Smithers celebrates 75th anniversary of the Netherlands liberation

Bulkley Valley Christian and Smithers Secondary schools receive gift of tulips

Come spring, there will be a colourful addition to the landscaping at Bulkley Valley Christian (BVCS) and Smithers Secondary (SSS) schools.

Tulips.

Both institutions were among 1,100 schools across Canada to receive a special gift of bulbs from the Embassy of the Netherlands in honour of the 75th anniversary of that European country’s liberation by Canadian Forces at the end of the Second World War.

For BVCS it was particularly poignant, said the school’s development director Tom Grasmeyer.

“We’re not a Dutch school anymore, that wouldn’t be the predominant ethnicity in our school anymore, but that certainly is where our heritage and history lies,” he explained.

Our school and many other institutions in Smithers, businesses, Ebenezer School, churches, there’s a long list that find its roots in that Dutch immigrant wave from 1950 to 1965 or so. So, that was an important layer of meaning for us to recognize that that Dutch immigration would not have happened had the Canadians not liberated the Netherlands”

On Nov. 7, the school conducted a special planting ceremony. In addition to the staff and student body, Grassmeyer estimated there were approximately 80-100 guests from the Dutch community, as well as, representatives from the Royal Canadian Legion, Smithers Sea Cadets (Babine 204), RCMP and Office of the Wet’suwet’en.

There were even approximately 10 people who could actually remember the Canadians rolling into town with their tanks handing out chocolate and bubble gum.

“When those folks were standing the gym erupted in applause, just a real honouring moment for them,” Grasmeyer said.

The event was a scaled up version of the school’s annual Remembrance Day observance.

“Obviously, it’s also a very important time of year, November 11th being Remembrance Day, so a very important layer of meaning for us also, is to recognize the Canadian sacrifice,” Grasmeyer said.

“There are staff with children who are serving right now with the Canadian Armed Forces and then, of course, it’s just right and proper to recognize the sacrifice that was made, so we do that every year, but this year it just had that extra layer of meaning.”

Grasmeyer said the event went beautifully giving special credit to Wayne Askew, who heads up the Legion’s poppy committee.

“Wayne was pivotal in bringing in the broader community for us,” he said.

Grasmeyer also gave special thanks to RCMP Staff Sgt. Terry Gillespie, who led the procession by playing the bagpipes; Chief Timber Wolf (Mabel Forsythe), who opened the ceremony by welcoming everyone to traditional Wet’suwet’en territory; and Paul’s Bakery and Smithers Sausage Factory, businesses with Dutch roots that provided snacks for the occasion.

“The Dutch roots of BVCS is important to us, sometimes it’s something that we as a community tried to downplay because it’s often seen as a negative thing, that we’re a bit of a Dutch enclave,” Grasmeyer said. “That just isn’t true, we’re probably the most ethnically diverse institution, I think, in Smithers… but it is right and proper for us to just take a look back at our history and acknowledge this.”

The Netherlands has been gifting tulips to Canada for 75 years. Every year in May the national capital region is awash with more than one million of the colourful flowers. The Canadian Tulip Festival, the largest of its kind in the world attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the country and around the globe.

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RCMP Staff Sgt. Terry Gillespie on bagpipes leads the procession during a Liberation 75 ceremony at Bulkley Valley Christian School Nov. 7. (Contributed photo)

Town Councillor John Buikema plants tulip bulbs during a Liberation 75 ceremony at Bulkley Valley Christian School Nov. 7. (Contributed photo)

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