The Post World War Two Period:
The Immigration Experience
The immigration experience of post-World War II Dutch immigrants to Canada differed vastly from that of their predecessors earlier in the century and in Loyalist times on several important points:
- For the first time both sending and receiving countries took an active interest in the emigrants' welfare. The laissez-faire attitude of governments made way for state involvement of varying intensity, in virtually all aspects of the immigration process: information, recruitement and selection, transportation, reception, and placement.
- In contrast to the often negative image of pre-war Canada, the country was now seen in a very positive light, not least due to the warm feelings left for the Canadian "liberators" and to reports of plentifulness of land and consumer goods, both sorely lacking in the Netherlands.
- Screening procedures were much improved. Thus, in general those who claimed to be farmers actually had that background, in contrast to pre-war "farmers" who very often did not have the right experience and could not make a proper living in Canada as a result.
- While in the pre-war years suitable emigrants were often not interested in moving away, skilled and motivated people were typical of the post-war movement.
- At this time, opening up the West was no longer Canada's primary concern. Repopulating the countryside was. The war effort and continuing industrial expansion drew people to the cities, and Canada became very interested in welcoming the committed Dutch farmers to fill the gap.
- Starting in the 195O's, further industrial expansion required ski1led workers and professionals that Canada could not supply. A completely new class of immigrants began arriving here.
- Rapid technological change in air transport had another profound effect on immigrants: as soon as they began to fly, distances shrank. As immigrants also profited from the high standard of living that economic expansion had brought, they now had the option to visit the home country on a more or less regular basis. No longer was emigration the definitive break with the past it used to be. Relatives too could cross the ocean on reasonably priced charter flights, which helped to further maintain contact with the homeland (J. Lowensteyn, 1980).
- Post-war immigration was made up mostly of families, in contrast to the pre-war situation when many men would go it alone until they felt conditions were right to bring out their families. It should be noted that accommodation for the then generally large Dutch families was hard1y available in the West before World War XI and even after the war. This was perhaps one reason that the post-war Dutch headed for Eastern Canada in large numbers. It was a little easier to find living space there, even if it was only a converted hen-house.
- Host immigrants brought their furniture with them, and some of them even a pre- fabricated house or barn. The "kist" or crate containing their belongings figured highly in stories about post-war immigration. It gave the settlers a headstart since an immediate cash outlay for household goods was kept to a minimum and one could concentrate on saving for the purchase of livestock etc.
- Not only the Dutch Government had become active in the field of emigration after the war, private agencies also strengthened their position. They were, as was the norm in the Netherlands (and still is to a certain extent), organized along confessional lines. An Emigration Board was set up which acted as the central organ for promoting unity between government concern with emigration and the work done by the private organizations, which by the middle of 1952 had received official recognition. These private bodies, acting as registration off ices, were the following:
Central Catholic Emigration Foundation
Protestant Emigration Board (C.E.C)
General Emigration Board (A.E.C.)
Calvinist Foundation for Aid to Emigrants
Including the latter, which was small, these bodies operated 216 emigrant registration offices by 1955 (Hofstede, 1964: 77). The Minister of Social Affairs and Public Health appointed regional employment offices as public registration organs for emigration as well. By 1955, there were 84 such offices in the Netherlands. Prospective emigrants were free to register at either public or private registration offices (Hofstede, 1964:78).
- Immigrants arrived in Canada better prepared than their pre-war counterparts. On the whole, they had not received the sort of biased information that used to be provided by agents of the CPR and other such organizations. Language classes were available before departure, and emigrants were urged to leave with as much knowledge as they could muster.
- While pre-war immigrants were mostly left to fend for themselves upon arrival, the post-war immigrant was of ten welcomed by a "fieldman" of his church or religious organization. The Christian Reformed Church was best organized in this area, followed by the Reformed Church of America.
The Roman Catholic Church was least organized. Supported by Catholic emigration authorities in the Netherlands, and some Canadian bishops, the initiative of a Dutch priest in London led to the establishment of the Central Bureau of Catholic Netherlands Immigration in Ottawa which "was closed soon after in 1957 because the Catholic church authorities in Quebec disagreed with its purpose" (Van Stekelenburg, 1983:73). Reference is made here to the Canadian Catholic hierarchy's opposition to promote immigration of a special nationality group.
