There is a quote by poet Pam Brown that reads, “In loneliness, in sickness, in confusion – the mere knowledge of friendship makes it possible to endure. Friendship is not diminished by distance or time, by imprisonment or war, by suffering or silence. It is in these things that it roots most deeply. It is from these things that it flowers.”
The past week marking the 10th anniversary of the official twinning of Burlington and Apeldoorn, the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands, and our enduring friendship, was the experience of a lifetime.
The modern concept of city twinning – also known as mundialization – was conceived after the Second World War in 1947, intended to foster friendship and acceptance between different cultures.
The word “mundialization” stems from the Latin word “mundus” which means “world”. Mundialization encourages citizen connections as a way of fostering world peace and global understanding.
This understanding and celebration of our culture was at the heart of the past week’s activities with our sister city, Apeldoorn.
This year’s celebrations were multi-faceted. In April, 21 Burlington students from participating high schools travelled to Apeldoorn for a week-long exchange. There was also an art exchange and pen pal program between participating Grade 4 and 5 students.
A group of Burlington citizens came to the beautiful Netherlands last week, along with the City of Burlington delegation that consisted of a small group of city staff, Councillor Blair Lancaster and myself, as well as Burlington Mundialization Chair Ed Dorr and Burlington Apeldoorn Committee Chair Charles Minken.
The Burlington Teen Tour Band also made the journey to Netherlands, making Burlington and Canada proud through numerous performances at the various twinning and liberation celebrations.
It truly was a week of friendship, cultural exchanges and idea sharing.
Apeldoorn is a city of approximately 150,000, while Burlington has about 180,000 residents. We have many similarities despite our physical distance.
There were many highlights from the mundialization activities and meetings.
The City of Burlington delegation met with municipal officials on several occasions to share ideas and best practices, with discussions around infrastructure, sustainability, fleet, efficiencies, greenspace management and council procedure, among others.
There were also discussions about possible economic development opportunities. Economic development is a priority for both Apeldoorn Mayor John Berends and myself. We have opened to door to further dialogue.
The mundialization events also included the memorable preview of the Burlington Garden. This beautiful site featured many Canadian aspects, such as maple leaves on the pathway, and benches embossed with maple leaves looking over the Canadian and Dutch flags flying side-by-side. Apeldoorn Park in Burlington is a special place for our residents, as I hope Burlington Garden will be for Apeldoorn residents.
The close ties between the Canadian and Dutch people date back 70 years when the Canadian Forces liberated Apledoorn in April 1945 and the rest of the country by May 5, 1945.
Today, both Canada and the Netherlands are highly regarded in the international community for our strong open democracies with enduring traditions of tolerance and respect for human rights and the rule of law. We are natural friends and partners in so many ways.
There were many opportunities last week to honour our Canadian veterans and those lost during the dark time of the Second World War.
The visit to Holten Cemetery to honour our Canadian soldiers touched my heart, as did the veteran’s parades in Apeldoorn and Wageningen. Apeldoorn Mayor John Berends and I also laid a wreath at Loenen.
I have always been proud to be Canadian. This past week, observing thousands of Dutch citizens waving Canadian flags and seeing young Dutch children run up and hand our veterans homemade cards and fresh flowers during the parade deepened my patriotism.
Last week, I also had the opportunity to connect with Burlington veterans Mr. Jim Warford and Mr. Stan Egerton in Apeldoorn. Words are not enough to describe the honour of shaking their hands.
It was meaningful to have the Burlington Teen Tour Band perform at tribute events in the Netherlands and perform in the Liberation Parade in Apeldoorn, just as they did in 1995.
It is so very important to teach our young people about the importance of freedom and the relationship between Canada and the Netherlands. Everywhere I went, people spoke about the talent, precision and dedication of our young people in the band. They truly are the pride of Burlington and Canada’s Musical Ambassadors.
Back in Burlington, we held festivities on May 2 to celebrate Canada-Netherlands Friendship day. Canadian and Dutch flags were raised at City Hall.
We also celebrated the 70th Anniversary of Victory in Europe Day with a special ceremony on Saturday at Burlington City Hall led by my office to honour our veterans and the lives lost.
It is special to note that during the Second World War, the Dutch Flag was flown over the Parliament Buildings and Peace Tower in Ottawa when Princess Margriet was born in Canada. She is a beloved daughter of Canada. We had an opportunity to meet Princess Margriet during our visit. She was gracious and very complimentary of Canada and the relationship with Burlington.
I wish to extend my heartfelt thanks to the members of the Burlington Mundialization Committee, in particular Ed Dorr and Charles Minken, Jan Koorenhof and the Apeldoorn Burlington Committee, Apeldoorn Mayor John Berends, as well as City of Burlington and City of Apeldoorn staff, for their outstanding efforts in making this meaningful visit possible.
Burlington is a better place because of its relationship with Apeldoorn. Canada is a better country for its enduring connection with the Netherlands. The world is a better planet for these kinds of international deep roots.