Dear fellow Norwegians and friends of Norway
Our daily lives have changed drastically over the last months. Empty streets, closed schools and physical distance has become a reality. We are in the middle of an extraordinary situation. We are all joining forces to fight the corona virus. No country can solve this crisis on its own. This is why we need more international collaboration, not less. Building on our strong ties, Norway continues to work closely with Canada and other likeminded countries to mobilize international efforts to fight this pandemic.
One example is our support for the development of a vaccine through the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness innovations (CEPI). Finding a vaccine against the corona virus and making it accessible to all is key in order to get back to our every-day lives. Next week Norway will play a leading role in a major international conference to mobilize support for the development of vaccines, diagnostics and treatments for COVID-19. Norway considers it vital to ensure that any vaccine that is developed is distributed fairly, including to developing countries. As long as the virus is active somewhere, we are at risk everywhere.
At a national level, Canada and Norway are both taking unprecedented measures to contain the virus. We have closed our borders, halted non-essential businesses and implemented rules of quarantine and self-isolation. By sacrificing some parts of our normal lives, we are all contributing to a global effort or “dugnad” as we say in Norway. Individual actions are making a big difference in fighting the virus. At the same time, our governments are implementing substantial financial measures to help people, businesses as well as cultural and sporting communities to get through this crisis.
In Norway, there is cautious optimism as the spread of the virus is under control and the transmission ratio is down to 0,7. This means that for each affected person, the virus spreads to less than one person. Step by step, and very cautiously Norway is lifting some restrictions. Last week kids were back in kindergarten and this week children at primary level are back to school. Some shops and services will also open applying special restrictions. This gives us hope, but we cannot be complacent. We need to continue to keep social distance and in Norway, large cultural and sporting events have been cancelled until September.
As the month of May is right around the corner, we approach what is usually a month of festivities for Norwegians – also in Canada. This year we were looking forward to celebrate our national day on 17 May, and the 75th Anniversary marking the end of WWII and the liberation of Norway on 8 May .
Over the course of the war, more than 3000 Norwegian pilots and ground crew were trained at Norway’s training facility Little Norway in Toronto and later in Muskoka. At the same time in Nova Scotia, more than 2000 Norwegian sailors were trained at Camp Norway in Lunenburg to become gunners to protect the convoys across the Atlantic. Norway made a substantial contribution to the Allied efforts, and played an important role in protecting the convoys, participating at Dieppe and D Day. The losses were heavy.
Due to the strong ties that were forged between Norway and Canada during the war, the Embassy had hoped to properly mark the anniversary on 8 May, but under the current situation, we had to downscale our plans. I can assure you, however, that this important day will not pass unnoticed.
We are laying wreaths at the “Little Norway Park monument” in Toronto as well as at Little Norway Memorial in Muskoka. On the East Coast, a wreath will be laid at the Norwegian monuments of Halifax harbour and at “Camp Norway” in Lunenburg. There will be no social gatherings due to the current circumstances, but by placing these wreaths and sharing the events virtually via the Embassy’s online platforms, we wish to honour the thousands of brave military personnel and merchant marines who lived and trained in Canada before sacrificing so much for the freedom of Norway and the world.
As for the celebration of Norway’s national day, we have all been looking forward to celebrating 17 May the traditional way, with children’s parade, brass band music and lots of food and ice cream. However, with the current situation, the celebrations in Norway and here in Canada cannot take place as planned. We must celebrate our democracy, our freedom and our future, together but apart. In Norway every town and city are looking for ways to make this national day as special and memorable as any, by finding new ways to celebrate that are safe and responsible. We will be sharing some of these creative ideas on our social media in the week leading up to 17 May, and we look forward to seeing how the many Norwegians in Canada will safely celebrate as well. I will encourage you to follow the Embassy on our Facebook and Instagram.
The Norwegian Embassy remains open although our reception is closed to the public until further notice. We will continue to serve Norwegians in Canada and you will always be able to reach us by e-mail and by phone. Please also check the Embassy’s web site for regular updates.
On behalf of the Embassy staff in Ottawa, I would like to wish you all a happy and healthy spring and summer as we look ahead to brighter days. Remember to follow the advice given by the local authorities and stay safe.
Anne Kari H. Ovind