The Société Canadienne d'établissement rural (SCER) in Montreal, was originally set up for the resettlement of Quebeckers in the West. The SCER, however, was unwilling to find sponsors for Dutch farmers, most of whom were Catholics. Therefore, in the beginning, these farmers had to rely on individual efforts by such diverse people as "(agricultural attache Tuinman of the Dutch Embassy, 'old-timers', the Knights of Columbus, war-brides, priests, and . . . protestant organizations." (Van Stekelenburg, 1980:20).
- The Christian Reformed Church (C.R.C) in particular made an effort to locate its followers in the proximity of a C.R.C. Church, much to the dismay of Canadian authorities who were vehemently opposed to "colonies", and wished assimilation, or "integration" as it was called after the war, to proceed as quickly as possible (Canada 1951:30).
- The large number of Dutch immigrants to Canada was conducive to the growth of many community organizations. Contrary to the pre-war situation, a wide variety of institutions emerged, including the above-named two Protestant churches, credit unions, travel agencies, real estate companies, newspapers, and social clubs and associations. The churches depended on funding from abroad (the U.S.A. and the Netherlands). Other institutions were either self-supporting or received tangible and intangible help from various sources.
- A market for Dutch goods emerged among immigrants as well, and many companies began exporting Dutch products to Canada and/or set up branch plant operations. All of this aided the newcomers in maintaining contact with the culture of origin.
- On the Canadian side a tremendous effort was made to integrate the immigrants. The process of integration was divided into three, often overlapping, areas: (a) economic, (b) linguistic, (c) social. Responsibility for these areas was in the hands of the federal government, the provinces, and private agencies, respectively. Federal Immigration officials were responsible for placement of the immigrant. Quebec had also its own colonization scheme to settle immigrants on their agricultural land (Petersen, 1955: 156-7).
Of the private agencies, the principal one was the Canadian Citizenship Council which not only published a variety of pamphlets on the Canadian way of life, but, through its member organizations attempted to coordinate all services available to the immigrant. Its professed aim of "interpreting newcomers and older Canadians to one another and assisting their mutual integration" reflected the veering away in Canada from the pre-war assimilationist view in the direction of today's mu1ticulturalism policy (Petersen, 1955: 156-7).
- In marked contrast to earlier times, post-war Dutch emigration and immigration spurred a great deal of research, especially on the aspect of integration. For the pre-war period statistics and personal histories are hard to come by, but a number of solid studies saw the light in the decade following World War II. These studies (e.g. Beijer, Hofstede, Petersen, Tuinman) were not from the hands of New-Canadians themselves. This had to wait until the late 1970's when theses and books began to appear written by Dutch immigrants most of whom had received their university education in Canada and who had lived here for decades. The emigration experience of Dutch-Canadians is beginning to become well documented. Remarkably, the experience of the second generation is hardly touched upon. The field is wide open for studies of economic and cultural adjustment of this Canadian born generation.
Like the rest of Canada, the province of Quebec received its share of the various "waves" of immigrants. Because of differences in language and culture, and the paucity of other Dutch immigrants in this province, the immigration experience was different here than elsewhere.
The problems that war brides had in settling in Quebec are illustrated by the history of J (J. Lowensteyn [cassette recording] 1985) who married a fully bilingual French- Canadian. Ironically, she recalled British troops warning the Dutch population against Canadians, especially French-Canadians.
Upon her arrival here she spoke no French and only a few words of English. The couple's backgrounds were similar: both were Roman-Catholic and both came from large, lower middle class families. In the early years, when the need was greatest due to language difficulties and homesickness, there was no Dutch priest or doctor available, and only after two years did she meet another war bride. In the 1950's all this changed and there were Dutch church services, and Dutch parties to go to.
Another interviewee, K, met a lot of Dutch war brides while working for the Dutch Consulate from 1949 on. K claims many were disappointed and upset although she also met many who were happy (K, Tape I, side 1, 30: 10). From all accounts it appears that the war brides or any other immigrants who arrived before 1951/52 had virtually no one of Dutch origin, nor any form of ethnic community support, to fall back on.
