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The Role of the Dutch in the Iroquois Wars
by Peter Lowensteyn


In the Introduction two issues relating to the Dutch in Quebec were raised: (a) the desirability of a well-researched history of this ethnic group, and (b) the question of the enormous underrepresentation of Dutch in the Province of Quebec.

A History of the Dutch in Quebec

An attempt has been made to find as many pertinent details as possible. This was particularly difficult for the period up to the middle of this century, largely because of the small number of settlers involved, which led to lack of institutions, a primary source of community records. Some elderly interviewees were able to help bridge the gap somewhat.

For the post-World War II period, research was much more fruitful, although still difficult as institutional records were at a premium. The best organized institution in this respect, the Christian Reformed Church, has few adherents in Quebec. Also, many Dutch have integrated so well that they are hard to trace. For this period, however, there were many interviewees who could recall the early years for which there was little documentation.

As for the earliest period of Dutch settlement in Quebec, of those among the United Empire Loyalists, the paper concentrated on establishing their Dutch ethnicity. The data show that Dutch characteristics were present upon arrival, disappeared rather quickly until, at this time, Dutch Loyalists' descendants are indistinguishable as a group. Some individuals, however, take pride in their Dutch ancestry, and spend time and effort researching their history, maintaining burial plots, and collecting artifacts.

Dutch immigration in Quebec during the period of 1900-1945 was quite insignificant. The 1941 census shows less than 3000 souls across the province; the consul reported a few hundred families in Montreal; no residential concentration is evident; and there appeared to be only one voluntary organization. The Consulate, on the other hand, had a high profile as for a time its territory consisted of the whole of Canada. With some exception the Dutch in Quebec were not well-off and there was a high rate of departure to other provinces, to the the United States, and to the country of origin. With so few resources at their disposal, it is no wonder that there is no evidence of particular interest in maintaining original values, religion, or folkways. The post-World War II situation contrasts sharply with the above period. After an initial slow start, immigration to Quebec began to pick up, notably when regulations allowed for the entry of those with occupations other than farming. Although compared to other provinces Quebec still harboured few Dutch, their number soon became sufficient to sustain various community organizations. Relatively high levels of education allowed upward mobility until by 1971 the Dutch of Montreal (where most of them lived) were one of the most highly placed ethnic groups in terms of education, occupation, and income.

In spite of their tendency to integrate quickly and for many to fade away into the general population (primarily on the anglophone side), they were now numerous enough to maintain institutional bonds. From organizational records and interviews the picture emerges of a growing community that, in the 1950's was primarily concerned with preserving religious values and providing opportunities for social intercourse. When in difficulty, immigrants could turn for assistance to their church or to relatives and friends. For those that had contact with neither for example overworked and abused nannies there was only the Consulate, and it could not give practical aid. Later in the decade, voluntary organizations began to provide social events, geared to the generally young population.

In the 1960's, as young families were bringing up their children, car rallies and outings came to an end but Sinterklaas parties for children were well attended. With the Dutch population at its peak size, church buildings were erected or bought and church related organizations flourished. Especially the C.R.C. was and is well-organized, whereas the R.C.A. and Dutch Catholic organizations had a relatively weak and only temporary impact.

Political circumstances in the 1970's hit the Dutch of Quebec hard. Between 1971 and 1981 the population dropped by about one third. Nevertheless, later in the decade a revival of community activities took place. That time the emphasis was on cultural and educational matters as well as commercial interests. Nostalgic feelings are becoming stronger not only here but across Canada as evidenced by the contents of the Dutch-Canadian press. The attempt to build a Senior Citizens Home must be seen in that light too, as the initiative did not come from the needy who might have had economic reasons for building such a home.

Intermarriage rates are high and the Canadian-born generation is only sporadically involved, except in the C.R.C. where they are quite active.

Immigration from the Netherlands has been slight since 1968 and is now almost negligible, although some of these more recent arivals have rejuvinated the community by their activities and enthusiasm. Nevertheless, the Dutch of Quebec can be seen as a one generation community that never made any serious attempt to pass on its language or culture to its young again except in the orthodox Calvinist context. On the other hand, they feel nostalgic about their background, take pride in their achievements and are eager to share that which they treasure with society-at-large. Virtually the whole community is veering away from an origin-specific to an interest-specific orientation. This is formally true of the C.R.C., CAANS, and the Chamber of Commerce, and informally for the associations where Dutch and non-Dutch spouses and friends mingle easily, and the language used is as often English as it is Dutch. Only the radio programme, the Dutch language press, and the Borrelclub, and to a certain degree the TV programme are inward-looking as they are only open to whose who speak Dutch. Without the unlikely prospect of a strong influx of Dutch immigrants, these institutions are ultimately doomed.

