'Thank you, Canada': Dutch PM Mark Rutte praises WW II sacrifices in historic address to Parliament

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte stood before Parliament today to thank Canada for its role in the liberation of the Netherlands during the Second World War — and to warn that the global stability those soldiers fought to preserve is now in peril.

Day-long visit includes wreath-laying ceremony, town hall with high school students

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomes the Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte to Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte stood before Parliament today to thank Canada for its role in the liberation of the Netherlands during the Second World War — and to warn that the global stability those soldiers fought to preserve is now in peril.

Rutte said the Dutch people feel a "deep connection" with Canada and paid tribute to the 7,600 Canadian soldiers who died in the campaign. They made the ultimate sacrifice and made the Netherlands their final resting place, he said.

"We are forever grateful to those brave Canadian soldiers who carried the light of freedom to our country in its darkest hour," he said. "This, we will never forget. Thank you, Canada." 

Rutte paid special tribute to Don White, a veteran who fought to liberate the Netherlands and was present in the gallery. He received a lengthy standing ovation.

Watch Don White share his story on Power & Politics

'I didn't win the war, all my buddies did. I just helped them,' says 94-year-old Don White who helped liberate the Netherlands. 5:26

Rutte said the two countries together became "sturdy pillars" in the defence of human rights, peace and the rule of law in the post-war era. Now, the two countries stand "shoulder-to-shoulder" at a time of global instability.

During his address to Parliament, Netherlands PM Mark Rutte thanks veteran Don White who helped liberate Holland from the Nazis during World War Two. 3:16

Geopolitical shifts, challenges

"With all the geopolitical shifts and global challenges we face, working together is now as crucial to the future of our children as it was for our grandparents after the Second World War," he said. "It's up to us to make it happen."

Rutte, who is on a one-day visit to Ottawa, is the first Dutch prime minister to address Canada's Parliament. He took part in a wreath-laying ceremony this morning and is taking part in a town hall meeting with high school students later today.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called him an "exceptional leader" and praised the bilateral friendship between the two nations that has been tested on the battlefield and beyond.

"We're aligned on the things that matter, and so long as we continue to share that strong sense of duty and a commitment to fairness, we will remain partners and friends for generations to come," he said.

Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte addresses Parliament and outlines the shared values, and their importance, for Canada and the Netherlands. 4:06

During a joint media availability on Parliament Hill, both leaders again emphasized a shared past and common goals for the future, including the spread of democracy, freedom and equality. Both expressed concern about the case of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident who was murdered at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul.

Asked if Trudeau would cancel a $15-billion deal to sell light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia to send a message to the world that Canada won't do business with murderous regimes, the prime minister said the government is "actively reviewing" the existing export permits.

He called it an "extremely difficult" contract and said that penalties for withdrawal would be "in the billions of dollars."

Rutte said his country already had severely restricted arms sales to Saudi Arabia in past years, and is now limiting commercial engagements with the kingdom.

After his arrival from Amsterdam this morning, Rutte received a welcoming ceremony with military honours at the National War Memorial.

He arrived on Parliament Hill and was greeted by parliamentarians from all parties before a private meeting with Trudeau.

As the two leaders sat down, Trudeau commented on the friendship and shared history between Canada and the Netherlands.

Trudeau said the Second World War connection between the two countries was a "strong foundation" for their historical bond and their more recent like-minded approach to climate change, trade and peacekeeping.

After lunch, Rutte will meet with students at Gloucester High School, then take part in a meeting with Business Roundtable that was organized by the Netherlands-Canada Chamber of Commerce.

He will visit the National Research Council of Canada and the University of Ottawa before departing for home in the evening.


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