Netherlands Farm Families Movement
The number of Dutch that settled in Quebec in the post war years prior to 1951 is not as large as the number of Dutch who from 1946 to 1950 claimed Quebec as their destination. Of these 1654 (see Table IX) about a third are assumed to have moved elsewhere, since the population of Quebec grew by only 1094 persons in the decade 1941-1951 (Table X). Taking into account that immigration during the war years was negligible, that the above number included perhaps several hundred war brides, and that most agriculturists came with young families or as singles, the number of units that settled in this province may have hovered around 300. There is, however, no evidence that so many Dutch farmers settled here at that time. Interviews, reports from priests, and personal observation, support the notion that perhaps half of these people have settled as farmers. The rest would appear to have changed occupation.
An interview with X (J. Lowensteyn [cassette recording] 1985), who was one of those early settlers, revealed that chain migration had taken place. In fact, our respondent was referred to as "the godfather". He claimed to have been instrumental in bringing out fifteen or so other Dutchmen, most of whom became farmers or nurserymen and who, like himself, brought over Dutch wives, and raised sizeable families in a francophone environment. All these people stayed in close contact, aided by a common faith (Roman Catholicism) and common regional background (the Westland market gardening region west of the line Rotterdam-Delft-The Hague.) They settled just south of Montreal (X, Tape I, side 1, 06:30).
Further south, in the area between Montreal and the American border (the Eastern Townships), small concentrations of Dutch dairy and mixed farmers can be found. But Quebec's pull for agriculturists was far outweighed by the pull of Ontario. There were pragmatic and ideological reasons for this. Dr. A. Tuinman, agricultural attache at the Netherlands Embassy, describes how, in 1947, the Canadian Immigration Service was not yet in a position to provide placement services to the Dutch farmers, some 1100 of whom arrived from Holland that summer. The Dutch government took responsibility for their placement but needed help. The province of Ontario made paid personnel available for this purpose, hence that is why so many of these farmers settled there (1956: 185).
Furthermore, the pull of Ontario (and the Western provinces) combined with the push coming from the Christian Emigration Central in the Netherlands which actively recruited those of Calvinist persuasion:
Right from the start, the focus was on Canada. They promoted this land, ripe with opportunities, as the future home of Calvinists gripped by the emigration fever. One of the main reasons was the existence here of a staunch ally the Christian Reformed Church (VanderMey, 1983: 54).
Christian Reformed Churches were to be found in Ontario and the West. There were none in Quebec which, as a Catholic province, was shunned by Calvinists in any case.
Another pull factor was sponsorship. Immigrants had to be sponsored by a Canadian farmer who guaranteed employment and housing for a certain period. French-Canadian farmers would more likely request a French-speaking farmhand. Interviewee R (J. Lowensteyn [cassette recording3 1985) noted that lots of Belgians, some Swiss, Germans and Dutch came about 25 years ago (R, Tape II, side 1, 19:45).
All these factors contributed to the concentration of Dutch in Ontario, particularly, if the accumulating effect of chain migration is taken into account.
The large influx
From the second half of 1950 on, other than agriculturists began to be admitted, and that made a great difference, particularly to Quebec. While absolute numbers remained relatively low, the proportional increase of Dutch to this province was phenomenal, from 3,129 in 1951 to 12,585 in 1971. Quebec industry was developing rapidly in that period and the aeronautics, engineering and chemical industries, hotels, and transportation companies, to name a few, were scouting overseas for trained and/or highly educated and multilingual personnel. French language and culture was no barrier at that time as most immigrants integrated in the anglophone community which was already geared to serving immigrants. Management, technical and service personnel could normally get by with English only. Montreal also had a reputation as a more lively and cosmopolitan city than "Toronto the Good", which was a point of attraction for some.
The experience of some of the people that were interviewed (J. Lowensteyn [cassette recordings] 1985) for this study, illustrate the problems or, relative to other ethnic grows, the lack of problems encountered upon arrival. What follows is a brief introduction to some of the interviewees.
