Local MP Dave Van Kesteren christened the new House of Commons chamber in Parliament recently.
The Chatham-Kent Leamington MP was the first Member of Parliament to speak in the new chamber as he gave second reading on his motion to make May 5 Dutch Heritage Day across the nation.
“What an honour! To be the first one up. You can’t plan these things,” Van Kesteren said.
Originally slated to introduce the motion, M-207, to Parliament at the end of the session to close 2018, Van Kesteren had to wait until the new year.
He didn’t expect to be first out of the gate, however.
“I got a call from our House leader earlier this month and they said, ‘you are up, first up,’” he said. “The beauty of that is that I was well prepared. I had the (Christmas) break to think about it some more.”
May 5 marks the anniversary of the liberation of Holland from Nazi occupation during the Second World War. Canadian forces were tasked with pushing the Germans out of Holland.
More than 7,600 Canadian military personnel were killed during the fighting in the Netherlands.
“In recognition of service sacrifices made by Canadians in the Liberation of the Netherlands, as well as the contributions made to Canada by those of Dutch heritage, the government should recognize every May 5 as Dutch Heritage Day to honour this unique bond,” Van Kesteren said before the House.
Born to Dutch parents who had immigrated to Canada from Holland after the Second World War, the MP said response to his motion was “great.”
He added all parties spoke to it.
“The NPD spoke to it. She (MP Jenny Kwan) was very gracious. She talked about how this is what makes Canada what it is,” he said.
“It’s fitting to look at our history and of course the contributions of all the diverse communities that have made us great as a nation, and the Dutch community and its contributions as well,” Kwan said in the House.
Liberal MPs Kevin Lamoureaux and Robert-Falcon Ouellette also spoke to the motion.
Van Kesteren said all-party support was expected.
“This is a win for all sides. It’s a good thing, something that everyone agrees to,” he said. “A real bond has developed between Holland and Canadians. It’s continuing to grow.”
Officials from the Dutch embassy were also on hand for the reading, Van Kesteren said.
He added the final reading would likely come in about five weeks’ time.