Mayor Jim Watson is leading a delegation of 20 Ottawa business and tourism leaders to the Netherlands. This five-day mission will strengthen our business and tourism relations, and build on the strong bonds of cooperation and friendship that Ottawa has shared with the Netherlands since the Second World War.

Day 2 (September 16, 2019) – The Hague & Apeldoorn

On the mission’s second day in The Hague, the day started off at the Canadian Embassy in the Netherlands, where Ambassador Sabine Nölke and her team offered the Ottawa delegation a crash course on doing business in the Netherlands, and highlighted the opportunities this represented as a gateway to Northwestern Europe and the European Union.

Later that day, Mayor Watson had the pleasure of meeting Her Royal Highness, Princess Margriet, in the city of Apeldoorn. Mayor Watson expressed his wish for the Princess to visit Ottawa in 2020, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands. The Mayor also proposed renaming Fairmont Park, which is in proximity to the Ottawa Civic Hospital, after Princess Margriet, to commemorate her history in Ottawa. Later this fall, the park will feature a dedicated Liberation75 tulip garden, where the City will plant 1,945 tulips, marking the year of the Liberation. The Mayor will bring forward a motion to City Council for the proposal, supported by Ward Councillor Jeff Leiper, when he returns from the mission. The City will receive comments from the public for a 10-day period, starting on September 25.

Ottawa’s special relationship with the Dutch Royal Family led to the creation one of Canada’s most popular and well-known festivals: the Canadian Tulip Festival.

The Dutch Royal Family took refuge here in Ottawa during the Second World War. In 1943, the Crown Princess Juliana gave birth to Princess Margriet at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. Following the War, the Royal Family presented Ottawa with 100,000 tulip bulbs as a sign of gratitude for its hospitality – and an additional 20,000 tulips in 1946 as a token of appreciation for Canada’s support and wartime efforts.

Canadian Tulip Festival

This tradition continues today, with the Netherlands sending 20,000 tulips each year to Ottawa as a symbol of friendship. Every spring, Ottawa welcomes tens of thousands of visitors from around the world to enjoy these beautiful tulips during the Canadian Tulip Festival. In 2020, the Netherlands will be marking the occasion by repeating the initial gift of 100,000 tulip bulbs to Canada.

The Mayor also laid a wreath at the statue De man met de twee hoeden, the twin to the Ottawa statue Man with Two Hats. The statues, created by Dutch artist Henk Visch, represent the strong ties between our countries and the crucial role that Canadian soldiers played in the liberation of the Netherlands in 1945. The Ottawa statue was gifted to our city by the Netherlands and unveiled by Princess Margriet during her visit to Ottawa in May of 2002.

The Mayor laying the wreath.

Beyond these ties, Mayor Watson also has a personal connection to the Netherlands, as his father, Beverley Watson, fought there during the Second World War. As a member of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Canada, he fought alongside our Canadian soldiers who led the liberation of the Netherlands in 1945. These brave young men and women played a pivotal role in Northwestern Europe. The Royal Regiment is credited with liberating the city of Assen on April 13, 1945 before participating in the clearing of Groningen until April 15, some 20 days before the Netherlands was liberated from German occupation.

For his efforts, Beverley Watson was awarded the France and Germany Star, the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and Clasp, and the 1939 to 1945 War Medal.

‘’I’m very proud of my father’s service to our nation, and it is an honour for me to visit the country where he served Canada and defended our freedom during the Second World War,’’ said Mayor Watson.