Perhaps the community as a whole shows an innate sense of survival by altering language use and opening up to Canadian society. In the end this may be the best, the only, strategy to pass on some of the values they hold dear.

Underrepresentation of the Dutch in Quebec

The question was asked "Why did so few Dutch settle in Quebec?". It is true that there are relatively few Dutch in this province, and there are fewer now than there were some years ago. At one time, however, there was quite an influx, notably to the Montreal area. The influx was by no means as large as in Ontario, even if one disregards the agriculturists of whom so many went there. The explanation that language and culture were the main influences is far too simplistic. A great number of push and pull factors have played a role and still do so. The different "waves of immigrants" as they were presented in this paper, will be reviewed in this light.

Early history

During Loyalist times, the "immigrants" were deliberately steered towards what is now Ontario. Had Governor Haldimand and other decisionmakers not objected to their settling in Quebec, we might have seen, following Ashton's argument (see page 21), a much larger presence of them along the American border, with a proportionately larger number of Dutch origin. Argueably this would have made little difference in terms of maintenance of Dutch ethnicity, as even in Ontario their much larger numbers "melted imperceptibly into the Canadian scene" (Canada, 1951: 5).

It would have shown up in the census data and might have resulted in a possibly stronger support of "Dutch heritage" projects.

Thus, insofar as Quebec was concerned, the push factor was of a political nature, and insofar as Ontario is concerned, the pull factor at that time seems to have been of an economic nature (land grants).

Dutch immigration prior to World War II

In surveying Dutch immigration during the first half of this century, much the same pattern can be detected, if for different reasons.

The sudden increase in Dutch population in Quebec shown in the 1901 census (Table III), is best accounted for by internal migration (from New Brunswick). But even then, the increase of Dutch in Ontario was much greater (more than 3000 against about 800 in Quebec), which shows the greater attraction of that province compared to Quebec. This can be explained in terms of religious congeniality if it is assumed that a large proportion of the Ontario increase came from New Brunswick protestant Loyalist descendants.

Immigration directly from the Netherlands to Quebec was very limited. To Ontario and the West it was much higher, even if the absolute numbers were still very small (see Table IV). Religion was no longer the sole explanation although it may have been a contributing factor. In the first place there was the lack of pull by Quebec because of its opposition to immigration, especially from non-French speaking countries. But even in French speaking countries, including France where poor peasants would have liked to emigrate to Quebec, a recruiting system was all but non-existent (Petersen, 1955: 122). This contrasted sharply with English-Canadian efforts in attracting agriculturists: in the first place from Britain, and, alternatively, from other North European stock. This suited the Canadian and Dominion Sugar Refinery Company in Ontario which was formed at the turn of the century. It required farm labourers who were familiar with sugar beet growing and it actively helped in recruiting these from the Netherlands and Belgium. This, in turn, led to chain migration. In 1926 as many as 3000 immigrants, mostly Dutch, were working for the company (Canada, 1951:20; Sas, 1957:97).

No such economic opportunities were found in Quebec (see also Table V), nor was there the benefit of chain migration. Also, no reputation grew on which it was possible to build, as happened in Ontario and elsewhere where the Dutch were found to be hardworking and skilled farmers.

Insofar as Quebec is concerned, one must conclude that, at least prior to World War II it was not so much a matter of choice that kept the Dutch away, as it was a political matter together with lack of economic opportunities. Religion was perhaps a contributing factor, but in this period not a decisive one. For example, in the case of the sugar beet growers in Ontario, there were many Belgians involved, who, without doubts were of the Catholic faith. Even among the Dutch sugar beet growers, too, there may have been Catholics.

Dutch immigration after World War II

After World War II, the push factor in the Netherlands, an element that had not been very strong until then, played an important part in Dutch emigration. There was a definite "emigration climate" as Beijer calls it (1961:310). But modern Dutch emigrants were cautious and wanted to find out what their chances were of realizing their aspirations elsewhere. Governments and private emigration agencies provided information. Hofstede found that non-official information was considered to be of greater value by 48% and of equal value by 17% of his sample population (1961:43). Presumably much of this information was obtained from relations (relatives or others) in the immigration country as the presence of such relations were found to exert a powerful influence on the decision to emigrate (Frijda, 1961:82). Wentholt found that this presence was a factor in the decision to emigrate in 65.5% of the cases in his study (1961:200). Quebec, then, was clearly at a disadvantage in comparison with other parts of Canada, in particular Ontario. Although these studies talk of "emigration countries" and not of provinces or regions, it stands to reason that relations already living here would give information about their own experiences and their own environment, and not about some province they did not know.

