Joining veterans and Dutch officials marking the anniversary of the liberation of Holland on Tuesday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the victory 70 years ago proves freedom will always triumph over evil.
On Tuesday, Harper joined crowds in Wageningen, the Netherlands, to remember the day in May 1945, when Canadian Lt.-Gen.Charles Foulkes and German Col.-Gen. Johannes Blaskowitz signed the ceasefire at the ruined Hotel de Wereld.
"It was more than a capitulation of tyranny to the relentless advance of liberation, more than the defeat of despair in the face of hope," Harper said. "It was the victory of an old truth: evil cannot triumph over an army that marches with the winds of freedom at its back."
"It is incredibly moving to visit the Netherlands and to see your tributes to our lost soldiers."
The Canadian campaign to liberate the Netherlands lasted from September 1944, until May 1945. In total, some 7,600 Canadians died in the conflict.
In the western Netherlands, Canadians fought house to house to free the Dutch after a "hunger winter" that saw many locals succumb to starvation.
For the most part, the violence ended with the ceasefire, though at least eight more Canadians died in the following days, historian Jeff Noakes told The Canadian Press.
Days after the ceasefire, U.S. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower accepted the unconditional surrender of all German forces, ending the war in Europe. Now "Victory Day," or VE Day, is celebrated annually on that date.
At the ceremony Monday, Pte. Frank Graham remembered his time fighting with the Canadian 1st Division in Italy and Holland. Now 92, Graham told The Canadian Press that he couldn’t believe it when he first heard that the fighting was finally over.
"When I heard they'd given up, I thought, no they don't," said Graham. "I didn't believe it to start with."
Gen. Tom Middendorp, the Dutch chief of defence, told the crowd inWageningen that his people are grateful for the sacrifices Canadian soldiers made.
"Freedom would not be as we know it today without you," he said at the beginning of the parade. "We can't repay you."
With files from The Canadian Press