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

The Period of 1900 to 1945: Making a Living

The Netherlands Consul General in Montreal, Mr. J.A. Schuurman, in a letter dated March 26, 1927, complains that "At least in Montreal, among several hundred Dutch there are perhaps a dozen who improved themselves through emigration. The rest more or less cope, mostly they did not go down which, after all, is not the purpose of emigration" (Ganzevoort, 1975, Consular letter no.855, 1927).

In other letters that year, the Consul General refers to the need to know French for those who intend to work in the construction industry in Eastern Canada (Ganzevoort, 1975, Consular Letter no.729, 1927) and to the large percentage of metal workers and electricians among those who came to see him because they are unemployed and without means (Ganzevoort, 1975, Consular letter no.1324).

One prominent businessmen, upon meeting Consul General Sevenster (1946-19521, was told: "It is a pleasure to see a Dutchman who does rather well" (J. Lowensteyn [cassette recording], 1985, N, Tape I, side 2, 1:45).

The obviously marginal situation that so many Dutch found themselves in during the pre-war years is in marked contrast with their present day situation in Quebec. Undoubtedly, the difficult economic times of the 1930's played an important part in this. It is interesting to note that the few persons interviewed who had settled here before World War II, themselves had done quite well. The factors that accounted for their success seem to have been: professional skills, language skills, and shrewd business sense. It is especially the latter attribute that is striking among successful pre and post war people interviewed.

Interviewee N (J. Lowensteyn [cassette recording] 1985), an experienced engineer who spoke several languages, including English and French, was sent out by a Dutch company in 1933, to set up and manage a Canadian subsidiary. He stayed in that position until his retirement, and in those years saw the company grow to the largest in Quebec in its particular field. Although the foreman was Dutch, N rejected the hiring of Dutch workers on a permanent basis, considering it "bad policy". He once hired two Dutchmen who promptly thought they occupied a preferred position (N, Tape I, side 1, 39:40).

A similar sentiment was expressed by V, an ex-steward on board trans-atlantic liners who, after working as a waiter and head-waiter for a short time after his arrival in 1927, became restaurant manager in downtown Montreal. He was a stable employee, staying at one restaurant for ten years, at another for twenty years. He had been educated at a hotel school in Holland as well as at the Berlitz language school and had been taught, among other things, not to hire personnel of the same nationality, as "it makes for friction with the rest of the staff" (V, Tape II, side 2, 35:30). This did not prevent him from helping his countrymen to find jobs elsewhere and he claims the Consulate often called upon him for this purpose (Tape I, side 2, 16:40).

Both gentlemen, now retired, and in good health, the first married, the second a widower, live comfortably in such "English" areas as Town of Mount Royal and Pointe Claire.

The brother of interviewee U is another Dutchman who did very well for himself. An electrical engineer, he arrived in the early thirties, having left his wife and children behind. His diplomas were not valid here, so he could not work in his own field. The only kind of work he elaborated upon was his brother's post-war involvement in the development of two fifty acre lots in the Eastern Townships. He built four houses, made two lakes, and rented or sold the property to Dutch people. Now in his nineties, U's brother divides his time between winters in Florida and summers in his apartment in downtown Montreal. For years, every third winter has been set aside for a trip to Holland (U, 3.3.1983, Tape I, side 1, 39: 10).

Then there was Bob Noorduyn, aircraft designer, who moved to Montreal from the United States to form Noorduyn Aircraft Limited. In the Journal of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society he is remembered as follows: "When Bob Noorduyn died in February of 1959, he left behind him an aeronautical legacy that will ensure his name being long remembered in the aviation world. This legacy is, of course, the Norseman bush plane which, in its way, is as much a design classic as the ubiquitous DC-3" (Halford, 1979:68). Robert B. Noorduyn was born and bred in the Netherlands. His father was Dutch, his mother English. After having worked in England for seven years, he became assistant to Anthony Fokker, and later representative and manager of the Fokker company in the U.S. Conversion of the single engine Fokker F7 into the highly successful Fokker Trimotor was his brainchild, and was executed notwithstanding the strong doubts of Anthony Fokker (Halford, 1979:68).

Interviews with M, Noorduyn's American-born widow, and with Y, one of his ex-employees and currently the president of Noorduyn Norseman Aircraft Ltd., give a wealth of background information about Noorduyn as a person and as an entrepreneur. Y insists that Noorduyn "did not make a fortune out of the company", but he seems to have lived well, with a home in upper Westmount, his son in Lower Canada College, and the family at ease with the upper crust ("his mother was a Churchill") (II, Tape I, side 1, 42:00). Although there may have been one or more Dutch among his workers, there seems to have been no particular preference for Dutchmen among the many nationalities represented. The team that designed the original Norseman apparently consisted of people from Canada, the U.S. and England. Noorduyn did employ his Dutch niece at one time (Y, Tape I, side 1, 42:00).

We find Noorduyn hustling money from all sources including Sir Herbert Holt, U's brother dabbling in real estate, V successfully "playing the market", and N solidly entrenched in second place in a constantly growing company. They belonged to the handful of Dutch who had done well 1. Most of the rest had a much harder time of it. The following report by the Netherlands Consul General illustrates this (Ganzevoort, 1975).

