Belgian Canadians

Belgian Canadians
Total population
(by ancestry, 2011 Census)[1]
English · French · Dutch · German
Related ethnic groups
Dutch Canadians · French Canadians · German Canadians

Belgian Canadians are Canadian citizens of Belgian ancestry or Belgium-born people who reside in Canada. According to the 2011 Census there were 176,615 Canadians who claimed full or partial Belgian ancestry.[1]


Belgians first arrived in the 1660s. A trickle of artisans came to New France before the 1750s. In the mid-19th century there were enough arrivals to open part-time consulates in Montreal, Quebec City and Halifax. After 1859 the main attraction was free farm land. After 1867 the national government gave immigrants from Belgium a preferred status, and encouraged emigration to the Francophone Catholic communities of Quebec and Manitoba. Édouard Simaeys became a part-time paid Canadian agent in Belgium to publicize opportunities in Canada and facilitate immigration. The steamship companies prepared their own brochures and offered package deals to farm families. By 1898 there was a full-time Canadian office in Antwerp which provided pamphlets, lectures and specific travel advice. By 1906 some 2000 Belgians a year were arriving, most with skills in agriculture. A third wave of immigration took place after 1945, with urban areas the destination. The 1961 census counted 61,000 Canadians of Belgian ancestry.[2]

Belgian immigration to western Canada in the late 19th and early 20th century attracted the attention of the Belgian government. It enacted laws and regulations to protect the emigrants and guarantee adequate travel conditions. Provision was made to assist emigrants who decided to return to Belgium. Starting in the 1860s consular officials made on-site visits to inspect conditions in Canada, which eagerly welcomed the new arrivals. The Catholic church was likewise welcoming, and a number of priests emigrated. The Walloon immigrants discovered they could continue to speak French in Canada, while the Flemish quickly learned English. The Belgians formed no national organizations but they were active in local affairs. Some settled in towns such as Saint Boniface, Manitoba, but most became farmers who specialized in dairy farming, sugar beets and market gardening. After 1920 there was a move to western Alberta, with an economy based on ranching, horse breeding, and sugar beets.[3]

During the Second World War, Belgian émigrés from Canada and elsewhere in the Americas were formed into the 2nd Fusilier Battalion of the Free Belgian Forces, which was based in Canada.[4]

See also


  1. 1 2 Statistics Canada. "2011 National Household Survey: Data tables". Retrieved 11 February 2014.
  2. Paul R. Magocsi, Encyclopedia of Canada's peoples (1999) pp 257-69
  3. Cornelius J. Jaenen, Promoters, Planters, and Pioneers: The Course and Context of Belgian Settlement in Western Canada (University of Calgary Press, 2011)
  4. Thomas, Nigel (1991). Foreign Volunteers of the Allied Forces, 1939–45. London: Osprey. pp. 15–6. ISBN 978-1-85532-136-6.

Further reading

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