Promoters, Planters, and Pioneers: The Course and Context of Belgian Settlement in Western Canada

Promoters, Planters, and Pioneers: The Course and Context of Belgian Settlement in Western Canada

Promoters, Planters, and Pioneers: The Course and Context of Belgian Settlement in Western Canada

Promoters, Planters, and Pioneers: The Course and Context of Belgian Settlement in Western Canada

Excerpt

L’oubli de ses origines ou l’ignorance de ses traditions repré
sente pour toute société un appauvrissement regrettable. Mais
une mémoire vivante enracinée solidement dans une histoire
pleinement appréciée enrichit notablement la culture d’un
peuple. Le rappel de ses expériences historiques établit son iden
tité, clarifie sa vision, et assure la vitalité de ses projets d’avenir.

- Remi J. De Roo, Bishop of Victoria, 1987.

The motivation for writing about the Belgian experience in Western Canada is identified with a number of factors. A project conceived in the cadre of the Generation Series of Canadian ethnic histories, as a collaborative work with Professor André Vermeirre of the Université de Montréal, proved to be stillborn. When I returned to the project, encouraged by some colleagues and diplomats following an international colloquium on the Belgian Presence in Canada at the University of Ottawa in October 1999, I came to realize the deep attachment I had to such an undertaking.

First, I am the child of Belgian immigrants—a Flemish father and a Walloon mother—and all my grandparents came to Saskatchewan after World War I. In fact, at one point I held a Belgian passport that also meant that I was subject to military service in the land of my ancestors. As a young child, I spoke French, Flemish, and a Walloon dialect. According to my extended family, I was somewhat of a Belgian nationalist, although I am uncertain of the nature of such a designation in my pre-school years.

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