Premier Greg Selinger helped present medals to Second World War veterans and promoted Manitoba businesses on the third day of a weeklong trip to France.
Selinger participated in a ceremony Wednesday at Caen honouring 109 veterans from Canada and other nations who participated in the invasion of Normandy. They are there to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
"It was a very, very moving experience to see the vets there," Selinger said in a telephone interview. "These guys were so proud to be there and to be recognized."
The premier assisted Lower Normandy President Laurent Beauvais in presenting medals to Manitoba vets Stan Butterworth and Frank Godon. Godon wore his wartime uniform for the occasion. The ceremony was held in a tent that held about 300 people.
"They're very humble," Selinger said of the two vets. "They don't talk about (the war) much. But the very fact that they're here and participating indicates how important a part of their life it was."
He said it was obvious from the ceremony the French are very grateful to the liberators.
"It was a really, really powerful and moving experience for everybody," Selinger said. "Everybody came out of it just walking on clouds because of the experience and to see them all back after all these years."
Earlier, the premier visited a museum established by Canadian veterans at Juno Beach and walked among markers paying homage to Canadians who sacrificed their lives in the Second World War battle. Manitoba is sponsoring 18 of the markers. Dozens of men from Manitoba were killed on D-Day.
Selinger also lent support to a Manitoba company that is seeking a European partner to produce flax-based industrial products.
EcoTechnilin, a U.K.-based firm, signed an agreement this week with Manitoba-based Erosion Control Blanket to market its needle-punched, non-woven mats manufactured in a Normandy facility. If the Manitoba company can sell enough of these biomaterials, it anticipates building a matting facility in Manitoba. The plant would provide another market for the province's flax growers.
Meanwhile, Selinger will participate in wreath-laying ceremonies at Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer and Bernières-sur-Mer with the Fort Garry Horse, the Royal Winnipeg Rifles and Winnipeg delegates Friday. That day, there will be a reception in honour of Manitoba vets.