DUTCH began arriving in Canada in significant numbers in the 1920s when the Canadian government, faced with a shortage of farm LABOUR, established a special program to encourage Dutch agriculturalists to emigrate. Most of the newcomers settled in Ontario but some made their way west to BC, and by 1926 there were sufficient Dutch living in the lower FRASER VALLEY to support the first Christian Reformed Church (see CONSERVATIVE PROTESTANTISM). In the 1930s a group of Noord-Dutch arrived in the province and settled in the Bulkley Valley, but generally during the Depression and the WWII era immigration was curtailed.

Beginning in the late 1940s a wave of Dutch immigrants came to Canada seeking to escape the disruption of post-WWII Europe. Entire families moved to the Fraser Valley under the "Netherlands Farm Families Movement." This migration was encouraged by the Dutch government, which was anxious to alleviate overcrowding in the homeland, and by a Canadian government wishing to provide farm labour (see AGRICULTURE). During this period PITT POLDER was reclaimed and settled by Dutch DAIRY FARMERS. These newcomers strengthened the Dutch Reform Church and established many private "Christian" schools for their youngsters (see EDUCATION, PRIVATE). By the 1960s Holland was experiencing economic prosperity and immigration decreased.

By the year 2000 the Dutch community in BC included people from a wide range of occupations, though agriculture continued to attract Dutch Canadians and their largest concentration in BC was in the agricultural areas of the lower Fraser Valley. Communities were also found in PRINCE GEORGE, on VANCOUVER ISLAND and in the OKANAGAN VALLEY. In 2001, 180,630 people in BC claimed Dutch heritage. Several associations serve the Dutch community and a Dutch newspaper and radio program are available to people living in the Lower Mainland. Prominent British Columbians of Dutch heritage include Bill VANDER ZALM, BC premier from 1986 to 1991, Dorothy Biersteker STEEVES, a leading CCF politician, Allard de Ridder, an early conductor of the VANCOUVER SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, and the photographer John VANDERPANT.
by Dianne Mackay