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Planting the ‘Liberation75’ tulip bulbs in honour of '75 Years of Freedom' of the Netherlands

The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands presented each of the Canadian provinces and territories, as well as 1,100 schools across the country, with the commemorative ‘Liberation75’ tulip bulbs, in honour of the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands.

The first tulip bulbs were symbolically planted in the province of Prince Edward Island, the birthplace of the Confederation of Canada, by Ambassador Henk van der Zwan. This was followed by planting ceremonies in the provinces of Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. The Consul General in Vancouver Henk Snoeken recently had the opportunity to plant tulip bulbs in Yukon Territory, as well as the province of Alberta. The Lieutenant Governors and representatives of the other provinces and territories will plant the tulip bulbs this fall, so that they can bloom in Spring 2020.

So, why are these ‘Liberation75’ tulip bulbs being planted across the country?

The Dutch-Canadian connection

The unique bond between Canada and the Netherlands is deeply rooted in the shared history of the two countries. During the Second World War, Canada generously sheltered the Dutch Crown Princess Juliana and her Family in Ottawa, during which time Princess Margriet was born in 1943. Following the end of the Second World War in 1945, Princess Juliana presented Canada with 100,000 tulip bulbs as a token of gratitude. In September 2019, Princess Margriet renewed this gift of her mother’s when she presented Canadian Veteran Mr. Don White with the a gift of  ‘Liberation75’ tulips, which symbolized the 100,000 tulip bulbs that the Netherlands presented to Canada for the year 2020.

This Royal Gift marked the beginning of the “75 Years of Freedom” commemorative events that the Dutch diplomatic network in Canada is organizing from coast to coast throughout 2019 and in 2020.

In the birthplace of the Confederation of Canada

Ambassador Henk van der Zwan travelled first to the historic city of Charlottetown, where the Confederation of Canada was signed in 1864. It was here where the first ‘Liberation75’ tulip bulbs were planted to celebrate both ’75 Years of Freedom’ and the special bond between Canada and the Netherlands.

The Liberation75 tulip bulbs were planted by the Ambassador together with Her Honour, the Honourable Antoinette Perry, Lieutenant Governor of Prince Edward Island, in the beautiful garden of the Government House overlooking Charlottetown sound. The Honourable Darlene Compton, Deputy Premier of Prince Edward Island and Steven Harris, Assistant Deputy Minister of Strategic Policy & Commemoration at Veterans Affairs Canada, were also present to plant the tulip bulbs, together with several Second World War veterans.

A special ceremony at the Citadelle of Québec

For the second planting ceremony, Ambassador Henk van der Zwan travelled to the City of Québec City. The tulip planting ceremony took place at the Citadelle of Québec, which is home to the Royal 22nd Regiment. Located on Cape Diamond, the city’s highest point, it is the largest British fortress in North America, and an integral part of the Québec City fortifications.

The Citadelle was recognized as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1980 and is part of the Historic District of Old Québec, which was placed on UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1985. The Liberation75 tulip bulbs were planted by Ambassador Van der Zwan, the Royal 22nd Regiment and His Honour, the Honourable Michel Doyon, Lieutenant Governor of Québec in the heart of the Citadelle.

A special guest, Second World War veteran Mr. Roland Lalonde, joined in the planting of the first few Liberation75 tulip bulbs.

Halifax: From memory to remembrance

In Halifax, Ambassador Henk van der Zwan, His Honour, the Honourable Arthur LeBlanc, Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, and Her Honour Rosemarie Patricia LeBlanc, took part in a planting ceremony that also included a moment with members of the younger generation. During the ceremony at Government House, several school children (grade 6) from the Armbrae Academy were provided with the opportunity to plant some of the tulip bulbs. A number of the students shared a special connection with the Netherlands, as their grandparents fought for the freedom of the Netherlands during the Second World War.

