CANADIANS FROM HOLLAND-A GENERATION LATER
Terrence M. Punch.
Volume 11 Number 6.
The April, 1981 conference, Ethnic Identity in Atlantic Canada, was co-sponsored by the Atlantic Canada Studies Programme and the International Education Centre, Saint Mary's University. Of the twenty-eight presentations, these three were selected for publication in the hope of "promoting an awareness of the importance of ethnicity to the development of our Atlantic Canada community" and stimulating other efforts "in the field of Ethnic Studies."
The MacLean paper gives a general social overview of the sixty-five Roman Catholic families of Dutch origin, mostly from southern Holland, who emigrated, mainly between 1951 and 1955, to engage in agriculture in the Antigonish County of Nova Scotia. The results from fifty-eight questionnaires circulated in 1978, plus fifteen subsequent family interviews, provide the basis for the paper. After outlining the settlement history, and indicating the qualities of the Antigonish area, as well as the unattractive conditions in Holland that motivated these people to relocate, MacLean reports their negative first impressions of the new land and their later commitment to it. While communicating in English was cited as their most common early difficulty, within one generation the use of the Dutch language is diminishing, and only fifty per cent of the children have married those of Dutch extraction. The Dutch, who saw farming as a commercial rather than a subsistence endeavour, not only prospered themselves and likewise motivated their neighbours but made productive a number of once-abandoned farms in Antigonish County.
While MacLean deals with a mid-twentieth century Dutch immigrant experience, Punch, in Aspects of Irish Halifax at Confederation , discusses the mid-nineteenth century "poor press" of the Halifax Irish, who were victims of negative ethnic stereotyping and prejudice. For example, Reverend Thomas McCulloch, Thomas Chandler Haliburton, Joseph Howe, and Abraham Gesner helped to form the view of their Irish contemporaries as ignorant, brutish, violent, stupid, profane, irresponsible, impoverished drunkards, who lacked industry and a spirit of enterprise. Through statistics (accompanied by footnotes and a bibliography) Punch demonstrates how these mid-nineteenth century negative stereotyped views were "mistaken, or, worse, deliberate distortions."
Thomas, in Aspects of the Culture of the French Minority of Newfoundland's West Coast , sketches the history of the Acadian farmers from Cape Breton, who settled along Bay St. George in the 1780s, as well as that of the deserters from the French fishery (some arriving via St. Pierre). The latter were mainly peasants from Brittany and the western provinces of France, who settled, chiefly during the nineteenth century, on the Port-au-Port Peninsula. The author indicates that little scholarly attention had been paid to the French of these areas until he began studying their folklore in 1970. Thomas discusses the establishment of a French immersion school, the reception of French television, the exposure of the younger francophones to university life, and the production of commercial recordings of local French stories and music, as important elements in their discovery of "the values of their traditional culture." He concludes that "French Newfoundlanders are forging for themselves an identity which is essentially culturally and linguistically based, but within the broad contact of Newfoundland culture." The presentation is somewhat marred by the author's emphasis on his involvement with the happenings. Undoubtedly, the researcher, "together with other factors," made a significant contribution to "the reawakening of pride in their culture," but the too frequent use of first-person pronouns tends to distract one's attention from the subject under discussion. Nevertheless, Thomas reveals interesting aspects of this little-known French enclave.
G. J. Casey, Memorial University, St. John's, NL.
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