No comprehensive history exists of the Dutch in Quebec. Yet, with an increasing interest for cultural minorities, especially in government and educational circles, there is frequent need to draw upon solid data. Although the Dutch are one of the smaller ethnic groups in this province, they do exist and they have their own story to tell. For the sake of completeness they are included in presentations of various kinds, for example, the series of profiles of minority groups prepared for Montreal school children by the Council of Christians and Jews. Unless such organizations are provided with properly researched material, the danger is there that the "story" will contain inaccuracies and omissions. Thus, this paper will be concerned essentially with piecing together the social history of this small and almost invisible group.
This involves essentially a description of the various Dutch immigration waves to this province and an analysis of the social dimensions thereof. Such waves were found to have arrived during three relatively distinct periods which will be described in detail later on. "Waves" is used here to emphasize that the concern does not lie with the odd individual arrival.
A social history presupposes some sort of group formation and interaction of group members. The extent of this interaction, e.g. the formation of a community, and its consequences both within the group and in relation to society at large are analyzed.
While it is not the intention in this paper to question whether the Dutch actually have any "communities" in Quebec, (which could fill another paper), it is useful to-define the word. One definition of community holds that it must have at least the following characteristics: (a) physically: located in a specific geographic area; spatial concentration; and (b) socially and psychologically: "community sentiment", a sense of belonging. This provides the basis for group solidarity.
Although some suggest that the geographical area is not as important a factor as personal interaction in forming or maintaining an ethnic community, most scholars do not agree. Physical distance does not help in promoting personal interaction without which one cannot speak of community.
The above definition does not mention institutions of the formal or informal kind. However, Breton (1968) found "[the community's]... capacity to control the social integration of its members is not so much its having many formal organizations as having one as opposed to none at all" (P. 201). He further argues that the degree of institutional completeness (number and variety of institutions) has an important bearing on the power of the ethnic community to attract members.
Bird (1979) modifies and extends this to the extent that it is not so much the number and variety of institutions as it is their ability to facilitate communication widely and quickly between members of the ethnic group, "particularly between those not immediately related by kinship or personal network."
A suitable definition of community would thus be a synthesis of the above:
An ethnic community can be called so if it is more or less spatially concentrated, if it has one or more ethnic institutions that are able to facilitate communication among a large number of the group members, and if its members display a sense of belonging, a "we"- feeling.
In researching the history of the Dutch in Quebec, one is constantly faced with the peculiarity of this second most populous province containing such an insignificant number of Dutch. An attempt is made to find an explanation for this phenomenon.
Even a cursory glance at immigration statistics shows that the number of Dutch in Quebec is insignificant, both compared to other ethnic groups in Quebec and to Dutch in other provinces.
Consider the following:
in 1871, Quebec had the lowest number of Dutch of the four provinces included in the census (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario) (Table III);
in 1901, Quebec was still the province with the lowest number of Dutch (Table III);
in 1941, the Dutch population of Quebec was the lowest in absolute numbers after Newfoundland, the North West Territories, the Yukon, and Prince Edward Island. (Table XI;
in 1961, New Brunswick fell behind Quebec in addition to the other four provinces and territories mentioned, and this remained so until 1981. This is particularly striking since these provinces and territories all have much smaller populations than Quebec (Table X);
the Canadian population of Dutch ethnic origin numbered 408,240 in 1981; just over 8,000, or two percent lived in the second largest province of the country. (Table X).
There have been many explanations of why the Dutch shun Quebec in greater measure than many other immigrant groups. Most commonly, these explanations were of a cultural nature:
language: Dutch find it easier to learn English than French (Canada, 1951:37) ;
lifestyle: the lifestyle of French-Canadians is more alien to the Dutch than that of English Canadians. (Canada, 1951:37);
But many other explanations may be proposed, e.g.:
political: Quebec's reluctance to accept immigrants for fear it would unfavourably affect the balance between French and English in the province;
economic: the industrialization process was behind that of Ontario, making this province less attractive for newcomers;
religious: the considerable proportion of Dutch immigrants who were of orthodox Calvinist persuasion avoided this Catholic province;
historical: the number of Dutch settlers from Loyalist times on had always been slight in Quebec, thus preparing no basis for future immigration;
geographic: Southern Ontario is claimed to attract Dutch immigrants because it provides farmland that is similar to that of the homeland. (Sas, 1957)
On the other hand, there are a number of reasons why one would have expected more Dutch in Quebec, e.g.:
agriculture: this is, and always has been, very important in the Netherlands. Most agriculturists who emigrated were used to dairy, mixed farming, or market gardening. Southern Quebec, along with Southern Ontario, are the main dairy farming areas of Canada. On this basis alone, Quebec should have attracted a sizeable proportion of Dutch agricultural immigrants;
religion: many agriculturists came from the Southern Netherlands, a solidly Catholic area. One would have expected these farmers to be steered to Quebec by church agencies;
language: In the 1950's when most of the Dutch urban immigrants arrived, economic power in Montreal was still largely in the hands of the English (see also Chapter 8, "English Business and French Nationalism" in McLeod Arnopoulos/ Clift, 1980). Immigrants integrated mostly in the English sector, and it was still largely possible for them to get by without speaking any French. Hence language should not have been a major stumbling block, and one could have expected Montreal to attract a fairly large proportion of Dutch urban immigrants, all other things being equal.
Summarizing: It is proposed that reasons for sparse settlement of Dutch in Quebec differ according to the period under discussion.
