To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands and the rest of Europe during World War II, the Dutch Liberation 2020 Canadian Society created the “Canadian Liberator” program, which sees red tulips being planted in communities across the country.
The program was created not only to commemorate those who fought during the war, but also to inspire Canadians to engage in conversation regarding the efforts and sacrifice of all those responsible for the liberation of the Netherlands and Europe, thus ensuring their memories live on in future generations.
In British Columbia, the society brought the program to life with help from the Royal Canadian Legion B.C./Yukon Command, the Consulate of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Vancouver, the Vancouver Parks Board, Veterans Affairs Canada, as well as educators — supported by B.C. Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation, and tulip grower Van Noort Bulb Co. Ltd.
In Quesnel, Correlieu Secondary School took part in the “Celebrating Liberation with a Promise” education program, which saw students plant tulip bulbs in the fall while learning about the efforts of the Canadian Army to liberate the Netherlands in their school curriculum. Correlieu social studies teacher Ashleigh Desbiens-Korum planted bulbs with her class and says her students got a lot out of the program.
“They really enjoyed it; with all of the Grad 10s that were taking social studies that semester, we actually went out and bought more tulips so every student planted one tulip,” she said. “Prior to that, we had a conversation in our class where we talked about what kind of sacrifices did Canadians make [during WWII] — so they really kind of internalized what happened, and we watched some videos about Canada and the Netherlands and then we went out and planted the tulips. The students were are really quite engaged and quite excited.”
With the positive response from the student body, Desbiens-Korum had planned to continue the tulip project into the spring semester with her students, but unfortunately, those plans had to be put on hold due to COVID-19 keeping students away from schools.
“The students were really proud of it, and they were really worried about what was going to happen to the tulips in the spring time when they bloomed,” said Desbiens-Korum. “That was going the be the project I was going to do with my students and my social studies class this semester. We were going to be the ‘tulip keepers,’ and we were going to block off the area and put up a plaque and a bulletin board in the hall in the school and talk about Canada’s role in the Netherlands liberation. So it was going to be something for the whole school that would tie together those semesters so it would affect all students, and they would understand what those tulips were there for, so I’m sad that’s not going to happen unfortunately.”
Desbiens-Korum believes the program was a success and that her students not only learned a lot about the country’s history, but were also inspired to dig deeper into their own families’ and communities’ connections to World War II. Desbiens-Korum herself was inspired to learn a little more about her family history during WWII and, after a phone call with her father, was surprised to learn about a direct connection between her grandfather and the liberation of the Netherlands.
“I ended up calling my dad because I knew that my grandfather was in the Second World War and let him know what we were doing at the school, and he told me that my grandfather was an interpreter for the temporary Canadian government when they came in and they actually did the liberation and he actually fought in the battle for Nijmegen,” said Desbiens-Korum. “I really didn’t have any idea that he had done that too, so to find out that my grandfather was directly involved was amazing. It’s that conversation starter, I mean, some of these kids now are four generations removed, and in light of everything that’s happening with all this COVID-19 stuff, it’s a reminder that there is light tomorrow and that things are going to be OK; we sacrifice now for later.”