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No local ceremony commemorating liberation of Holland but enjoy the tulips in bloom at City Hall

Normally at this time of year, the local Dutch community commemorates the liberation of Holland from German occupation on May 5, 1945.

A ceremony is traditionally held in Veteran’s Plaza at City Hall and tulips are planted to show appreciation to Canadian soldiers and to say  thank you to Canada.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, an in-person event will not be held this year. However, the tulips should be in full bloom during the dates listed above, and Prince George residents are encouraged to view the tulip boxes at City Hall on their own time (while maintaining social distancing).

“We want Prince George to enjoy the beauty of the tulips, and take some time to reflect upon the significance of the friendship that exists between Canada and the Netherlands because of Canada’s role in the Second World War,” said Corey Walker Dutch Canadian Tulip Commemoration committee member. “This year marks 75 years since the end of the war.

The tulip has become a symbolic way for Dutch people to express their gratitude to the people of Canada.”

The tulip was a gift in perpetuity to the Canadian people for providing a safe harbour to the Dutch Royal family during the Second World War. Upon their return home, the Dutch people sent 100,000 tulips to the nation capitol. Since then, the Dutch people have sent 10,000 tulip bulbs annually to Canada. Ottawa has more tulips than any place outside of the Netherlands.

This local event was started by the Dutch community (Jerry DeWitt) in 1994, with the planting of tulips in various locations around Prince George including here in front of City Hall.  In the fall of 2015, Vesey’s Bulbs donated 700 tulip bulbs to our event to help celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands last year. In total, 100 000 tulips were distributed across Canada. Prince George was one of 400 locations that were successful in receiving tulips from this donation.

“With the completion of Veterans Plaza, this has become the permanent location for what has become an annual gathering, with this being the 12th year,” said Walker. “We would like to thank the City of Prince George for making this possible. The tulips that you see around you here today were supplied and planted by members of the local Dutch community.”

You may ask yourself “after 75 years why continue doing this”? Canadian Forces played an important role in liberating the Netherlands. The Dutch recognize three days in May. May 4 is Remembrance Day for injured and fallen soldiers, May 5 is Liberation Day and a national holiday. During one part of the commemoration festivities, every Canadian soldier’s grave site in Holland has a tulip placed on it by a Dutch school child and May 8 is Armistice Day. Dutch people will always be grateful to Canada for their role in the liberation and it is our duty to pass this sentiment on to future generations of Dutch Canadians.

The Canadian Armed Forces played an important role in liberating Holland. Canadians who landed on D-Day, fought battles through France, Belgium, and into Germany before being sent back to the Netherlands with the Canadians who had fought in Italy. Canadian orders were to push the German troops occupying the northeast back to the sea and to drive German troops in the west back into Germany. The advance was halted on April 12, because of concern for the well-being of citizens in the western Netherlands, who, having been starved for months, ran the risk of having their country flooded if the Germans panicked and opened the dykes.

On April 28, the Canadians negotiated a truce which permitted relief supplies to enter the western Netherlands and end the “Hunger Winter.” No part of Western Europe was liberated at a more vital moment than the Netherlands and the Dutch people cheered Canadian troops as one town after another was freed. Many Dutch people painted, “Thank you, Canadians!” on their rooftops to show their appreciation to the pilots who dropped food from the air. 1

On May 5, 1945, Col.-Gen. Johannes Blaskowitz formally surrendered the remaining 117,000 German troops in the Netherlands to Canadian Lt.-Gen. Charles Foulkes of the First Canadian Corps, ending nearly eight months of bitter and difficult fighting.

For the millions of Dutch facing imminent starvation, the period of their liberation, from March 23 to May 5, 1945, is “the sweetest of springs”. But for the Canadians fighting a series of fierce, desperate battles in these last months of the war, it was bittersweet. A nation’s freedom was being won and the war concluded, but these final hostilities ultimately cost First Canadian Army 6,289 casualties, of which 1,481 were fatal.

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