During the period June 1, 1924 to May 31, 1925, one hundred persons registered at the Consulate (plus one who died). Of these, 37 returned to Europe, 5 moved, 5 were deported, and 6 left for the U.S.A. Thus, at least 53 out of 100 were not successful in Quebec or even Canada after two or three years. There were only 5 agriculturists among them. For 9 no occupation was listed. Another 39 had an occupation other than farming. Of the other 47 some were still in Canada, although not all of them were successful. Some must have left Canada, and the Consul felt that in time more or them would return (to the Netherlands). He stressed that this was the Montreal and not the Canadian situation. (Ganzevoort, 1975, Netherlands Consul General, "Notes re chances of non agriculturists emigrating to Canada.", dated July 6, 1927)

The reason that so few farmers were found among the "unsuccessful" is probably not only that agrarians were often more successful than others, as reported by Consul General Schuurman (Ganzevoort, 1975, Consular letter no.855, 19271, but particularly because Quebec offered so few agricultural jobs (see Table V).


Table V
Available Agricultural Jobs, by Province, March, April, May, 1925





 Nova Scotia




 New Brunswick
























 British Columbia




Statistics supplied to the Dutch Consulate, Montreal, by Employment Service Canada. (Ganzevoort, 1975:203)

Figures for the year 1924 show approximately two thirds (1173) of all Dutch immigrants to Canada that year to be agrarians. The others are spread over various occupations, least in Mining (3), most in Mechanical (174). Looking at the province of destination of these 1821 persons (1215 men, 322 women, 284 children under 14), it becomes clear that Quebec was not particularly unpopular, since almost 10% (171) chose to settle here (see Table VI1 (Ganzevoort, 1975, Consular letter no.983150, 1925).

Assuming that the proportions of available agricultural jobs by province in 1924 were similar to 1925, and taking into account the high ratio of agriculturists to others among Dutch immigrants (about 2:1), a comparison between Table V and Table VI shows that Saskatchewan and Alberta did not attract the Dutch proportionate to the number of agricultural jobs available, while Quebec drew more than perhaps expected. It is likely that the type of farming most common in the West (large-scale crop growing and ranching) did


Table VI
Dutch Immigrants to Canada' by Province of Destination 1924

Nova Scotia


New Brunswick


Prince Edward Island












British Columbia



 1 ,821

Source: Statistics provided by Department of Immigration and Colonisation
(Ganzevoort, 1975:201).

not appeal to the Dutch who were more used to small intensive dairy farming or market gardening. In fact' for them the type of farming available in Quebec, dairy and mixed, was much more suitable - if only the jobs would have been there.

Montreal being the largest city in Canada at the time should have attracted professionals , industrial and service workers and tradespeople. A report by the Citizenship Branch of the Department of Citizenship and immigration states that the Quebec Dutch were well above the average for all Dutch in Canada in years of schooling. For example in 1941 in Quebec, 48.5% of the Dutch population had received 9 years of schooling compared to 25.5% in Canada as a whole (Canada 1951:70). However, not only did these people run into the problem of unemployment , but the available job east of Toronto tended to offer wages which were on the low side, while working hours were generally high. An example is given in Table VII. This unfavourable comparison must have been the cause of many subsequent westward moves.

Table VII

Wages Paid to Taylors Working as Custom-Taylors (Canada, 1928)


 Weekly Wages (Can$)

 Working hours/week


































Source: Ganzevoort, 1975, appendix to Consular letter no. 4558, 1928

Dutch employers were among those who demanded long hours and paid small wages, hence many immigrants chose to work for Canadian employers. A contributing factor to this trend was the apparent understanding on the part of the newcomers that the road to prosperity, if not survival, demanded learning English (or French). This had already been impressed upon them by the Emigration Societies in Holland, who organised courses for that purpose, (in English, no French reported) and it was underscored by their experience upon arrival (Ganzevoort, 1975:271).

If one assumes that the vernacular is most easily and frequently learned in the workplace, then table VIII would appear to support Ganzevoort's contention that the Dutch chose to work for Canadians rather than for their compatriots, as the number of Dutch who speak neither English nor French is negligible.

The trend on the part of Dutch employees to seek out Canadian employers dovetailed nicely with the Dutch employers' tendency not to favour hiring their compatriots (as also exemplified by our persons interviewed). This is consistent with findings in later years. Chimbos (19721, for example, in a study involving Dutch, Greeks, and Slovaks in an Ontario city, reports only 6.9% of Dutch immigrants working for Dutch employers, and only 66% of these did so for language reasons (1972:236).


Table VIII

Population of Quebec, 10 Years and Older,
Dutch Origin by Mother Tongue, 1921

 Mother tongue


English only


English and French only


French only


Dutch and English


Dutch and French


Dutch, English, and French


Dutch only




Source: Dominion Bureau of Statistics, Ottawa. Canadian Census 1921

On the other hand, the same study states that 59% of Dutch employers claimed no preference for Canadian or Dutch employees where the level of competence was equal (cf Greek employers 15%, Slovaks 24%) (p. 237). The overall effect would be a quickening of integration in Canadian society of the particular immigrants involved, and of the Dutch community as a whole.

The role of language in the Quebec labour market should be examined briefly. In the case of the Dutch it seems that the necessity to learn French was indeed a deterrent. At least in the urban centres it meant learning an extra foreign language, since English was required anyway to deal with suppliers, bosses, and various institutions. The type of work sought by or available to the immigrant who arrived during the inter war years required the knowledge of French, in the construction industry in particular. There appears to have been no general tendency for the Dutch to settle in an exclusively French area where they would not have required a knowledge of English (see Table VIII).

It must be kept in mind that the entire Dutch-born population (including children under 10) in 1921 amounted to 314, most of whom had arrived before World War I. Thus, most of the above non-Dutch speaking "Dutch" were probably descendants of Loyalists.