This Sunday, May 5, will be the first Dutch Heritage Day in Canada, following a unanimous vote in Parliament on April 10 in favor of a motion to recognize the day. Chatham-Kent—Leamington Member of Parliament Dave Van Kesteren had proposed the bill to the House of Commons on January 28, suggesting it was fitting to recognize the history of the two countries.
When Canadian soldiers arrived in the Netherlands and fought to liberate it from Nazi Germany in late 1944 until May 1945, they encountered evidence of terrible suffering and hunger, and intense gratitude from the Dutch people. More than 7,600 Canadians died in the campaign to liberate the Netherlands, a sacrifice the Netherlands continues to honor. Many Dutch people immigrated to Canada in the years following World War II.
Van Kesteren’s parents were among the immigrants from the Netherlands to Canada after World War II. He noted, “The purpose of the bill is to honor all those who made the sacrifice to liberate the Netherlands and to honor those who had the courage to leave everything and everyone behind and start up a new life in a strange land.”
Peter Bulthuis, a member of Meadowlands Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Ancaster, Ont., and associate director of church relations for World Renew, immigrated as a young child with his parents in the 1950s. Learning about the newly designated day, he said, “I’m excited about the possibility of recognizing and celebrating the strong and long relationship that the Netherlands has had with Canada. Many of us who came after the war came as a result of the magnificent work that the Canadian soldiers did in liberating the Netherlands.”
While not a legal holiday, Dutch Heritage Day joins a number of other days recognized by Parliament, such as Autism Awareness Day, Black History Month, and National Aboriginal Day.