Friday, May 20, 2011

To emigrate is “to leave behind a world, a life, a culture”. To immigrate is to “enter a new country as an alien, the settle there, to work”. This is what over 100,000 Dutch immigrants did after World War II.

How It all Began:  The Dutch people did not suddenly discover Canada after WWII, even before the early 1900s, western Canada was an attractive place to immigrate with its millions of acres of free or cheap land.  Many Dutch farmers came after hearing the great reports about farming here.  During WWI immigration declined, but picked up again after and many Dutch people began to immigrate to Ontario as well.  During WWII, the Germans occupied The Netherlands, immigration stopped again except for some refugees like Princess Juliana who ended up having her baby here. 

Push Factors:  After the war, the country was in rough shape.  Many towns, homes and factories had been bombed, the economy was in shambles, it was hard to support your family.  People saw no future for themselves and their children.  People like all of my grandparents.  Both my maternal grandfather, and paternal grandmother’s families came to Canada during this time.  My paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother came later as adults.  Push factors also include the fact that there was a war in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and fears that Russia would invade The Netherlands. Some other push factors were unemployment, housing shortages and overcrowding of the country after many former Dutch citizens returned from the Dutch East Indies.  The government started a program where they helped immigrants pay for their fares and shipments of their belongings.

Pull Factors:  Canada had a low population density and lots of land.  The Canadian government relaxed the rules about immigration (which only allowed farmers before) and let professional, technical and business people to come too.  Canada was a place that could offer freedom, and a new start for many people, and opportunities for their families.

Barriers to Leaving:  When I asked each of my grandparents this question, it depended on whether they came at an early age or already an adult when they immigrated.  All agreed it was hard to leave behind the physical country – it is beautiful, pastoral and tranquil.  As a child, the excitement of a new adventure was most remembered rather than the fear of leaving everything you know behind.  The main barriers to leaving were leaving family and friends, going to a strange country and having to learn a new language. Worries about getting a job.  Another important barrier was knowing that you will never see some of those people again and will only ever return as a ‘visitor’.

Effects on Canadian culture: Due to Canada's policy on multiculturalism, Dutch-Canadians have been able to preserve their cultural identity. You can find stores where you can buy Dutch food, you can attend Dutch plays, concerts, and churches. Also, at English churches they play songs in Dutch sometimes. During Peterborough's Multicultural Day at Del Crary Park, on July 1st there will be Dutch crafts, foods, and performances.