. “Reinforced by Dutch and Allied troops, the First Canadian Army endured harsh and gruelling conditions against the entrenched Nazi forces. The flat, Dutch countryside, much of it reclaimed from the sea, was often flooded, caking and weighing soldiers and their machinery down in mud, and offered little to no protection from enemy fire.”
From the fall of 1944 to the spring of 1945, up to 175,000 Canadian soldiers of the First Canadian Army played a leading role in the Liberation of the Netherlands and its people who had suffered terrible hunger and brutality under Nazi occupiers.
The cost of victory was high: more than 7,600 Canadians died in the effort.
“A poignant reminder of this cost is the row upon row of headstones of Canadian soldiers laid to rest in the region’s hallowed war cemeteries,” Harper said. “Thousands of Canadians lie buried far away from the homes and families they left behind.”
The Holten Canadian War Cemetery is one of three Canadian war cemeteries located in the Netherlands which are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, with some 1,350 Canadian war dead buried there.
Canada and the Netherlands continue to enjoy excellent relations 70 years after the liberation – a poignant reminder of Canada’s role in freeing a grateful Dutch nation.
“Today, the bonds of mutual respect and friendship between our countries endure, forged by the sacrifices made in the name of freedom and strengthened by our shared values of freedom, democracy and rule of law,” Harper said.
“Seventy years ago, the advancing Canadian soldiers were heralded as heroes and greeted by entire towns of grateful Dutch citizens,” Harper said. “Seventy years later, these same selfless veterans continue to be warmly embraced and welcomed as heroes by a forever grateful Dutch nation.”
“To the Dutch people, we say Dank u wel. Thank you also for the beautiful tulips which bloom each spring in our own nation’s capital, Ottawa, a symbol of your gratitude for the refuge Canada provided to members of the Dutch royal family.”
“We gratefully acknowledge the service and sacrifices, and honour the achievements of the brave Canadians in uniform who fought and died during the Liberation of the Netherlands. We will remember them.”

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