Liberal MP Rob Oliphant is his party's veterans affairs critic, and he was in the Netherlands last week as part of the celebrations for the 65th anniversary of Victory in Europe at the end of World War II. I caught up to Oliphant after Question Period.
Q: Being as you were in the Netherlands last week, why don’t you tell me a little bit about that trip?
A: The trip was great. It was a trip with veterans and veteran’s organisations, who were part of the Liberation in Holland 65 years ago. There were four Parliamentarians plus the Minister who travelled – Guy André from the Bloc Quebecois and myself, and two Senators – Tommy Banks and Fred Dixon, a new Senator. We went to a number of events – I was a little shorter – the group left on Saturday, I didn’t get to leave until Sunday night, and they didn’t home until yesterday and I came home Saturday. But I did the five events we had, including events with the Queen of the Netherlands, and the Princess Margriet, who was born here in Canada, as well as the Prime Ministers of both countries on Thursday.
I think the highlight of the trip for me was a visit to a concentration camp, on Friday, Westerbork, which Canadian troops liberated in 1945. It was the place where Anne Frank, when her family was arrested, she was taken there before she was sent to Auschwitz, and then eventually to death, and it wasn’t an extermination camp but a concentration camp, a transit camp where they concentrated a population to send them off – gypsies or Roma, and Jews. To be there, with a veteran from World War II, a Cree man from Manitoba who was part of the liberating force in 1945 who went through there, was a very moving experience, and to have him be welcome – we were all welcomed but to particularly watch him being welcomed by a Rabbi, and to have the Rabbi focus our attention instead of the tremendous pain that humans can cause other humans, but to the tremendous courage and service to humanity that Canadian soldiers have done, and it was one of those highlights of life. I had been in concentration camps before, other than this one, but I had never been there under these circumstances, with someone who had actually been there 65 years ago, and walked in the camp, to liberate it. It was quite amazing. That was the highlight of the trip.