When cheap arable land became scarce in the United States by the 1880s, the Dutch and Dutch Americans turned to the Canadian "Last Best West." The 2006 Statistics Canada census recorded 1 035 965 (single and multiple response) people of Dutch origin in Canada. The Dutch quickly adopted Canadian culture and traditions, and they have been integrated almost to the point of invisibility.
Migration and Settlement
The Dutch have settled in Canada in 3 main periods. During the first, from 1890 to 1914, Dutch immigrants joined the migration to the Canadian West to take up homestead and railway lands, helping to open the PRAIRIES and establishing ethnic settlements such as New Nijverdal (now Monarch, Alta), Neerlandia (Alta) and Edam (Sask). The majority of the immigrants were scattered across the West either as farmhands or farm or ranch owners. Some settlement concentrations did occur, however, particularly in and around Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg. Indeed, Winnipeg probably had the largest Dutch community in Canada prior to the First World War.
The second period of immigration, from 1923 to 1930, ended with the coming of the Depression. Cheap, accessible arable land was in shorter supply, but the demand for farm, construction and industrial or domestic labour was high, particularly as the postwar recession came to an end. Dutch immigrants moved quickly to take up these opportunities across Canada, particularly in Ontario and the western provinces. During this period significant concentrations of Dutch immigrants settled in southern and southwestern Ontario, especially in Toronto. It is estimated that between 1890 and 1930 approximately 25 000 Dutch or Dutch American immigrants entered Canada.
The Great Depression and the Second World War curtailed Dutch immigration until 1947, when tens of thousands began to flee from a war-devastated and economically ruined homeland. Initially the immigrants, as in the past, came from the agricultural sectors, but by the mid-1950s they included many skilled and professional workers. Ontario became a particularly important destination, followed by Alberta, British Columbia and the Maritimes. By the late 1960s some 150 000 Dutch immigrants were well established in all provinces (with the exception of Newfoundland), but particularly in Ontario and the urban areas of the western provinces. These communities served as beacons of welcome and attraction for later Dutch immigrants.
Social and Cultural Life
The majority of Dutch immigrants have been of lower-class or lower-middle-class and working-class origin with strong bourgeois values. This common background has meant that social stratification based on class origin has not been a serious problem. Religion, however, has cut broad divisions across the Dutch-Canadian community.
While Dutch Roman Catholics formed the largest single religious entity, they have been outnumbered by the combined population of Dutch Protestant groups, many of whom have continued their religious traditions in Canada. The majority of Dutch Canadian Catholics and non-Calvinist Protestants belong to "Canadian" churches and thus the only visible Dutch entity on the Canadian religious scene is the Dutch Calvinist or "Reformed" tradition.
The various faith communities encouraged integration and the adoption of those things Canadian that were not antithetical to social or religious practices. As a result, the Dutch language has largely been discarded, as have "old country" practices that could have blocked the attainment of economic security. This fact, combined with a strong work ethic and minimal past involvement in the cultural life of the native land, has meant that "ethnicity" has only a very personal, familiar or religious connotation. This, no doubt, helps to explain why Dutch-Canadian clubs represent no more than a minority of the Dutch community. Only recently have the children and grandchildren of immigrants begun to examine the history of their parents' or grandparents' migration and struggle, and to give their discoveries academic or literary form.
The Dutch in Canada have until recently expressed little interest in maintaining or continuing their cultural traditions, the major exception being the Dutch Calvinists who have sought to make their religious philosophy relevant to Canadian society by developing "Christian" organizations and schools. The rate of integration among first-generation immigrants is very high and assimilation is almost complete in Canadian-born Dutch.
While family ties remain strong, intermarriage with other Canadians is not regarded as a problem by the majority. The Calvinist Church, the Dutch Credit Union and the Dutch-Canadian clubs, which represent only a minority of Dutch Canadians, are the only remaining visible landmarks of an ethnic culture that is rapidly and willingly disappearing into the Canadian multicultural state.
Author HERMAN GANZEVOORT
Hugh Cook, Cracked Wheat (1985); Herman Ganzevoort, A Bittersweet Land: The Dutch Experience in Canada (1988); J.Th J. Krijff, 100 Years Ago: Dutch Immigration to Manitoba in 1893 (1993).
Links to Other Sites
Canadian Multiculturalism Day
Canadian Heritage's guide to celebrating Canadian Multiculturalism Day.
Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples
The website for the "Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples." Click on the links for feature articles about Canada's many multicultural communities, access to their extensive digital archives collection, learning modules, and much more. From "Multicultural Canada."
This Pier 21 Society website features personal stories about war brides who came to Canada to start a new life.
Canadian War Brides
This website features remarkable life stories of war brides who immigrated to Canada after the Second World War. Also offers related studies, immigration statistics, contacts for provincial war brides associations, and much more.
Voices of the Left Behind
This program helps Canadian War Children locate long lost parents and siblings. Their website features many heart warming accounts of family reunions, historical notes, contact information, and much more.
The Liberation of the Netherlands, 1944-1945
Read online copies of on-the-scene news reports documenting the Canadian Infantry's heroic, and ultimately successful, efforts to liberate the Netherlands during the Second World War. From the Canadian War Museum.
Ethnocultural Portrait of Canada
This website offers Canadian population data (2006) by ethnic origin. Also, find information for individual provinces and territories by clicking the "Select a view" window above the chart. For more information, click on the "Ethnocultural Portrait of Canada" link at the top of the page. From the website for Statistics Canada.