Ontario celebrates Dutch Heritage Month in May, thanks to a bill recently proposed by Elizabeth Witmer, MPP for Kitchener-Waterloo, and passed unanimously in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Why Ontario and why May? Read on.
- About a million Canadians are of Dutch heritage, with half of those living in Ontario. Ontario has long been a destination of choice for Dutch immigrants, beginning with Dutch-speaking Loyalists who fled New York and New Jersey in the late 1700s.
- The end of the Second World War saw a fresh boom of immigration from war-ravaged Netherlands, the new arrivals quickly adapting and making significant social, economic, political and cultural contributions to Ontario’s growth and prosperity.
- May was chosen as the month in which to pay tribute to the contributions of Dutch-Canadians as well as celebrate the close ties that have developed between Canada and the Netherlands since Canadian troops played a major role in liberating the Netherlands from Nazi occupation in May, 1945. Today, May 5 remains an important national holiday in the Netherlands, called Liberation Day.
- The Canadian Tulip Festival–taking place each May in Ottawa–is a joyful symbol of friendship between the two countries. The event was kickstarted years ago with a large gift of tulip bulbs to the people of Canada by the Dutch royal family who found safe haven in Ottawa during the war years.
“The Dutch are forever grateful to Canada for playing such an important role in our history. Dutch Heritage Month in the month of May will foster respect and honour the past with an opportunity to look into the future as innovative, creative and reliable partners. The Province of Ontario and the Netherlands will continue their special bond and relationship,” said Arie Plieger, Deputy Consul General, Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The special relationship is also an important economic one, as Dutch Consul Hans Horbach in Toronto pointed out on the occasion of the bill’s passing. The Netherlands is the third largest investor in Canada after the United States and the United Kingdom. “Not bad,” he said, “for a country that could almost fit in Lake Ontario.”
Many Canadians travel to the Netherlands during the month of May to join Liberation celebrations and commemorate the heroism of Canadian armed forces during WWII. You should, too! May is an optimal time to bike through spring-pretty countryside or soak up the rich cultural scene in cities like Amsterdam and The Hague. For more on the Netherlands’ seasonal attractions, see Visit Holland, official website of the Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions.