The House resumed from November 21 consideration of the motion.
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise in the House today to speak to Motion No. 73, declaring every October as German heritage month. The historic connection of German people to Canada is an integral part of our societal fabric and has helped make us the greatest country in the world.
Germans are known for many great things. They are known for their excellent cuisine, for having produced some of the greatest musical masterpieces of all time, and their language is intricately linked to many others, with many other languages borrowing from German. They are cultured people who gave us Bach, the Christmas tree, and blue jeans. Yes, Levi Strauss is from Germany. There are many communities in our country with significant German populations from various parts of Europe. The contribution of German people in Canada has been remarkable.
I would like to take the opportunity to speak about the various tenets of German culture that I think we can all appreciate. Here I will mention their delicious cuisine and drink. The Germans are known for their excellent culinary contributions, which indeed have been noted around the world. One of the greatest delicacies is sausage with sauerkraut. What a delicious meal. It seems as though the bitterness of the sauerkraut provides the perfect balance to the taste of the sausage. A delicious and tasty German treat is strudel. In Canada, that one has really caught on. It seems as though just about every bakery in Canada has some strudel on the shelf.
What about the delicious German beer? The famous German beer purity law states that only water, hops, and barley can be used in the production of beer for it to be recognized as authentic and true German beer. One really has to see the beer halls in Munich to appreciate the whole beer-drinking culture of Germany. The oompahpah music also goes along with that great culture. If one were to go back to Heidelberg now, Henry VIII's cousin built the largest beer barrel in the world. It still exists.
Another great culinary delight passed on to us by Germans is chocolate. There was once a character on a popular animated television program that referred to Germany as the land of chocolate. Indeed, one certainly thinks of delicious chocolate when thinking of Germany.
From a musical point of view, some of the greatest baroque and classical composers in history were German. One need only think of Bach, Mozart, and Handel to realize that the German contribution to musical culture and history is perhaps one of their most important contributions. The music of these wonderful artists is still heard across the world today and this, to me, is a testament to their impact on music as we know it.
There is also the German contribution to technology, which is ever present in the automobile world. When we think of Volkswagen, Mercedes, Porsche, and the technological benefits they have brought to the motor vehicle industry, that, in my estimation, is one of the great contributions to the auto industry.
Other technology, such as the chip cards or smart cards that are used today, was a German contribution to our modern digital society. Germans invented the first working helicopter and the first gasoline automobile engine.
There have been a multitude of discoveries in health and science. Aspirin comes to mind. We can thank a couple of German scientists for that. Then there was the discovery of the debilitating Alzheimer's disease by a German doctor and scientist.
There have been a multitude of scientific contributions to things like space exploration. There have been discoveries in the world of physics and mathematics. Think about radiology. Every time people go to the doctor's office and get requisitions for x-rays, Germans provided us with that life-changing technological advance.
Kindergarten was created by a German educator in the midst of the industrial revolution, at a time when many children in continental Europe suffered and toiled greatly. Kindergarten was an innovative and unique way to get young kids off on the right foot, which ran contrary to the prevailing attitude at the time.
The contribution of Germans to humanity is very large and great, and I am happy we are able to recognize these great contributions today.
With all of those things in mind, the main reason we are here today is to talk about deeming October of every year German heritage month in Canada. Why is October so special to the German people? It started back in 1810 when Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese in Munich. The whole city was invited, and it was a big party. There was lots of beer and delicious food, two important tenets of German society in that period, and there were horse races to celebrate the occasion.
A year later, the horse races and other events were launched and the Oktoberfest tradition has continued every year since then. Naturally, it has also spread to countries with significant populations of German heritage, much like Canada.
In Canada, the big Oktoberfest event of the year is always the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest celebration. As I understand, it is the second-largest in the world after the real deal in Munich. That is what we call a real party.
I have never been to the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest, but it is a big bash. Sometimes it can draw up to a million partygoers in any given year. There are many Oktoberfests held throughout the country.
The history of the area is interesting. Kitchener was once known as Berlin, because the German population was so high there.
German immigration to the Prairie provinces began in earnest after World War I. The numbers tended to be much higher than what occurred before the war began, for various reasons. Also, the United States had turned off the taps in that same period of immigration from Germany and other places, so Canada had overnight become a more sought-after destination for those who considered leaving Europe for the new world.
In the first days of Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, a concentrated effort was made to encourage German settlers to come to western Canada. The Government of Canada felt that because the Germans were renowned as good agriculture producers, highly efficient in growing the economy in the communities in which they lived, they would be suited to populating that part of the world. In fact, Macdonald hired Winnipeg politician and businessman, William Hespeler, to serve as an immigration agent in Germany, where he would try to woo immigrants to come to the new world, settle down, and make their lives here.
In that period, many German immigrants were coming from Russia. Many were Mennonites, who had been given special status in the Russian steppe, only to have them eroded by the Tsar. They had essentially, as one author put it, made the steppe livable with their blood, sweat, and tears. This led to many of them leaving rather quickly, which was understandable.
