Like many Canadians, our choristers have a legacy and/or connection to the Netherlands. Find out why these singers are excited to be “Bridging Generations.”
My mother grew up with her family in Zuid-Holland until the age of 17. Her family still lives in Holland.
She remembers May 5th memorial ceremonies as they did their wreath laying and minute of silence the way Canada does on November 11th. My grandmother is 81 and lived in Rotterdam when the war started, and has shared her stories of families getting rounded up and moved out, standing in line as a child with a food voucher for the day, her father hiding to avoid the round ups and getting sent to labour camps in Germany, the bombing of Rotterdam. One of the memories my grandmother shared was seeing her mother fall of her bike and get really scraped up and hurt, and yelling for her dad to come and help, and her mother slapping her really hard to shut her up as they had reported he was no longer with the family and his whereabouts unknown when of course he was hiding in the house.
As things got worse in the city in terms of food and safety, my great-grandmother managed to find a family in the east of the country to take her youngest daughter in, and then another farmer’s family for my grandmother, and then another farm for my great-grandfather and herself to work on so they could stay. They biked and walked at night breaking curfew, and my grandmother remembers how scared she was trying to pass checkpoints, and at times hiding in ditches, and at times travelling separately so that if they got stopped the other parent and child could go back and try a different route. My great-grandmother would break curfew and go out after dark to dig up potatoes from a field. When asked if she was scared of getting caught, but she just said she had 2 kids to feed. Safety and food on the table are not things that were taken for granted in their house growing up, but my family felt lucky that they all got through the war and were reunited unlike so many others. I have been to the area where my grandmother spend some of the war separated from her family as we’ve gone camping there. I am singing for my grandparents and great-grandparents and their bravery.
I’m Singing for my Grandfather Albert Lafond of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan.
LAFOND Albert. Bert was born on the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation on January 29, 1925 to August and Rose (nee: Moreau) Lafond. He attended the St. Michael’s Indian Residential School at Duck Lake. At the age of 17, he went to the Dundurn Army Camp and at age 18, Bert joined the Canadian army. He was assigned to the Westminster Regiment where they entered into the Italian Theatre of War and later, to North-West Europe (Holland). He was part of the epic Ortona battle and went through the Liri valley.
He returned home and still could not vote as a status Indian and watched as other returning veterans received land allotments while he, like the other returning First Nations veterans, did not.
In 1950, he joined the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) and was deployed to Korea with the United Nations Peacekeeping Corps. He returned from Korea, in 1952, as Lance-Corporal and again returned home to Muskeg Lake. He married Alpha Venne and raised six children. Bert joined the Royal Canadian Legion attending meetings at the local branch in Leask, SK. Due to ill health, Bert moved from the Muskeg Lake Indian reserve into the Wheatland Lodge in Leask, SK in 1999. He passed on October 19th, 2003.
Isobel Aldina Lafond (a twin born March 15, 2002) is also a member of Muskeg Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan and she is one of Albert’s grandchildren. She is a member of the Victoria Children’s Choir and will be celebrating her grandfather’s service for peace, resilience, and belief in justice for all, especially for First Nations veterans and their families.
Grace is the great-granddaughter of a WW2 veteran who liberated Holland.
Her paternal great-grandfather (Robert Baugniet) was a lieutenant in the Belgian “Brigade Piron” and worked alongside the British and Canadian troops to liberate Holland at the end of the war.
He used to tell us how he and his fellow soldiers gave their chocolate rations to the Dutch children when they heard the war was over. Taking a group of Canadian children over to the Netherlands to educate them, show them the war cemeteries and let them witness commemorative ceremonies shows a special kind of commitment to honouring our nation’s history.
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