World War II was truly a watershed in Canadian immigration history. The war and its aftermath had created vast numbers of homeless and disillusioned people looking for an opportunity to start a new life. Europe was devastated, and even with American aid, the rebuilding process took many years. Furthermore, after several military actions, the Netherlands had by the end of 1949 virtually lost all its East Indian possessions (now Indonesia), and thereby also lost an outlet for part of its surplus population. Meanwhile, the Cold War began having a demoralizing effect on many. Across the Atlantic Ocean lay lands of "milk and honey", plentiful farmland, freedom from rationing, and an abundance of nylons and cigarettes.
The decision to emigrate is to a large degree influenced by conditions on the home front (the push factor). These may be of a political, economic, or social nature. In the Netherlands, except for fears engendered by the Cold War, economic and social factors predominated. As Beijer (1961) puts it succinctly: "emigration is regarded as the liberation of an active personality from the shackles preventing its unrestricted development" (pp. 309-310).
Many of the emigrants, and by no means the farmers only, were concerned with lack of space back home and with the multitude of regulations which are a by-product of overcrowding. By the same token, Dutch authorities saw emigration as their main tool to relieve overpopulation. There were, however, other issues involved.
One of these was of a religious, or rather missionary, nature. Settlement all over the world of people with entrepreneurial qualities (this includes agriculturists), and a zest for work, was seen as the fulfillment of God's will, particularly by the orthodox Calvinists (see, for example, L's remarks quoted later on). The Christian Emigration Central (CEC) worked extremely hard to recruit emigrants for Canada which it considered an ideal environment for Calvinists. Catholics saw the wide open spaces of Canada and Australia as a means to safeguard the principle of "Kinderweelde" (large families;). The Catholic movement Familiale Actie (Familial Action) promoted this view through its magazine "Ons Boerenerf" [Our Farm Yard] (Cath. Netherlands Immigration Centre correspondence, MSR 2286, File II).
The other issue was economic, and had to do with trade development . Having lost its colonies in the post-war years, the Netherlands was obliged to look for other export markets, and the prospect of having the country massively represented in young nations with growing markets became progressively more attractive. In 1958, the quarterly "Emigratie" [Emigration] was launched and pushed this point regularly. This magazine was published by the Emigration Board with financial assistance from the Intergovernmental Commission for European Migration in Geneva (I.C.E.M.).
All the above issues combined help explain widespread support for costly government assistance programmes for emigrants that were established over time.
As can be expected, the emigration movement was very much influenced by the economic situation in Canada (the pull factor). Hofstede (1964:168) sums up the post-war Canadian economy and relates it to the Dutch emigration pattern, as follows:
- Up to 1953 the economy showed annual increases.
- In the Fall of that year the first signs of friction appeared.
- Since 1954 "unemployment Canada" was a stereotyped concept held in the Nether lands.
- 1955 saw a spectacular economic recovery.
- Emigration finally followed in 1956.
- Expansion slowed down in 1957.
- 1959 saw a revival.
- The following years there was a slight increase in departures.
- In 1960 a new recession coincided with labour shortages in the Netherlands, producing a further drop in emigration.
From that year on, emigration to Canada remained at a low level, hovering mostly between 1000 and 2000 a year, except for the period 1966-1968 which saw a slight upswing with a peak topping 4000 in 1967. But never again would the intense movement of the fifties, when in one year (1952) well over 21,000 Dutch entered Canada, be approximated.
Those Dutch who are living in Quebec now are primarily the immigrants of the fifties and their descendants. They also include descendants of Loyalists, especially in the Eastern Townships.
In this chapter demographics, immigration experience, economic, and social conditions of the various waves of settlers from the Netherlands will be analysed, beginning with the war brides, followed by agriculturalists (the Netherlands Farm Families Movement) and,. several years later, the large influx, the majority of which consisted of urban dwellers.
Differences in the immigration experience of preand post-war Dutch immigrants are analysed, first as it relates to Canada, and then more specifically as it relates to Quebec.
In Holland, the liberating Allied Forces, mainly Canadians, represented freedom, health, and wealth. Repatriation of the troops was slow, and by the end of November 1945, almost 70,000 men still remained in the country, although most of these left during the next few months (Kaufman & Horn, 1980: 141). During the "wild summer of '45", Canadian soldiers and Dutch women got along famously, aided not in the least by the changing code of social and sexual behaviour of Dutch women. Especially in the protestant Western and Northern parts of the country, the hardships of the last year of the war had put women in the role of provider and hunter for food. Their men were poorly dressed and emaciated from months or years of hiding or working in labour camps. The Canadian soldiers looked most attractive by contrast. A Dutch journalist is quoted by Horn as having commented: "Dutch men were beaten militarily in 1940, sexually in 1945" (Kaufman&Horn, 1980: 137).
Horn makes the observation that many relationships between Dutch women and Canadian men were undoubtedly of a passing nature. The official policy of the Canadian government was to "dissuade members of the Canadian Army from marriage in foreign lands" (Kaufman & Horn, 1980:142). But when reasonably satisfied that a basis for a happy marriage existed, consent was given by the Commander involved. Thus, the Canadian government eventually paid passage to Canada of 1,886 Dutch war brides and 428 children (cf 45,000 British, 649 Belgian, and 100 French war brides). Moreover, an unknown number of Dutch women married Canadians after 1946 as a result of their meeting at time of liberation (Kaufman & Horn. 1980: 142).
Regarding push and pull factors, Horn says: "Gratitude and sexual attraction combined to drive Dutch women into Canadian arms" (Kaufman & Horn, 1980:137). He speculates that the excitement of moving to a new country, and apparent economic status (which some soldiers may very well have inflated to make themselves look more appealing), are some of the reasons behind the haste observed among girls to marry Canadians (p. 142). Language and particularly religion may have played an important role in the choice of partner too. It is unlikely that they chose their husbands on the basis of place of residence or destination in the new country, or on the basis of economic status of a given region. Consequently these war brides can be expected to be distributed over the country more randomly than the later influx of Dutch immigrants, assuming a more or less even regional representation of Canadian servicemen in the Forces on hand in the Netherlands during and after liberation.