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Ontario initiative would proclaim May as “Dutch Heritage Month”

MPP Witmer introduces Dutch Heritage Month Act

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

TORONTO, Ontario - The Kitchener-Waterloo member of Ontario’s provincial parliament, Schiedam area born Elizabeth Witmer has introduced a Private Members’ Bill in the Ontario Legislative Assembly, called the Dutch Heritage Month Act, 2010.

If passed by Queen’s Park, the Bill will officially proclaim the month of May as Dutch Heritage Month in the Province of Ontario. While no other Canadian jurisdiction has a Dutch Heritage initiative on its books, to the south, the U.S. Congress enacted such a measure in 1991 in recognition of the famed First Salute to the U.S. flag at St. Eustatius on November 16, 1776, by declaring November 16 Dutch Heritage Day.

Witmer noted that the Dutch-Canadian community has made significant contributions to the growth and prosperity of the Province of Ontario and that Canada now is home to approximately one million people with roots in the Netherlands and its jurisdictions, of whom 500,000 currently live in Ontario. The first Dutch-speaking migrants who arrived in Ontario in the late 1700s, fled from New York and New Jersey as Loyalists.

The Ontario politician, who has also served as deputy premier during a Progressive Conservative government, says that May is a historically significant month for the Dutch-Canadian community, referring to the May 5, 1945 date, when Canadian Forces were instrumental in liberating the Netherlands from its World War II occupation. The Dutch in Canada continue to show a keen interest in the celebrations of the liberation in the Netherlands, with many traveling to the old country to share in the remembrances of the heroic efforts of the Canadian Forces. May 5 is a National Holiday in the Netherlands, known as Liberation Day.

The Dutch in Canada also continue to acknowledge the significance of the May 5 date, with various communities, groups and even stores holding special events.

“By proclaiming the month of May as Dutch Heritage Month, the Province of Ontario will be recognizing the important contributions that Dutch-Canadians have made to the economic, political, social and cultural fabric of Ontario’s society,” Witmer said. “I am honored to introduce this Bill.”