On this 65th anniversary of D-Day, I’m reminded of an encounter we had with an elderly French gentleman last year in Hardelot on the north coast of France. We had gone there to see the ruins of the “castle”, which I had read was a popular spot for the nurses working in the Etaples hospital district during WW1 to go for outings. (The ruins are being restored for use as some sort of international centre.) With our half-remembered high school French, we struck up a conversation with this elderly man out for his daily stroll. When he discovered that we were from Canada, he practically embraced us with tears in his eyes, and thanked us Canadians for liberating him and his family from the German occupation in WW2. The Dutch and Belgians, too, seem to have a special place in their hearts for Canadians.
On the flip side, I recently read an article about a prisoner-of-war camp during WW2, set on the shore of magnificent Lake Muskoka (north of Toronto) and touted to be the Rolls-Royce of camps. It seems that over 30% of the 34,000 Germans who were interred in Canadian prison camps returned to settle in Canada after the war. Surely another accolade for us Canadians.