Yesterday was ‘Liberation Day‘ (Bevrijdingsdag) in the Netherlands. May 5th marks the end of the German occupation which lasted from May 1940 until May 1945. It follows the Remembrance of the Dead Day (Dodenherdenking) which is held on 4 May. That’s when our Dutch friends remember all civilians and members of the armed forces of the Kingdom of the Netherlands who have died in wars or peacekeeping missions since the beginning of the Second World War.
Liberation Day is also celebrated in Canada, fittingly because 1st Canadian Army led the allied forces that sent the Nazi armies scampering out of the Netherlands in 1945.
I can speak from experience (I was stationed in the Netherlands in the 1980s, at HQ Allied Forces Central Europe) when I say that the Dutch people have never forgotten the Canadians who fought and died to free them from Nazi tyranny.
In 2020, the celebrations were muted, everywhere, but our Dutch friends, all across Canada, laid wreaths and remembered:
In an article published. by CBC News, Robert Smol, a retired Canadian Forces Intelligence Branch officer, marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands by comparing the military forces of Canada and the Netherlands today. It’s worth a read, but suffice it to say that the Netherlands, with just under half of Canada’s population but which spends ⅓ more, as a percentage of GDP, on defence, gets a lot of bang for its buck.
Put simply, the Dutch people and the Dutch political leaders, like ⇐ Prime Minister Mark Rutte are, unlike Canadians and their so-called leaders, unwilling to hide behind the military skirts of Donald J Trump and Angela Merkel. They, the Dutch people and their elected leaders are willing and able to stand up for themselves. Canadians could learn a lot from them … Canadians should consider the case of Canada vs the Netherlands in defence and foreign policy terms before they consider reelecting Justin Trudeau.
Canada has lived on its reputation for decades. And it was a good reputation. But we didn’t live up to for most of the past 50 years. The big decline in both hard power and responsibility began in 1969, when then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau previewed a starkly illiberal, isolationist suite of foreign and defence policies. Canada, quite simply, gave up and decided to stop being a leading middle power and decided, instead, to let Uncle Sam defend us and to shoulder our fair share of the burden of defending the West. Being a responsible middle power was totally incompatible with Pierre Trudeau’s world-view which was anti-Western, above all anti-Anglo-American, and decidedly ambivalent about the threat that the Soviet Union posed to Western liberal democracy. Trudeau wanted none of the traditional (since 1947) Canadain foreign and defence policies that …
… Louis St Laurent, John Diefenbaker and Lester B Pearson (pictured on the right, during the First World War, when he was, for a time, a pilot) had all shared, regardless of their political affiliation.
Pierre Trudeau was not even a reluctant warrior, à la Mackenzie King. He opposed Canada’s participation in the Second World War, which is almost universally regarded as a truly just war. Trudeau had not thought that Nazi Germany was a threat in French Canada in the 1940s. He thought that the USSR was even less of threat in the 1960s. He wanted no part of the US-led fight for liberalism … largely because he was never, really, a liberal. The problem was that in 1969 many, perhaps even most Canadians did not disagree with him. The problem is that today, 50 years later, most Canadians still do not disagree with the “peace-loving,” isolationist, socialist policies of either Trudeau, père ou fils.
Yesterday, basking in yesterday’s faded glories, is, with a couple of notable exceptions, what Canada has been all about since 1969. It will be hard to undo 50 years of a pacifist, isolationist, illiberal policy, especially when so many Canadians would much prefer that their federal government spends on social programmes rather than on defence. But, at some point, we have to decide: is Canada a proud, independent nation that can defend its own sovereignty and contribute to global peace and security, or is it just a de facto colony of the USA?