The same disadvantage befell Quebec when Dutch journalists went on fact-finding trips across Canada. Their schedule would reflect settlement patterns of the Dutch, and major emphasis was placed on Ontario while Quebec received scant attention. Such reports would have compounded the lack of knowledge about Quebec. In the opposite direction, with Dutch visiting their relatives in the Netherlands, the same thing would happen. Virtually all the stories (some of which would appear in the newspapers) concentrated on the heavily settled areas of Ontario and the Western provinces.

Then there is the bias against French Canada and French Canadians that came out in the advice given to some interviewees.

An important push factor also was the work of the Dutch emigration agencies, and more in particular of the Christian Emigration Central (C.E.C.). It displayed a fervor that was, certainly in the beginning, unmatched by the other agencies, and it by-passed Roman Catholic Quebec altogether. This is clearly reflected in Table VIII where the big jump in arrivals in the early post-World War II years 1947/1948 takes place in Ontario and the Western provinces, where the Christian Reformed Church gave its full support to the C.E.C..

Language also plays a role in the push factor. Dutch emigrants made a real effort to have at least some knowledge of the language upon arrival. In Hofstede's sample population of 1000, thirty-two percent claimed to have a good knowledge of the language and forty-three percent had studied it seriously. It must be remembered that courses in the Netherlands were given for the benefit of all emigrants, not just for those going to Canada. English was required in all emigration countries (Australia, New Zeal and, Canada, the U.S.A., and South-Africa), except in Quebec. And even there English was perhaps sufficient, or at least an asset. So it is understandable that the "language for emigrants" was synonymous with English. Even if perhaps some French course was given here or there, it can be assumed that most Dutch immigrants arrived here relatively unprepared to speak French and positively inclined to learn English, the language of "Tommies", "Yankees" and most of their Canadian "liberators".

As mentioned earlier, a knowledge of French was required more by agriculturists than city dwellers. The farmers interviewed, who had lived here for some time, were fluent in both French and English.

Pull factors in Quebec were very weak indeed as far as farmers were concerned. Farms were available, and as interviewee R described, the banks would come across with loans if they found the farmer businesslike. Farms were also cheaper than in Ontario. But most farmers had to work for several years to save up for the purchase of a farm and earnings were higher in Ontario than in Quebec. The chance of settling near relatives, ex-neighbours, Dutch churches and other community organizations, was much greater in Ontario too.

Language and loneliness were problems for Dutch farmers in Quebec, not only in the north where a settlement scheme for market gardeners failed, but also in the south except in those instances where chain migration took place. This is quite evident from interviews with S, R, and X, all of whom had brought out varying numbers of others.

Opportunities to find employment in industry if farming did not work out, or to supplement the farm income with industrial earnings were also found to be greater in Ontario than in Quebec. Mr. de W. took advantage of that when he left farming to go to work for INCO, but to R and S this was no advantage. Said S: "That is not the point of immigration! We could have done that in Holland too!" (J. Lowensteyn [cassette recording] 1985, S, Tape I, side 1, 36:05).

The pull factor of the Roman Catholic church both in rural and urban Quebec seems to have been relatively slight. In fact, the Church did not mind where people went as long as they were integrated in a Catholic parish. The presence of a Dutch priest, judging from the role this person played in the lives of the interviewees, was an important one. But unlike the Christian Reformed fieldman who got tremendous support from his church agencies, the Dutch priest found himself in a tenuous position. He had to be careful not to step on the terrain of the parish priest under whose care the immigrant came, and funding was always a problem. He could not display the same activity as the C.E.C. fieldman, and for the backing of an immigrant agency such as the Netherlands Catholic Immigrant Services he had to wait until the late 1950's. It was only in 1962 that the Catholic Dutch-Canadian Association was established in Montreal with as its task to help the local almoner financially and otherwise. Without such community structures at the time of high immigration, the pull of the R.C. Church must have been weak.

