Speaking in the Hague’s Binnenhof with dozens of Dutch parliamentarians in attendance, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Friday for a new era of partnership between Canada and the Netherlands as they both grapple with a “more unpredictable world.”
Citing Canada’s liberation of the Netherlands from Nazi rule during the Second World War, Trudeau said the two allies are uniquely qualified to work together to tackle some common challenges: rising online extremism, inequality and the existential threat of climate change.
“If our two countries are bound together, and I know that we are, it is not only by our shared history. It is by our common future,” Trudeau said in his 20-minute address, delivered in the 13th century Ridderzaal, a former castle that is used for official visits like this and the annual state opening of parliament.
“As friends, allies and partners across the Atlantic, Canada and the Netherlands share a commitment to the brighter tomorrow we want to see, and the progressive values that will get us there.”
Trudeau specifically identified conspiracy theorists, intolerance and “marginalized angry people online,” as urgent issues for the Western world that demand a robust response from like-minded countries.
“We are not on the front lines of a world war as our grandparents were. That does not mean, though, that we can sit back and just assume the work they started is done. My friends, our work is just beginning,” he said.
“My friends, we have faith that what we do today will have an impact tomorrow because if we sow the seeds of a brighter future, that better day will arrive. That’s what Canadian soldiers believed when they landed on the beaches of Europe 80 years ago. It’s what they believed as they fought their way to the Netherlands.”
PM honours war dead at ceremony
Trudeau had planned to be in Europe for the 75th anniversary of the Dutch liberation but COVID-19 derailed those ceremonies. More than 7,500 Canadian men and women died while freeing the Netherlands from Nazi rule in late 1944 and early 1945, before Germany’s surrender.
To mark Canada’s considerable military sacrifices, Trudeau travelled with Princess Margriet — a member of the Dutch royal family who was born in Ottawa while in exile during the Second World War — to lay a wreath at the Bergen op Zoom Canadian war cemetery in the country’s south.
Princess Juliana — who later reigned as Queen of the Netherlands from 1948 to 1980 — went with her family into exile in Canada during the Nazi occupation of their country during the war, staying at the Stornoway residence in Ottawa.
Juliana gave birth to Margriet at the Ottawa Civic Hospital in 1943 and Canada temporarily ceded its claim to that territory to ensure the young princess was born a Dutch national. The diplomatic gesture ensured Margriet would not be kept out of the line of succession to the throne.
Trudeau and Margriet, accompanied by a bagpiper who played the Last Post, took part in a small ceremony Friday at a cenotaph in Bergen op Zoom, a site that contains 1,118 war dead. The two then visited three different grave sites where a guide recounted stories about each of the soldiers’ wartime experiences.
In his speech to MPs, Trudeau invoked the war, saying Canada and the Netherlands must summon the sort of strength they showed during that military conflict to address rising global temperatures.
“As climate change threatens our world, aren’t we once again called to step up and defend a bright tomorrow for our children?” Trudeau said. “Climate change is the test of our generation.”
Trudeau is scheduled to meet with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte later today to discuss bilateral issues and the upcoming G20 meeting in Rome and COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, events where the push to tackle rising greenhouse gas emissions will feature prominently.
Trudeau and Rutte — who leads the centrist People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy — are ideologically aligned and have been at the forefront of convincing climate laggards to do more to help turn back rising global temperatures.
Trudeau pressed on Canada’s emissions targets
While at the Binnenhof, Trudeau took questions from some of the Dutch MPs gathered for his speech. He was challenged by Jesse Klaver, the leader of the Green-Left Party, to explain why Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions-reduction targets are less than what the European Union has pitched. If Canada is so serious about climate, why doesn’t its level of ambition match its European allies, Klaver asked.
Trudeau said the fight against climate change can’t be defined by targets alone; they must also be matched by a realistic plan to shift the economy to cleaner energy sources. Canada, as a major oil and gas producer, cannot be easily compared to a country like the Netherlands that extracts comparatively fewer fossil fuels, Trudeau said.
“So much of the energy is around setting the targets rather than digging into actually having a concrete plan or roadmap to get there,” Trudeau said.
At an international climate summit in April, Trudeau promised Canada will reduce emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 — which would cut total emissions much more than the target first pitched by the former Conservative government and agreed to by former environment minister Catherine McKenna at the Paris climate talks in 2015.
“One of the commitments I made at Paris six years ago, even as Canada was stepping up in its climate leadership, was that we would not move forward in announcing targets until we had a real and concrete plan to meet them and that’s what we’ve been working on over the last number of years,” Trudeau said to Klaver, who bears a striking resemblance to the Canadian prime minister.
Trudeau said Friday Canada is “demonstrably on track to meet 36 per cent below the 2005 targets,” and will push to go even further at it hastens the transition away from fossil fuels.
When he finished answering Klaver’s question, Trudeau quipped, “Nice hair,” an apparent reference to the MP’s similar hairstyle.
The prime minister was also pressed by Raymond de Roon, a member of the Party of Freedom, a right-wing populist party, to explain Canada’s position on China, a country the MP identified as a threat to the Western world.
Trudeau assured the MP that Canada is similarly concerned about China’s influence.
“Canada continues to have very real concerns around China and human rights, whether it’s the situation with the Uyghurs, the situation with Hong Kong or the South China Sea,” Trudeau said, adding he was grateful the Dutch exerted diplomatic pressure on China to free Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig.
“China poses challenges to democracies around the world,” Trudeau said.