Community Life

From: The Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples/Danes/Christopher S. Hale

From the start Danes have formed clubs and organizations in Canada, often in conjunction with the church. On the prairies the church was the centre of community life. Most congregations had ladies aid groups, youth leagues, and choral groups. Urban communities formed social clubs; most of these were independent, but some became branches of U.S. associations, such as the Vancouver lodge of the DBA, founded in 1931 as a fraternal organization and benefit society. A number have their own building, but most share a hall with other Scandinavian groups or rent premises. Where there are fewer or inactive Danes, as in Saskatoon, they have joined Scandinavian groups.

The Danish Canadian Club (DCC) in Calgary has over two thousand members. In 1933 three smaller clubs formed during the 1920s amalgamated as the Danish Canadian Society (DCS) and were incorporated in 1947 as the DCC; it established its present facilities in 1963. Its restaurant serves Danish food to members and attracts many non-Danes to the organization. Associated with the DCC are sports clubs, a businessmen’s club, and a journeyman’s association.

Other cities have Danish clubs. Dania in Edmonton, founded in 1921 but not very active until after 1945, when new immigrants reinvigorated it, celebrates Danish holidays. Winnipeg’s DCC, founded in 1934 by dissidents from the DBA, was also inactive during the 1970s but was revived in 1981 and currently has about eighty members. Montreal’s Danish Club was founded in 1922 as a luncheon club for business people; it holds an annual outing and has a soccer team. Montreal’s branch of the Danish Canadian Society, established in 1934, holds dances and parties and celebrates Danish holidays. Both Montreal organizations have about one hundred members. Ottawa’s DCC, founded in 1975, has around two hundred members. Ottawa’s Canadian Nordic Society stresses cultural aspects of Scandinavian life and holds regular lectures. The Danske Kvinders Forening (Danish Women’s Association), formed in 1988 in Toronto, keeps the language alive and uses it in meetings and gettogethers; members exchange Danish magazines and newspapers and information on events in Denmark, and they help female newcomers adapt to Canadian society.

There are Danish social clubs in Saint John (founded in 1987), New Brunswick; Kingston, Ontario (revived in 1968); Red Deer, Alberta (formed in 1959); Kelowna (1982) and Nanaimo (1989), British Columbia; and Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (1982). Most try to preserve their heritage by celebrating Danish festivals – lighting a bonfire on Midsummer’s Eve (sankthansaften), smashing open a barrel containing goodies (slå katten af tønden) at Shrovetide, and eating goose (mortensgås) on Martinmas. By contrast, in almost all rural settlements traditional observances have died out, except for Christmas Eve.

Several rural communities have historical societies. The New Denmark Historical Society, established in 1959, got the name of the local post office changed from Salmonhurst to New Denmark. In 1970 it was given a school where the Emigrant House once stood and which today contains historical artifacts and archives. The society helps organize the annual Founders’ Day celebration on 19 June, with a parade, speeches, folk dances, and a commemorative banquet. The Pass Lake Historical Society, organized in 1983, is taping interviews with longtime residents. The Danish Heritage Society of Dickson, Alberta, founded in 1985, has restored the old general store, built in 1909, which was dedicated in 1991 by Queen Margrethe of Denmark. Since 1992 the Danish Canadian National Museum Society, with representatives from across the country, has been raising money to create a museum and archives at Dickson.

The Royal Danish Guards Association in Canada has three branches – for Eastern Canada, with headquarters in Toronto (1958); for Western Canada, in Calgary (1944); and for the Pacific North West, in Vancouver (1968). Each normally has an annual banquet and other social functions.

Almost all Danish associations in Canada use English at meetings, even though many members can speak fluent Danish. They feel that use of Danish would exclude the younger generation.

Danish Canadians have created facilities for their seniors. In 1940 an elderly Dane in Vancouver, Carl Mortensen, left $3,000 for a seniors’ home. With help from other western Canadian Danes, a building was purchased in Burnaby, and the Dania Home was opened in 1944. Later the premises were extended and modernized, and now they contain bed facilities and low-rent apartments. The new Danish Lutheran church was built on the site in 1984. Sunset Villa in Puslinch, Ontario, was established in 1955; Ansgar Villa in Edmonton was founded in 1985; and Dana Village in Calgary is still in the planning stages.