Dutch immigration to Canada

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by achromaticLykos
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Social Studies

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Dutch immigration to Canada

Magic Lantern Show: a show presented using glass slides depicting Canada’s prairie, shown by Canadian officials promoting immigrationChocolate Sprinkles: chocolate sprinkles spread over bread that has been butteredCrispbakes: dried biscuits covered with anise seeds coated in blue, white, or pink sugarWindmill Cookies: almond cookies with a windmill designClogs: wooden footwearSinterklass: Santa Claus

One of the earliest Dutch immigrants to Canada, named Willem de Gelder, wrote letters to his homeland describing his life on the farm in Western Canada.

Many of the first Dutch peoples left the Netherlands and came to Canada seeking careers as farmers, for they could not earn a living wage in their homeland. Machines were taking over their farm jobs, and the men were desperate. According to magic lantern shows and Canadian officials visiting the Netherlands, the Canadian Prairies were a prime location to live. The land was free, and hard work led to prosperity.

Why they left the Netherlands


Dutch Immigration to Canada

Many of the immigrants’ letters held different opinions, some insisting that their friends and family come to Canada, and others warning of the conditions that did not live up to their expectations.

The first Dutch people who left the Netherlands departed at Rotterdam and took a two week ship journey across the Atlantic to Canada. They then took a train from Halifax to Winnipeg.

When they came to Canada

The first wave of Dutch people arrived circa 1892, young, unwed men seeking wealth and better living standards. The second wave arrived after the First World War when the Canadian government decided they needed more farmers. The third wave arrived after the Second World War, when the Netherlands was still recovering from Nazi rule. Almost every person to arrive was a refugee.

The third wave was the largest amount of Dutch people to arrive in Canada at once. Nearly 185 000 people arrived.

How their life changed when they moved to Canada

The first wave of Dutch people, for the most part, had better living standards than they did in the Netherlands. They had higher wages and better homes in Canada. Although, those who immigrated later found that there were fewer jobs, most of them occupied by those who immigrated before them, and some couldn’t even afford food.

Jane Aberson described her love of her family’s new home in Canada during the Great Depression in Dutch newspapers in the Netherlands, encouraging more immigrants to arrive during the 1930s.

Dutch immigrants in Quebec, circa 1911.

It was originally quite easy for the Dutch to get farming jobs in Canada. The Canadians saw them as a hard working and honest people. Also, at the time, they were seen as desirable because they looked just like English Canadians, the most prevalent race at the time.

Dutch immigrants waiting for train at Canadian Railways Terminal, Halifax, circa 1925.

Some families were seperated; women working in Southern Ontario as what was then known as "domestics", cleaning and working as maids, and men working in Western Canada as farmers.

What parts of their culture Canada adopted

Canada has not fully adopted any Dutch traditions that are celebrated nationally, although, many of the Dutch populace in Canada still celebrate their holidays and traditions. For example, you can find Dutch bakeries in many locations in Canada. There is even one known as "The Dutch Bakery" here in St. Thomas that sells traditional Dutch cuisine, such as Chocolate Sprinkles, Crispbakes, and Windmill Cookies. Another Dutch tradition celebrated by many of the Dutch people in Canada is to hang clogs above the fireplace or from a windowsill on the 5th of December, and the next day Sinterklaas will leave presents inside of them. There are also many Netherlands Reformed churches littered across Canada, the most being in Ontario. There is even one located relatively close to St. Thomas, in Brant County.

A pair of traditional clogs.


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