Growing up in Canada, I am at times struck by the wonderful privileges we had growing up in our beautiful country.
Remembrance Day is a chance for reflection, and I often wonder at the type of childhood my parents must have had growing up in occupied Holland during World War II.
For Dutch people, and those of Dutch heritage, Canada holds a very special place in our hearts.
I am so grateful that my parents made the decision in 1952 to immigrate to Canada. They embraced their new home and country with such enthusiasm, to the point, that it took quite a bit of effort for me to learn Dutch in our household. The emphasis was on becoming Canadian, and that meant speaking English. It was not till much later that I learned some rudimentary Dutch, which served me well when I visited Holland as an adult.
Whenever I visited Holland, family, friends and new acquaintances were always so quick to express their gratitude to the Canadians for their major contribution toward liberating the Dutch from the Nazis.
My heart never fails to fill with pride that I am also a Canadian, and I believe we must never as a country forget these soldiers for their sacrifices.
Every Remembrance Day, I make sure to pause at the 11th hour of that 11th day and 11th month, to remember these special individuals.
But do we in fact, acknowledge our brave soldiers that still serve today, in our peace keeping missions around the world?
Do we honour them enough when they have served our country, and then have tried to resume their lives as civilians? I fear not.
Do we provide them with the healthcare, financial and emotional support if they return home from war torn areas of the world, broken and hurt, physically and mentally? Once again, I fear not.
I ask this question, because of my father. He was born in 1926 and was a teenager during the German occupation. At the tender age of 16, he worked for the Dutch Underground, delivering messages, He was captured toward the end of the war and was sent to a concentration camp. He would never as long as he lived, tell us anything about it.
What I do know is that he suffered greatly psychologically and my mother told me he often woke in a cold sweat after having had horrific nightmares.
My father’s experience reinforced to me the psychological trauma that soldiers must experience.
I am so saddened when I read an article about the poor care our Canadian government provides our veterans. Here is a excerpt from a CBC News article which appeared on February 19th, 2018.
“The original “Veterans Charter” emerging from World War II was truly universal. Every veteran was offered assistance to re-establish life back at home, with programs offering farming equipment and animals, land, homes, education, financial assistance and priority job placements. By 1947, veterans’ benefits were twice the expenditures of national defence and 16 per cent of the federal budget. Canada invested 2.3 per cent of its entire GDP in assisting veterans. This investment in veterans, both economists and historians largely agree, contributed to Canada being one of the most successful post-war economies.”
Sadly, this is not the case today. Since that time, the appreciation for Canadian veterans has been in decline. There seems to be very little respect and regard for what it means to wear a military uniform and to defend the freedoms and rights most of us take for granted.
Current spending on veterans represents a mere 1.2 per cent of the federal budget and 0.2 per cent of GDP.
For me, a child of immigrants, who may not even have been born had the Canadians not been successful in liberating the Netherlands, I can not fathom the lack of respect and honour we give Veterans today.
This Remembrance Day let us remember all our Veterans, past and present, and ensure they are honoured every day with the respect and admiration they deserve.
If you agree with me, please tell your MPs that it is unacceptable to turn our backs on these brave men and women who have served our country with dignity and honour.
Let us in turn, honour them, not with platitudes and easy talk, but with sincerity and action