In Loyalist times the reasons were essentially political. In the first half of this century, the main reasons were likely political, economic, and religious, whereas after World War II to these reasons was added the accumulative or historical effect of all these factors which led to the lack of a basis for chain migration. In the rural areas language may have played a decisive role, but in the urban area this is not thought to have been the case, at least not until recently. In the 1970's, political changes in Quebec set in motion a substantial exodus of anglophones, including many Dutch, but this trend appears to have been halted.
Historical Periods of Dutch Immigrations
The history of the Dutch in Quebec can be separated into three fairly distinct periods: (1) the early period, till approximately 1900; (2) from about 1900 to 1945; and (3) from 1946 onward.
Prior to 1900, a few Dutch individuals arrived in Quebec but it was not until the end of the eighteenth century that group movements took place that at least provided the potential for community formation where a number of families settled in the same general area. These Dutch came from the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys region where their ancestors had established a Dutch colony which had later been absorbed by the British.
In the Western provinces, one can detect a period of Dutch migration from the United States, notably during the late nineteenth century. But in Quebec, the next period of interest is the turn of this century when immigrants began arriving directly from the Netherlands.
Elsewhere in Canada one finds also a significant number of Mennonites who claim Dutch ancestry. This includes a majority of those who live west of Ontario and a small minority of Mennonites in Ontario. Other Dutch do not consider these people to be part of their ethnic group as they do not speak Dutch but German. Nevertheless, they show up in census data and one has to be aware that their substantial numbers (e.g. in 1941, 65,000 Mennonites claimed Dutch origin) and their atypical lifestyle can have an effect on such variables as mother tongue, level of education, intermarriage, etc. This is not true for Quebec as there are no Mennonites of Dutch ancestry in this province.
From the end of the nineteenth century on, the Dutch began to emigrate directly from the Netherlands to Canada in small numbers. Two decades stand out: the first decade of the century when the Dutch-born population in Canada increased tenfold, and the 1920's when their numbers almost doubled. However, throughout the period from 1900-1945, the Dutch share of total immigration in Canada varied from a low 0.06% (1900) to a high of 2.42% (1939) (Tuinman, l952:85). The highest number of Dutch-born was shown in the 1931 census and then numbered only about 11,000, although by Tuinman's account about 30,000 entered Canada during that time. Some of the difference is accounted for by mortality, but a large proportion is thought to have returned to the homeland, or moved on to the United States.
In all these respects, this period stands in stark contrast with the post World War II period when not only the number of Dutch immigrants rose dramatically, but also because most of those who came, stayed in this country. The circumstances under which emigration and immigration took place differed also. During that time, Quebec, which had never held much attraction for Dutch immigrants, began to increase its share of the total number of Dutch in Canada from 1% (1951 census) to 3%. (1971 census). Al though the actual numbers in Quebec are still small, of course, the effect of the Dutch population increase both in Canada and in Quebec can clearly be seen in the structure of community life with institutions arising where there had been few or none before.
Thus the end of World War II is a practical cut-off point of the preceeding period and a useful starting point of a whole new era in Dutch immigration to Quebec.
Within the post-World War II period one can observe several distinct waves, such as War brides, the farm families movement, a period of heavy migration (wide range of occupations), and the most recent one with its emphasis on transients and entrepreneurs, albeit in very small numbers.
In terms of reasons for emigration, organizational, and community support in both the sending and receiving countries, ease of travel, and economic opportunities, these "waves" show more similarity than differences. Therefore, they will be dealt with only as subgroups of the same period.
To allow for comparison between pre and post-World War II influx, in regard to organization of emigration, immigrant services, and the economic and socio-cultural aspects of settlement, the chapters dealing with these two period are organized under the following headings: Demographics, The Emigration Experience, Making a Living, and Community Life.
The rural /urban distinction, so important when discussing the Dutch in the Canadian context, is, for Quebec Dutch at least, of greatest importance in the post-World War II period. In the early "Loyalist" period, all Dutch settlers appear to have been farmers, who became so thoroughly integrated that in later years their behaviour is indistinguishable from that of native Canadians. By contrast, there were apparently few farmers among the pre-World War II Dutch immigrants in Quebec.
Each of these three immigration periods will be discussed in terms of the push/pull factors at work.
The push may have come from various directions, depending on the period and areas under discussion. In Loyalist times, the push came from South of the border and was primarily of a political nature. Without the necessity to leave their communities, Canada would not likely have held great appeal for these settlers. This stands in contrast to the late 19th and early 20th century period when Canada actively recruited overseas to try and populate the West. Aside from the Gold Rush which had a magnetism all its own, the opportunity to open up the empty and fertile lands of the plains was a real pull factor. Still, the relatively small share that the Dutch had in pre-World War II immigration reflects a generally weak push factor in the home country.
Within Canada, the pull of the West outweighed any pull Quebec might have had during that time. In fact, a more important interfering pull factor was the United States, a better known country, not to the same degree suffering a reputation of harsh climate and immense loneliness as its northern neighbour.
The most interesting comparison to be made in the case of the Dutch, is that of the pre and post-World War II periods, especially in terms of the push factor. The so-called "emigration climate" that existed in the decade following World War II is unique in Dutch history. This phenomenon was brought on by a host of factors including psychological, religious, economic, and political ones, and it coincided with the pull of a Canada that (a) wished to repopulate its countryside, and (b) somewhat later required more skilled manpower for its expanding industries.
After World War II the United States still exerted a strong attraction, but entrance via Canada was made quite difficult so that it no longer presented the significant draining factor it used to be in the early decades of the 20th century. On the other hand, one can profitably discuss the relative pull exerted by various parts of Canada.