The large upswing in urban immigration to Quebec that began in 1951 when Canada opened its doors to occupations other than agriculturists was evidently not in response to the hard working Christian Reformed agencies and the more lax Roman Catholic ones. As the figures in Table XX show, in 1961 as many as 37.6% of the Dutch in Montreal were Roman Catholics. The number of Christian Reformed was included in the category "other", but in the 1981 census they are mentioned as a separate category. With 280 of them they represented 5% of the Dutch population of Montreal, probably in the same range as that applicable in 1961. The larger proportion of Catholics and smaller proportion of Calvinists in Quebec reflects much closer the pattern that exists in the Netherlands than does the pattern that exists elsewhere in Canada.

Petersen observes that "Orthodox Calvinists (like pietists in any country) were predominantly of the lower class" (1953: 39). Those were the people that made up the first wave after World War II, the farmers who 1anded largely in Ontario. Those were also the people who made up T's congregation in the West which he contrasted so sharply with the one in Montreal. These were not the people who, on the whole, came to Montreal. Not even as part of the Christian Reformed Church. So, while part of the explanation of the small size of the Dutch group in Quebec is the underrepresentation of Calvinists, another explanation is the strong attraction of Montreal for the higher educated relative to the lower educated Dutch.

The increase in employment opportunities (excluding farming) during the period 1941-1961 was not as great in Quebec as it was in Ontario. Neverthless, significant expansion took place here also, and in all sectors of the economy. Why then did Quebec not attract a greater proportion of Dutch immigrants with a lower education?

Research shows that Dutch immigrants did not, on the whole, settle in Quebec as a result of recruitment practices of C.R.C. fieldmen, or other church agencies.

Immigrants who were dependent on the Canadian Immigration Service to match job requirements with the immigrant's qualifications' were subject to official policy to avoid the formation of national "colonies" and to favour an equal distribution across the country. However, this was probably offset by the political consideration to accommodate Quebec's desire for francophone or latino immigrants rather than North-Europeans.

Thus the evidence points largely to settlement in response to a) presence of relations, and b) job opportunities.

This tends to be underscored by the experiences of the 16 immigrants interviewed for this study. Only one (rural) immigrant relied on the Canadian Government Immigration Service (1949), one (urban) was directed here by the Christian Emigration Central (1953), and one (rural) by the Catholic Immigrant Service (1959). The rest came because of relations or job opportunities in about equal measure. The sample is too small to draw any definite conclusions from these results, but the tendency is nevertheless clearly there.

Hofstede remarks that opportunities are relevant to potential immigrants only if they know about them and that supposed opportunities are as significant as real ones (1952:9).

With the factor "relations" being such an exceedingly important one, the lack of "old-timers', and early arrivals, especially farmers, is a further explanation of the above phenomenon. Even among Dutch farmers a certain proportion left the land, and those would have become the working class relations who could have attracted others. This was a virtually non-existent group in Quebec.

Another way to learn about job opportunities, given that the private agencies were not particularly active in Quebec, is through a business network. Many engineers and other highly qualified personnel were being recruited in Europe by the companies themselves, notably the aeronautics and chemical industries, consulting engineers, hotels, and transportation companies. They would, in turn, attract others, bookkeepers, nannies, etc.

For this kind of person the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Montreal held attraction rather than fear (of having to learn two languages, for instance). These were also the people who did not require (for language or employment purposes) the help of church or voluntary associations. But as these institutions were slow in forming, the channels of communication which might have helped in attracting more immigrants to Quebec were in turn underdeveloped. Church newspapers, visiting dignitaries, etc. had less reason to concentrate on this region, and consequently the news about any successes booked in this province would not easily get through. Whatever fear bred of ignorance might have existed in the rest of the country (and in the Netherlands) about this francophone and catholic province, could only have added to the problem.

In conclusion, one can sum up the following factors that contributed in varying measure to the dearth of Dutch in this province:

For agriculturists:

  • political and religious constraints, leading to the lack of a base needed for chain migration;
  • lack of agricultural jobs (before World War II);
  • higher wages in other provinces, notably Ontario, the other destination for mixed and dairy farmers;
  • the difficulty of the French language which had to be learned in addition to English;
  • unfamiliarity with Quebec.

For urban immigrants:

  • political constraints;
  • avoidance by Calvinists;
  • poor organization on the part of Catholic agencies; lack of a base for chain migration which was particularly felt by the working class population who had to rely on relations and the networks provided by private agencies to find jobs.