Q is a multilingual musician who, before coming to Canada in 1950, had travel led and worked all over Europe. Due to restrictions by the Dutch government, he could not get money out of Holland but brought out antiques and furnishing instead. Another problem was that he could only obtain work after six months' membership in the Musicians' Union, but that without work he could not maintain himself. He managed to get an introduction to the well-known pianist John Newmark, who helped him along. Q gave some private lessons until he received his Union Card and could begin to perform (Q, Tape I, side 1, 0:lO). He calls the 1950's "pioneering times" in Canada in his field and is proud to have been associated with them (Tape I, side 2, 16:55).
P was a multilingual enterprising young man who had seen Canada during the war years, met his wife here, and got married in the United States. Upon receiving an honourable discharge from the Dutch Navy in 1946, he decided to seek a future in Canada. "Such an industrializing country should have room for someone like me". He had the same problem as Q: his money was frozen overseas. Furthermore, he encountered the problem of lack of rental accommodation in Montreal in 1946, but he soon met someone who helped him find suitable space. His father had a high rank in the Dutch Navy and this brought him easy entry with the Consul and others who counted in the Dutch community.
Nevertheless, he had to start at what he calls "not a real job": announcer at the CBC International Service. After three months he had found something more to his liking. Over the years he worked his way up to senior executive with large companies and frequently was called upon to help newly arrived immigrants. P recalls that he used to advise Dutchmen to come over alone and bring wives out later (P, Tape I, side 1).
H, a priest, came to Canada (his second choice, after South America), after being ordained. He had missionary aspirations and was sent to Canada without knowing his destination. He was placed in a local Quebec parish to learn French, and by making a real effort he was able to deliver his first sermon in that language 6 to 8 weeks later. He lived with his Dutch confreres in poverty those first years, but it did not matter, "because we came to serve, we had a calling" (H, Tape I, side 1).
Z. now a multilingual, elderly widow, arrived in 1952 with her husband, a businessman, and the two youngest of her five children. A married daughter had gone ahead. The two older children lived in South America. The family moved to a suburb where they had set up a construction company. Respondent met one or two Dutch ladies there but interacted mostly with Canadians. "There was not much community life yet in the town, except for neighbourly parties." The family had always been quite wealthy and despite some financial setbacks, they owned a car and sent their sons to the best schools. Any problems related to immigration seem to have been of a personal nature, such as homesickness and differences in adjustment to Canada by the family members (Z, Tape I, side 1, 0:15).
T, a minister with the Christian Reformed Church (the "Dutch church") had originally been least interested in Canada as a destination. He believed church life there was 25 years behind. However, when he was called to serve in a western Canadian city, he accepted. He had to preach at least fifty percent in English, which was difficult for him at first. His congregation was generally poor, living in chicken coops and shacks, much as their Ukranian neighbours did. Large families had come without subsidies and had had to borrow money to emigrate. Lack of English led to isolation for many of them, and also to lack of communication with their children. He saw much mental stress. T coped with his own mental stress which apparently had to do mostly with the lack of sophistication of the modern urban life he had been used to in Amsterdam. In 1960 he was called to Montreal where he found an entirely different congregation consisting of engineers, teachers, tradespeople, and accountants, rather than labourers with a rural background and no more than elementary school education (K, Tape I, side 1).
L, a former shopkeeper, came to Canada in 1953 to evade the many government regulations of his home country. But religion played a part too. He thought the Lord had a task for him. "Faith and prayer are the things that brought me." He had taken English courses in Holland, so "had no problems with language". Nevertheless, when studying to improve his English (he went on to take marketing courses at Sir George Williams College), he lost his hair temporarily as a result of the tension. Although he did not know anybody in Canada, the Christian Emigration Central had found him and his wife work as a couple, chauffeur/cook, which paid well enough for them to save $1600 in one year (L, Tape I, side 1, 0:15).
One can detect a common thread in these case histories:
- Language is generally not a problem as many are multilingual.
- Those with only 'school English' or 'school French' were prepared to study hard, and consequently, learned fast.
- They brought the skills, capital, enterprising spirit, and ambition that were useful and welcome in Canada.
- If they missed the more developed culture of Europe, they were at least able to adjust to this state of affairs by giving of their own talents; in the majority of cases the issue did not arise, however.
- Host respondents did not have any connections here before arrival. but they were able to make them quickly since there were no serious language problems.
- T sums up the situation in Montreal: "people gave the impression of having 'moved' rather than 'immigrated'" (T, Tape I, side 1, 28:OO).