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Joint remembrance at Brabant's Canadian War Cemetery

Prime ministers pay respect

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

BERGEN-OP-ZOOM – Canadian soldiers who gave their lives for the cause of freedom in the fierce Battle of Scheldt in the Fall of 1944 were commemorated recently at the Canadian War Cemetery near the west Brabant town of Bergen-op-Zoom by Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende along with Canada's Minister of Veterans Affairs Jean-Pierre Blackburn and Chief of the Defense Staff General Walt Natynczyk. Elderly Canadian veterans of WWII and Canadian high school students also participated in the ceremony of remembrance. The 65th Anniversary of the Liberation proceedings were also followed by many Dutch spectators.

“Canadians who fought in the Second World War in the Netherlands and beyond did extraordinary things in the name of freedom. Their courage and determination in grueling conditions represents the best of what Canada is,” said Prime Minister Harper. “Today, we keep faith with them by remembering their deeds, honouring their achievements and celebrating the lasting bonds between our two great countries.”

Most of the soldiers who were killed in the tedious but fiercely fought Battle of the Scheldt were laid to rest at the Bergen-op-Zoom cemetery. The battle exacted a heavy toll on Canadian forces—more than 6,300 Canadian soldiers were killed, wounded or captured in this campaign to clear a vital piece of coastline for allied shipping lines which until then relied on hugely stretched and clogged roads back to Normandy.

Harper stressed that the special friendship forged in the united fight for freedom endures between our countries to this day. He noted that this is "apparent in the kindness with which Canadian veterans and ordinary citizens are received in the Netherlands and in the beautiful tulips that you send every year to our nation’s capital. I would like to thank the Netherlands for their commitment to remembering those brave Canadians who fought and died here during the war.”

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said that the visit of Harper and his delegation also is about the future and about the strong ties between the two countries. He pointed to interesting and fruitful conversations on several issues earlier in the day about the international financial crisis, climate change issues, and of course, the close cooperation between Canada and the Netherlands. Balkenende said that on many of these topics they see eye to eye, and the need to strengthen cooperation in the years to come. They also concluded that our bilateral relations are flourishing, continued Balkenende who visited Canada in February. "Close to a million Canadians can claim Dutch roots, and you run into Dutch Canadians wherever you go in Canada. Trade and investment are growing, and they express the hope that a new Canada-EU comprehensive economic and trade agreement that’s presently under negotiation will create further opportunities for Dutch and Canadian businesses," he said.

While in Europe, Harper and other Canadian officials attended the UE-Canada 2010 summit. He also paid a visit to Queen Beatrix at het Palace in The Hague and to the Dutch parliament.