Mr. Speaker, I come from a long line of Dutch heritage, and one thing I know about the Dutch comes from a saying that we have: “wooden head, wooden shoes, wouldn't listen”. The Dutch are notoriously stubborn, and I know this not because I know lots of Dutch people but because the Dutch looked out at the ocean and they said, “There is good farmland under there”, and they dammed it off and started farming the sea floor.
One of the things we are recognizing today is the liberation that happened in Holland on May 5, 1945, in which Canada played a very important role. One thing my grandparents tell me about is running through the streets as children saying, “The Canadians are here. The Canadians are here. The war is over.” That moment has very much tied the Canadian and Dutch identities together, I think forever.
However, Canada and the Dutch have had a relationship that goes back long before then. I know that Dutch stubbornness has worked well in Canada, given the odds that we have to overcome in terms of the climate and the vast distances that we deal with here in Canada.
I would like to reference how Canada has been shaped by some of our Dutch culture. One of things I wanted to point out was the word “cookie”. Some members may have had a cookie this morning. I am not sure if members know this, but that word is not necessarily an English word. It comes from the Dutch word “koekje”. In North America, we call a biscuit a cookie, but the English had no term for this whatsoever. “Cookie” is very much a North American term that comes from the Dutch term “koekje”, so if any members had a cookie this morning, they can thank the Dutch heritage in North America for that cookie. We just take it for granted here in North America that a cookie is a cookie, but at the turn of the century, the English did not understand at all what a cookie was. They thought it was a biscuit. They would still tell us today that it is called a biscuit. That is interesting.
My wife's grandfather was married to an English lady, so the cultural differences are always very fun to ask her about. One of the other things she said was that the Dutch would offer people coffee right as they came through the door. She said that in the English culture, people would be offered coffee as a way to kick them out the door, so to speak. People would be offered wine as they came in, and then they would be offered coffee as a signal for them to leave. She said those kinds of things were very weird, just as the term “cookie” was weird.
The other thing that we do not necessarily realize is that the name “Santa Claus” comes from “Saint Nicholas”. The Dutch call him “Sinterklaas”, and “Santa Claus” is an anglicization of the term “Sinterklaas”, so Santa Claus is actually one of the Dutch heritage pieces that we use here in North America and in Canada. Members can thank the Dutch for Santa Claus. His red suit comes from that heritage as well. That is amazing.
When the Dutch came to Canada, they came from all walks of life in the Netherlands, but many of them ended up farming here in Canada. There was a great need for farming employees, particularly in the 1950s when most of them came, so they ended up farming. They would have been accountants, school teachers, police officers and so on, but when they came to Canada, there was not a need for those kinds of skills: there was a need for farm labourers.
I remember reading and hearing stories about how accountants who came here wore their hands to the bone in a week picking rocks and other things, and living in chicken coops. They were really anxious about the fact that they had decided to leave an extremely organized country to move out in the wilderness of Canada, even though the people who moved here thought we lived in modern civilization.
However, the Dutch people did not sit still in those positions. Usually within a couple of years, they had moved up in the world. They were building their own houses, churches, and schools all across Canada. The data that we have, particularly for the 1950s, shows there was quite an immigration into every province in Canada, and they built communities everywhere.
That was particularly in the 1950s era. However, the Dutch people were involved in the building of Canada going way back before that as well, even before the liberation that really married the Dutch and Canadian cultures in 1945.
Going back, the railway was built by Dutchmen. It no doubt was an idea of Sir John A. Macdonald's, which had started and stopped several times. It was not until a gentleman by the name of William Van Horne showed up on the scene that the transcontinental railway was finally completed. He started out as a 15-year-old working in the rail yards and ended his career as the president of CP Rail. He was known as the president to run a locomotive.
Another thing he was known for was that he never slept. He had several aides. At one point in time, his aides took turns staying awake to see if he actually fell asleep. He stayed awake for three days consecutively to prove to them that he never slept. They never saw him sleep. They said he played cards every day until two o'clock in the morning and was up before the crack of dawn. He was a man larger than life who built the railway through the entire country. If there is something that really binds this country together, it is the national railway. It is not without its controversy, but it really galvanized us as a nation. I would say there was a stubborn Dutchman right there in the middle of all of that.
As well, there was a famous contractor named Andrew Onderdonk, who was also very much involved with building the B.C. portion of the railway.
Those are two Dutchmen who were very much involved in the building of the railway.
The Dutch and Canadian cultures are dramatically intertwined, specifically around the liberation of Holland, and here in Canada we have seen multiple communities of Dutch heritage spring up across the country. I come from a small Dutch community up in northern Alberta called Neerlandia. It was founded in 1912, long before the Second World War, but most of the people came after the Second World War.
It is interesting that Dutch people are as free market as they come. The stock exchange model was first developed in the Netherlands and then brought to North America. Interestingly, we are not emphatic about it.
The community of Neerlandia has one of the largest co-ops in the country. All our fertilizer, fuel, groceries, and those kinds of things come through the local co-op that we have set up there. Our co-op is almost like a religion there, as everyone is a member of it.
Those are some of the things the Dutch have done to contribute to the building of Canada. Canada has been an amazing home to nearly a million people who claim Dutch heritage, and we look forward to continuing to build this country with new homes, new churches, new schools and all the great things we need here in Canada.
I look forward to the passage of this bill and to celebrating May 5 as Dutch heritage day.