In the 1940s and 1950s approximately 94,000 Dutch immigrants immigrated  to Canada via Pier 21 in Halifax. They comprised the fifth largest ethnic group to arrive in Halifax. There are currently over 32,000 Canadians with Dutch roots who live in Nova Scotia, and over 13,000 in the city of Halifax.

Planting in the East – visiting Newfoundland and Labrador

For his last stop in the Atlantic provinces, Ambassador Henk van der Zwan travelled all the way to the city of St. John’s in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Liberation75 tulip ceremony took place in the garden of Government House, and was hosted by Her Honour, the Honourable Judy Foote, Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador. Even though it was rainy and stormy weather, the ceremony was well attended by many members of the diplomatic and military communities, as well as members of the Dutch Canadian community. Ambassador Henk van der Zwan planted the tulip bulbs alongside Vice-Admiral Art McDonald, Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, and the Honourable Dwight Ball, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Following the ceremony, all the guests were invited to attend a reception aboard the HNLMS Van Speijk, a Dutch Navy Frigate. The excellent entertainment was provided by The National Band of the Naval Reserve.

Crestwood Preparatory College in Ontario

Anne Le Guellec, Consul General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Toronto, was present at the special planting ceremony at Crestwood Preparatory College in Ontario . The old and the new generations were brought together. World War Two Canadian veterans and holocaust survivors told us their courageous and moving stories. The younger audience listened and learned. In spite of the cold and the snow young and old planted the 75th liberation tulips, together!

Up north in Yukon

Henk Snoeken, Consul General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Vancouver, was present at the special planting ceremony way up north in Whitehorse, Yukon. Together with the Honourable Angélique Bernard, Commissioner of Yukon, and two Dutch veterans, the Liberation75 tulip bulbs were planted in the garden of the Commissioner’s Office.

Branksome Hall in Ontario

Jorn Leeksma, Deputy Consul General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Toronto, had the pleasure to join Branksome Hall in Ontario for their Liberation75 Tulip Planting Ceremony.

Students at Branksome Hall, Grades 6 and 9 in particular, were learning about the importance of remembrance in historical contexts, and the special ceremony was one of the activities. Before these special and interactive Liberation75 education lessons started the students were told: "To learn history out of a textbook is one thing, but to learn it through stories and shared experiences is another thing entirely." After following the lessons the students couldn't agree more, Jorn was told by teachers.

Welcoming ceremony in Alberta

In the province of Alberta, where almost 200,000 Canadians of Dutch descent live, Consul General Henk Snoeken and Honorary Consul of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Edmonton Jerry Bouma were invited by Her Honour, the Honourable Lois E. Mitchell, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta to plant the Liberation75 tulip bulbs at Government House in the city of Edmonton. At that occasion many local students, veterans and members of the Dutch Canadian community were present.

One bulb for every Canadian who took part in the war effort

Alongside these special planting ceremonies, the Netherlands will honour the sacrifices made by the Canadians during the campaign to liberate the Netherlands 75 years ago. Together with Canadian partners, the Netherlands diplomatic network in Canada  will cover the country with 1.1 million “Liberation75” tulips, in order to honour the 1.1 million Canadians who took part in the Second World War.

In order to do this, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands will send 75 tulip bulbs to 1,100 schools across the Canada. This gift will be accompanied by an education guide to explain the shared history between both countries, including the pivotal role Canada played in liberating the Netherlands, the holocaust through the eyes of Anne Frank, and the safe haven that Canada provided to the Dutch Royal Family during the war.  

Following Princess Juliana’s gift of 100,000 tulips to Canada in 1945, the tulip has since become a true symbol of Dutch-Canadian friendship, and it also resulted in the birth of the Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa in 1953.

The 1,100 schools across Canada will soon plant their Liberation75 tulip bulbs, in much the same way that these tulip bulbs were recently planted in the Township of Langley (in the presence of Henk Snoeken, Consul General in Vancouver), and at Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa (in the presence of the Frederieke Quispel, Chargé d’affaires).