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REPORTING · 21st October 2011
Walter McFarlane
There is a special display at the Kitimat Museum and Archives right now. Nordic Spirit, a collection of photographs highlighting people who immigrated from Finland to Canada and how they shaped the province. However, there is also a Kitimat connection to this display.

“We wanted to bring this Nordic Spirit up from Vancouver to Burnaby from the Scandinavian Cultural Society of Burnaby. We felt it would fitting for Kitimat because of the original Finish Families and workers who were brought for the start-up of the pulp mill for Eurocan,” said Louis Avery.

In addition to the photos which are a part of the exhibit, Anneli Jaakkola, Host Curator from the Finnish Club of Kitimat provided the museum with local photos and artefacts as well. The exhibit runs until January 7th so check it out.

The Kitimat Museum and Archives have provided us with the following information on the History between Finland and Kitimat. It is written by Jaakkola:

Finnish Community of Kitimat

In 1970, Eurocan Pulp & Paper Mill opened in Kitimat. That year thirty-five men, some single but most with families, emigrated from Finland to live and work in the young community. There were about six Finnish families already living in Kitimat, working elsewhere.

The agreement that the Eurocan employees signed stipulated a two-year commitment to live in Canada. Several of the original thirty-five men left after the two-year period and others from Finland arrive to take their place.

The Finnish-Canadian Club was founded and registered as a charity in 1975. In 1976 the club saw its highest membership, 120 adults and 98 children. Families from Terrace joined, increasing the number to 234. At that time about 70% of the adult members were employed at Eurocan.

The Finnish-Canadian Club was very active, providing recreational opportunities for adults and children. Sports such as volleyball, badminton, hiking and cross-country skiing were offered. Fishing was very popular including ice fishing on Lakelse Lake. Fishing contests were held with prizes for the largest catch. The Club was very social as well with picnics, Christmas parties, and three dances every year. Members would provide story time for the children, reading Finnish fairy tales. Looms were brought from Finland and went from house to house so that everyone could try their hand at weaving.

The Club was also active in the community. They participated in the Kitimat Multicultural Society’s potluck dinners, purchased a Finnish flag for the flagpoles at Heritage Park at the Chamber of Commerce and entered a float in the Canada Day Parade. They contributed to many multicultural exhibits at the Museum over the years, and mounted two exhibitions on Finnish culture and heritage.

One major focus of the Club has been the Finnish book collection. There are now a number of Finnish language books and one magazine at the Kitimat Public Library. To raise money for the books, the Club members operated a food booth at the Fall and Spring Arts and Crafts Fair at Riverlodge. Individual donations were also very important.

In the last few years the Club numbers have declined. There are now only twenty-six adult members and no children. 70% of the Finns still in Kitimat belong to the Club. Club members still participate in the ice fishing contest (weather permitting), Midsummer Night Picnic, Mother’s Day Picnic, Summer Barbeque and the Christmas Dinner. They also celebrate significant birthdays of Club members and send flowers or gifts to anyone in hospital.