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Troop transport ship Waterman first of many to drop off immigrants

A landmark in the Dutch Canadian experience

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

Internationalization and globalization each are part of a process. In the face of these seemingly irreversible trends there is a renewed interest in identity and roots, especially on the family level. Genealogy has become a favourite pastime for many, coincidentally made easier with the same tools - computers and the internet - which have helped to push forward internationalization and globalization. Not far behind genealogy is renewed interest in local and community history.

The story of Dutch immigration is an part of community history in many town and cities across North America. There are a number of books available now which detail aspects of that story. Lacking, however, are the landmarks. What are the peaks and the valleys or the timelines of the Dutch immigrant history? Below are some dates and events that should be considered as landmarks or peaks. Feel free to suggest others and explain why they merit attention.

June 1947 dates

In the history of the national Dutch-American and Dutch-Canadian communities there are a number of dates and occasions important for everyone to know. High on the list ought to be June 17, 1947, when the Dutch troop transport ship Waterman made a special trip to Canada with the first party of 1,100 post-WWII Dutch immigrants. Arguably, Dutch-Canadians could opt to highlight June 26, 1947 when newspapers across the country echoed the Montreal Star headline “1,100 Happy, Cheering Hollanders Arrive En Route To New Canadian Farm Homes.”

Both 1947 dates given above were part of a process that had started a few years earlier when some pre-WWII Dutch immigrants started to raise suggestions with Canadian officials for attracting Dutch farm workers to repopulate farms across the country. Their efforts paid off when Canada and the Netherlands found common ground on the issue of farms workers. Canada sent an immigration officer to the Netherlands in late 1946 to prepare for the resumption of its immigration program (and cope with the immediate issue of resettling the fiancées and dependents of Canadian soldiers. Canada amended its immigration regulations to provide for the admission of sponsored farm workers on January 30, 1947. Soon after, Prime Minister MacKenzie King went public with his government’s intention to develop an ambitious immigration program.


The Dutch Canadian community had not been sitting idle either. For example, on April 30, 1946 eleven members of the Christian Reformed Church (two from Chatham, four from Hamilton and five from Sarnia) struck a committee to lay the groundwork for an anticipated influx into Ontario. CRC’s synod that year formed the Immigration Committee for Canada which soon after appointed fieldmen who would prove to be instrumental in guiding the settlement process of their constituency. Other Dutch groups all replicated the concept and became part of a Dutch Canadian umbrella for contact with immigration officials nationally and regionally.

In addition to the Waterman in 1947, the ship Tabinta also is closely linked with the Dutch immigrant vanguard. The ship which had departed from Rotterdam on September 8, 1947 also docked in Montreal, rounding off the 1947 quota of 2,000. A small number traveled on the Veendam, docked in New York and arrived in Canada by rail. On November 26, 1947, the Canadian and Dutch governments in a joint release announced that Canada would take in 10,000 farmers and their families in 1948. The Dutch chartered the Kota Inten and the Tabinta for a total of thirteen Atlantic crossings, each with 770 passengers (no passenger lists were issued for these Kota Inten (1948 and 1949), Tabinta (1947 & 1948), Volendam (1949, 1950 & 1951) and Waterman (1947) trips (see form in this issue to register if you or your family were on these sailing).


There are other, earlier dates of importance to the Dutch Canadian community. The joint Canadian and Dutch efforts at replenishing an undermanned Canad-ian agricultural sector were preceded by the 1892 conclusion of Canada’s Colonization Department that Dutch immigrants along with the British and a few other nationalities should be welcomed. The following year, a group of 68 Dutch immigrants nearly doubled Winnipeg’s Dutch-Canadian community.

Among the other dates significant to the Dutch Canadian community and to Dutch and Canadian ties, is March 8, 1928, when the Holland Amerika Lijn passenger liner Nieuw Amsterdam docked at Pier 21 to drop off its passengers. The historical arrival of the Dutch immigrant ship in Canada marks the official opening date of Pier 21 (it already had been processing some arrivals since 1924). The facility was eventually decommissioned in 1971. Even more important in the timeline of Dutch and Canadian history, is the date of June 11, 1940, the arrival at Pier 21 of the warship Sumatra. This ship brought Princess Juliana and her two children to a safe exile in Canada. January 19, 1943 has significance as well: it is the birth date of Princess Margriet, the only member of a ruling royal family born in Canada.

There are other dates which have been marked as significant. For example, on May 19, 1954, nineteen-year old photogenic Dutch immigrant Jacoba Garadine “Koosje” Bol was hailed as the 100,000th post-war immigrant from the Netherlands. She eventually returned to the Netherlands. Unfortunately, the arrival of the 200,000th Dutch immigrant was not an event that was recognized.

There are other landmarks in the process of Dutch immigration which should be noted. Feel free to suggest them and explain why they merit attention: Landmarks, to the address of the Windmill Herald.