The Liberation of the Netherlands and Canada’s Anti-terrorist Bill C-51

On the afternoon of March 14th, 2015, when I still lived in Edmonton, I attended a political rally against my federal government’s intent, through its so-called anti-terrorism legislation, Bill C-51, to turn my country into a police state by essentially eradicating freedom of speech and assembly, civil rights, habeas corpus, and legal presumption of innocence. It produced one of the most depressing days of my life. It is the first time in the over six decades that I have lived in Canada that I found myself compelled to participate in a rally of protest against the destruction of freedom and movement in Canada. This is the country wherein my wife and I have had the opportunity to work wherever we wished, from coast to coast, from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island, a span of distance of 4,500 kilometres, and not one person or agency of the state ever forbade, or had the authority to forbid, either of us to do so.

Rally to protest Bill C-51. Edmonton, 14 March 2015. (Photo: Hendrik Slegtenhorst)

Rally to protest Bill C-51. Edmonton, 14 March 2015. (Photo: Hendrik Slegtenhorst)

My wife worked as a volunteer in the Town of Mount Royal constituency office of Pierre Trudeau when he first ran for Parliament, and I supported Brian Mulroney’s NAFTA initiative. But I also saw the value of my Calgary house plummet when Trudeau brought in the National Energy Program, and was disgusted by Brian Mulroney sitting in a hotel room taking cash in a brown paper bag. Since these events I have heard Jack Layton speak a number of times; the last, in Halifax, only a few months before his death. I have been impressed.

So it is now I find I have reached the political point where I am left only with the option of the NDP, now, when the current situation is much worse, and dangerous. Every single Conservative and Liberal member of Parliament who voted in favour of Bill C-51 should be ashamed to the core at their participation in this destruction of one of the world’s great democracies.

There is no semblance whatsoever of right action.

I returned to live in Vancouver in April. And on Sunday afternoon, on the 3rd of May, I went to the by-invitation 70th commemoration, at HMCS Discovery in Stanley Park, of the Liberation of the Netherlands from the Nazi occupation, on the 5th May 1945. It was organized by the Dutch consulate in Vancouver. The lieutenant-governor of British Columbia, Judith Guichon, presided with great elegance and presence. About twelve veterans, in their 90s, were in attendance.

The drill hall, HMCS Discovery, Stanley Park, Vancouver, at the commencement of the commemoration ceremony.

The drill hall, HMCS Discovery, Stanley Park, Vancouver, at the commencement of the commemoration ceremony. 3 May 2015. (Photo: Hendrik Slegtenhorst)

The ceremony was well considered, well executed, musically right, and moving. On the way there, walking along the Seawall, I, overcome with joy, realized how fortunate I am to be in this exceptional city of Vancouver. At the ceremony, overcome with gratitude, I remembered again how fortunate I am to be in this country of Canada.

My father, Hendrik Slegtenhorst, 1941

My father, Hendrik Slegtenhorst, 1941

Both my parents were liberated by the Canadians. My father, who died in 2001, was 15 when the war began, and 20 when it ended. He was interned in a labour camp in Hamburg for two years when he was 17, and escaped when the Allies firebombed Hamburg in Operation Gomorrah in July of 1943. He hid in the countryside till the end of the war, when, things no longer being what they were, his aspirations to become an artist could not be pursued. My mother, who died during last Christmastide, was 12 when the war began and 18 when it concluded. She lost her teenage years working by edict as piece work seamstress in a textile factory, and hid her younger brother in the attic for the last years of the conflict.

My parents emigrated to Canada in 1952. Without the Canadians, neither they, nor I, would be here. However thankful one is, it is odd to look upon veterans who served over 70 years ago, and realize that those you never have known may have been those who made your existence possible.

My mother, Gerrit Rijsbergen Slegtenhorst, in the garden of the house on Kanaalstraat, Leiden, summer 1951

My late mother, Gerrit Rijsbergen Slegtenhorst, and I, in the garden of the house on Kanaalstraat, Leiden, summer 1951

The Nazis put together a police state of intense depravity under the guise of law. So, it is disheartening in the extreme to see our federal government moving in the same direction.

When I last lived in Vancouver, one of my neighbours and her daughter had been prisoners in a Japanese concentration camp in Indonesia during the Second World War. The daughter has passed away, but I have met the mother, now in her 90s, again several times in the neighbourhood. Another of my neighbours was a lifelong member of the Council of Canadians. She was originally from Saskatchewan, and went home every autumn for the harvest. She passed away several years ago, aged 90. She was a very dear friend. Above her lived another neighbour and her daughter, tattooed survivors of Auschwitz. The mother and I met frequently while walking freely on the Seawall on early mornings. It is right and necessary that we see the demise of the malignant litany of political and social malice that has atrophied our democracy.

Alberta Legislature, Edmonton, 14 September 2012 (Photo: Hendrik Slegtenhorst)

Alberta Legislature, Edmonton, 14 September 2012 (Photo: Hendrik Slegtenhorst)

At least we still have elections that might be meaningful. I was elated, for I considered it also a harbinger of change at the federal level, at the decisive victory of Rachel Notley’s NDP in the Alberta election of May 5th. And I was pleased and gratified, but not surprised, by Jim Prentice’s immediate and graceless exit “for family reasons.” He is, after all, the politician who facilitated the rise of Stephen Harper, who became Harper’s virtual second in command, who began the evisceration of environmental law, who eroded copyright, and who killed off the Kelowna Accord. This NDP success is greater than it may immediately appear; I would cite, amongst others, for example, the political demise of Frank Oberle in northern Alberta. Such changes have been a long time coming, and they are needed. I do, though, regret the departure of my former Edmonton Centre MLA, Laurie Blakeman.

Parliament of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario

Parliament of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario

Not that I care for nor trust politicians, all of whom are prone to the blandishments of power, but despotism is to be despised and its manifestation immediately and effectively extirpated. Perhaps we will now see that there’s a chance for Tom Mulcair and the federal NDP to win the next federal election, and enable this country to return to values that are true, and that matter to our society. And repeal Bill C-51, which becomes law upon Senate approval, which, as 51 of the 85 appointed Senators are Conservatives, is inevitable, and turns this nation into a police state.

The betrayal of Canada by those democratically elected to govern her is unforgivable.

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