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Dutch Immigration Commemoration at Pier 21 hugely popular

Halifax event evokes memories

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia - Hundreds of Dutch Canadians walked down memory lane at Pier 21 recently during a standing room only gathering at the Commemoration of Dutch Immigration to Canada. Among the Canadian dignitaries at the ceremony were sons and daughters of Dutch immigrants who also watched the unveiling of a commemorative plaque for the Pier 21 museum. Honour was bestowed on an amused Cora DeJong Greenaway, herself an immigrant and a wellknown Halifax community activist. Dutch Canadian historian Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic took the crowd on her fascinating survey of the “Impact of Dutch immigrants on Canadian Society.” The Commemoration underscored in a range of ways the existence of very cordial ties between the Nether-lands and Canada which have existed since before the arrival of Dutch immigrants on Canada’s shores. The official diplomatic relations which date from the second half of the 1800s when accommodation of trade was a major concern, by the 1940s had blossomed into very close ties through the Canadian war effort and the liberation of the Netherlands, and through the significant Dutch emigration to Canada. As the ceremony progressed, it became very obvious that the mutual ties and friendship are multi-faceted.

During the years Pier 21 was in operation (it closed its doors in 1971) over 180,000 Dutch immigrants landed in Canada, the fourth-largest group of arrivals. Not all of these entered via Halifax however. There is no doubt that Pier 21 to a significant number of Dutch emigrants was Canada’s gateway.

Pier 21, now a museum, rated very high in the Dutch Commemoration. The remarks and speeches by Ambas-sador Como Hellenberg Hubar, Montreal-based Consul General Albert E. Moses and Halifax-based event MC, the Hon. Peter L. McCreath, Honorary Consul, re-inforced the Dutch community’s experience from humble emigrant origin to a significant collective prosperity and impact. According to Ambassador Hellenberg Hubar Halifax area resident and community activist Mrs. Cora DeJong Greenaway typified the Dutch immigrant rather well. He presented her with a reproduction of a 1920s painting of s.s. Nieuw Amsterdam, the first ship to berth at newly-opened Pier 21 in 1928.

Survey was a feast

Nova Scotia’s Lieutenant Governor Myra Freeman assisted Ambassador Como Hellenberg Hubar in the un-veiling of the Dutch immigration commemorative plaque which will be mounted in the Pier 21 museum. Member of Parliament Mark Eyking whose family since coming to Canada in the early 1950s established solid roots in Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton region (in agriculture and public service), spoke on behalf of the Canadian government. Also in attendance was Nova Scotia’s other Dutch Canadian MP, Mark Stoffer.

The crowd feasted on the bird’s eye survey by Trudy Duivenvoorde Mitic who was raised in a Dutch Cana-dian family in New Brunswick where as a child she regularly heard tales of early Dutch immigrant experiences. This interest when living in Halifax paved the way for her involvement in community efforts to preserve the abandoned sheds at Pier 21 which through neglect had fallen into disrepair with the threat of demolition looming in the background. Although born in Canada, Dui-venvoorde Mitic allowed Pier 21 to become her gateway to a career as an historian and author on (Dutch) immigration. The survey Impact of Dutch immigrants on Canadian society via power-point images on a large screen traced the actual immigration process, concluding with examples from each province where Dutch immigrants made their impact in a wide range of endeavours.

Van Raay and Voortman

Two entries evoked a noticeable response from the gathering. A hush fell when she showed her entry of cattleman Cor Van Raay’s feedlot in the so-called Alberta Feedlot Alley, which with four lots of 25,000 head without a question bears the brunt of Canada’s mad cow disease problem even though his farm did not cause it. The second one, Voortman Cookies, cited minutes later, earned a spontaneous applause as the company’s images flashed across the screen. Among the individuals named were scholars and hockey stars, astronomers, authors, Olympic champions and other sports figures, film producers and politicians.

Following the program, the dignitaries retired to Holland America Cruises’ m.s. Rotterdam which earlier had berthed at Pier 21, a replay of sorts of the arrival of the Nieuw Amsterdam 75 years earlier. The crowd headed mostly for the museum where hours later, Dutch Canadians still could be found checking out details connected to their own family’s immigrant history.

A local committee organized various activities around the Dutch Commemoration event. Headed by Dutch mobile store owner Gerry Blom of Fredericton, it hosted a Saturday evening reception and banquet, and a four-day fair at a Legion Hall in Halifax. Many people also took the opportunity to attend the Nova Scotia Inter-national Tattoo which celebrated its 25th anniversary. At this week-long event the Fanfarekorps Koninklijke Luchtmacht was one of the participants.