The Canadian years, Dutch Canadians

Door San-Daniel gepubliceerd op Monday 27 October 21:01


Dutch Canadians

I had seen it before ​​in foreign countries, the  Dutch become very royalist and glorify and idealize the old motherland. It often takes on such forms that in surprise you wonder why they ever had left the homeland. Many Dutch had moved to Alberta, right after the war. They idealized the country's liberators. Where if you worked, you had a car within no time and  a washing machine. You had a refrigerator and a radio or TV. You saved your money and you bought a house and if you didn’t, then you simply rented a house because there was no housing shortage. No Canadian would rent a terraced house because they could simply choose any house. Houses were all on their own plot of land with a front and back yard and on both sides a narrow strip of garden so you could always walk around your house. You just had to have the luck of not becoming ill or invalidated, because the system had a downside, it was socially, hard. Europe after the war lived in the aftermath and shadow of the war with all its destructive heritage and reconstruction would take place only slowly on stocking feet. Land was plentiful in Canada and a small farmer in the Netherlands became a gentleman farmer in Canada. There were many deep-seated frustrations embedded in the new Canadians who came from different areas of post-war Europe. That was reflected in the communities that were formed in the 'new country'. They had not left their country, they had sought security and prosperity.

Calgary had its own community of those with Dutch roots. My father explained that he had contacted a Dutch minister in Calgary. Not to be believed, my father had changed from Lutheran to the Reformed Church in the Netherlands in the short time we had been waiting for the visa and he had contacted a Dutch minister in Canada. ‘We have always attended a Lutheran church in Tripoli,’ began my sister, ‘at the US air base’ ‘That’, said, my father, ‘was in Tripoli.’ It shone again a new light on my father, he was manipulative and knew how to move optimally outside of his circle. ‘’That pastor, will come with some elders to meet us at the train,’ my father said. You could send my father to any country, he  would form a circle or join one, from where he would begin to move. People and organizations served my father. ‘We will have to live apart for a while,’ said my father. He had taken on the role of the great Pascha and ruler again.


We all  looked startled. ‘Not for too long, I would expect,’ said my father, I suppose we will be separated between one week and two weeks at the most. It turned out to be for 10 days. My mother took over.’ We will come into a neighborhood, say a kind of village district next to Calgary, called Bowness. It is called Bowness because the Bow river that flows through Calgary  enters the city there. We took the new information in like a sponge. ‘We will not settle there, I suppose, your father and I will go and find a house in the center, which ought to be easy. We’ll look around carefully and then we have to order furniture and beds and everything you need for our house. That will take a few weeks. The church is a self-founded church on reformed basis and we are housed in a street where three elders live’. ‘Yes’, my father said. ‘Your big sister is going with the little ones with one family. Your brother and you and he looked at me, will go to another family. Mom and I go together, with a third party elsewhere. I do not need immigration services. I prefer giving direction to my life. I will contact my work and buy a car, because without a car you get nowhere here.’

‘I want a home’ my mother said, ‘with a garden and not too far from the schools' and she looked at me with her sweet gaze’ and nodded at the little ones that would just come of school going age. My father did not want to live in Bowness for various reasons, one of which was that after installing himself in our new country, he would break with the Reformed Church and  in Christian communities that is always held against you. He did not want to live too far from his new work. He planned his life roughly a year ahead and deviations of the plan were only minor refinements or improvements. Intelligent people, I often noticed later, have  such a control urge, a way of life that ended my brother’s life in a nasty way when he no longer fitted in the plan.


We now knew where we stood. ‘We will come together every Friday night as a family, then we can see how plans are developing and go somewhere to share a meal. We will, I guess, attend the church  two times and then we will never see them again. If there are complaints about food or whatever, let me know,’’ my father said, ‘because I am paying for this, they are not as Christian as they would want to appear.' I understood what he was doing, a few weeks hotel would be expensive. There was no major US oil company any more that would pick up all the bills, he would work at the university and there are wage rates according to officials scales and union consultations. ‘Look,’ my father said ‘before I close this conversation,’ as if we were in a meeting, ‘this is the money here’. He put down a note and some coins. ‘This is a Canadian dollar, worth four quarters . They are called quarters and are  worth 25 cents.’ He looked around. ‘This,’ and he held up a small round coin, ‘is a dime. A dime is 10 cents, so there are ten dimes in a dollar. Clear?’ We nodded. ‘This,’ said my father,’ is a nickel, which is worth 5 cents. So for the calculating prodigies amongst us,’ and he grinned,  ‘there are 20 nickels in a dollar.’


‘Take another look at the dollar,’ he said, and he held it up, ‘you see that it differs from the US dollar by the effigy.’ ‘Here is the Canadian dollar, with  the image of Queen Elizabeth of England, because Canada is a British crown dominion. British overseas territory. A US dollar is worth more, so watch what you get back in return money. ‘You see the queen on the stamps too. There is no king here or president, but a prime minister, the Prime Minister and a governor, a governor. They are accountable to the British crown. It is particular that I am appointed to the University as an official, because all across Canada the British enjoy preferrence in such jobs, from professor to police officer to postman. That is how you keep control over a country this size.’ We nodded after this political interpretation which later proved to be unerringly accurate. My brother was rejected years later at the RCMP a British elite corps of police because he lacked the necessary background, British citizenship.

The train pulled into the station Calgary, my father straightened his back and when the train came to a halt he got us on to the platform. ‘Come and gather around me and fold your hands and close your eyes,’ he said. My father raised his head and looked into the infinite. ‘Brother Dan, ‘’asked a voice with a heavy accent? ‘’I am Pastor Berkema’ My father looked again tightly up to the sky, and said, ‘Lord, in your name we will sail into the sea, give the wind providence that we sail in peace, to fulfil our journey, Amen’. ‘Amen,’ it now sounded from a few mouths and I saw three men who appeared to be the elders, approvingly watching my father. ‘Welcome to the promised land’, Berkema said, I could not believe how easily my father wrapped people up. The great Pascha had done it again. 


San Daniel 2014

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