German communities have been present in Canada for centuries now. They were some of the early settlers, before many other groups decided to make Canada their home. For instance, the first recorded German who bought land here was in 1664. Then there was a flock of German Protestant families who settled in Halifax in the 1750s and became full-fledged members of society in the Maritimes. They eventually ended up down river, in Lunenburg, which they settled in. It is now one of the most prominent historical communities of Nova Scotia and Canada.
The American Revolution then drove a number of German Americans to flee the fighting in the United States. Naturally, Canada was a safe haven for German Americans, especially those who considered themselves to be loyal to the British crown.
Germans continued to come to Canada. There was a brief interlude during the First and Second World Wars, but the post-war period saw a high number of skilled German immigrants coming to Canada and becoming an integral part of society in their newfound home.
There are German communities and cities with German-speaking people across Canada as well. In my own province of Alberta, there is a proud history of German settlement. Many Germans settled in Alberta in the late 1940s and 1950s to escape the carnage and poor economic conditions in Europe. The welcoming nature of Albertans and a desire to look toward the future helped these new Canadians survive and thrive.
In my part of the world, Germans have left their mark, and continue to contribute to the fabric of our towns and cities across Alberta and western Canada. There are places like Beiseker in my constituency, for example, that was settled by a number of German-American settlers. Thomas Beiseker himself, the fellow who the town is named after, was of German descent. A large portion of the settlers in Beiseker and the village of Acme were in fact German-speaking Mennonites. In many parts parts of my constituency, there are very specific German communities of Hutterites.
I believe there are many compelling reasons to celebrate German history and heritage. It has had such an impact on our communities, provinces, and territories, and Canada as a whole.
Here is a stunning statistic. I read that by Confederation, the Germans had made up 70% of the non-British or French population in this country. That goes to show how important this ethnic group is to our national fabric and to our history. There are more than three million Canadians of German origin, nearly one out of every 10 Canadians.
I am happy to speak to this private member's motion. I thank my honourable colleague across the way for presenting it. It is my hope that all members will support this very worthwhile initiative.
I wish all of my colleagues a very merry Christmas, and a healthy and prosperous 2017.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this motion to establish German heritage month. This is a great opportunity to recognize the contribution of German Canadians to our society and to celebrate its many cultural traditions.
Saskatchewan's motto is “From Many Peoples Strength”. German Canadians have played an important part in building Saskatchewan through many of our industries, farms, and cities. Today, Regina is home to more than 60,000 people of German heritage. I am proud to count myself as one of them.
From 1867 to 1914, western Canada became home to millions of immigrant settlers seeking a new life. This immigration boom created new opportunities with many immigrants bringing with them knowledge and experience in agriculture and trades.
To give an example, Saskatchewan's population multiplied by 11 times from 1891 to 1911, including many German settlers. With Saskatchewan's rapid growth during these years, immigrants began to transform the Prairies and establish unique cultural settlements.
The Germans who came to Saskatchewan established two large colonies in the early 1900s. St. Peter's colony comprised 50 townships and had 7,000 people in 1914.
St. Joseph's colony comprised 77 townships, with a population in 1916 of around 11,000. Germans' influence on Saskatchewan's proud history can be seen in the names of towns right across the province.
German bloc settlements include the areas around Strasbourg, Bulyea, Leader, Burstall, Fox Valley, Eatonia, St. Walburg, Paradise Hill, Loon Lake, Goodsoil, Pierceland, Meadow Lake, Edenwold, Windthorst, Lemberg, Qu’appelle, Neudorf, Grayson, Langenburg, Kerrobert, Unity, Luseland, Macklin, Humboldt, Watson, Cudworth, Lampman, Midale, Tribune, Consul, Rockglen, Shaunavon, Swift Current.
Many Germans who migrated to Saskatchewan came from Russia and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. They were motivated by all that Canada had to offer: greater economic opportunity and improved quality of life as well as an escape from oppression and persecution.
This is a proud part of Canada's history and to this day, we are seen as a place of hope and freedom from persecution.
The outbreak of the First World War stopped the great wave of German and Eastern European immigration to Saskatchewan. However, after the war, Germans were again travelling in search of opportunity. Some of them stayed at a boarding house run by my great-grandmother in Regina.
In the Second World War, my great uncle served in the Royal Canadian Navy. He was on a corvette that accepted the surrender of a U-boat. When the German crew came off, one of them was a man who had stayed at his family home in the 1930s while looking for work in Regina.
A decade after the Second World War, Regina's German Club was formed in 1955. It opened its current clubhouse in 1968 as a gathering place for the German community in Regina. However, today it welcomes people from all backgrounds to come and experience the culture and cuisine of Germany in the heart of our city. As a member of the German Club for several years, I highly recommend visiting this facility.
The NDP is proud to support multiculturalism and we have a long history of highlighting our country's commitment to cultural diversity. We are pleased to support German heritage month as a way of recognizing German Canadian contributions to our country.