“Our bilateral relationship has a rich heritage based on Canada’s storied role in liberating this country during the Second World War.” ~ James Lambert, Canadian Ambassador to the Netherlands
Canadians are popular in Holland. Ask any Dutchie over a certain age. They’re the ones most likely to recall that Canadian troops liberated Holland from Hitler’s terrifying reign at the end of World War II. During the Nazi occupation, Canada also hosted the Dutch Royal Family in its capital city, Ottawa.
Why the Dutch Flag Flew Over Canada
The deepest bond between Canada and the Netherlands was forged after the Dutch royal family’s exile following the bombing of Rotterdam in 1940. Three years later, Princess Margriet was born in Ottowa Civic Hospital. To protect Queen Juliana’s third daughter’s Dutch citizenship, Canada disclaimed the territory temporarily so the princess would not be Canadian by birth. The Dutch flag flew over Canada’s Parliament Building on January 19, 1943 to commemorate the new royal—the only time a foreign flag has flown over the Canadian capitol.
Liberation Day in the Netherlands
Holland’s sweetest spring arrived in 1945 after Canadian troops, assisted by U.S., Polish and French forces, liberated the Netherlands on May 5. Sadly, it was not before 18,000+ Dutch civilians starved to death during the 1944 Hongerwinter (Hunger Winter), when Amsterdam and other cities were cut off from food supplies. Bevrijdingsdag (Liberation Day) is celebrated annually in Holland on May 5 to commemorate the end of Nazi occupation.
After the German surrender, Dutch citizens wrote “Thank You Canada!” on their rooftops. As Canadian troops distributed food, they became saviors as well as liberators. To show their gratitude, Dutchies sent thousands of tulips to Ottawa after the war. The Dutch Royal Family followed suit in 1945, when Princess Juliana presented Ottawa with 100,000 tulip bulbs to thank Canada for its role in the Second World War. The tradition continues with an annual gift of 20,000 bulbs that flower during the 18-day Canadian Tulip Festival, held in Ottawa every May since 1953.
Beyond tulips, there are other connections between Canada and the Netherlands. Both place a heavy emphasis on leaves. Both Dutchies and Canadians favor dishes made with potatoes, e.g. Dutch stamppot, frites with mayo and Canadian poutine. And neither culture takes itself too seriously, as evidenced by noon yoga on Parliament Hill on Wednesdays in Ottawa and crazy street parties throughout the year in Amsterdam.