39th National Conference, Nainaimo, BC 

The Vancouver Island Danish Canadian Club ​in Nanaimo, BC
​will host the Danish Federation Conference.
Thurs May 25 to Sunday May 28, 2023

(followed by The Heritage Seminar Mon May 29 to Fri June 2)

Post Conference Report, Nanaimo 2023

The 2023 Danish Canadian Conference was held at the Coast Bastion Hotel in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island from Thursday, May 25 to Sunday, May 28. Over 50 delegates represented the various member organizations of the Danish Federation. The host of the conference was the Vancouver Island Danish Canadian Club which appropriately had chosen the theme Vikings on the Island. They came. They saw. They stayed.

Due to the devastating Covid-19 pandemic, which arrived in Canada in March 2020, the Danish Federation had not been able to hold an in person conference since 2019 in Winnipeg. During the pandemic Canadians would each day follow the daily update on the pandemic to learn how many Canadians were infected, how many were hospitalized and how many had died.

The vast majority of Canadians quickly donned masks and were eager to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Restrictions were put in place, schools and businesses were closed, people avoided public spaces, as well as gatherings with family and friends. The pandemic was much more than a health crisis. The pandemic changed how we work and live. All Danish organizations across Canada had to adapt to the new reality and many did not have in person gatherings for about two years. A good number of organizations held Zoom meetings on the internet. And three times the Nanaimo Club, in agreement with the Danish Federation, postponed the annual conference.

The concern regarding holding the conference in person was, would the restaurant at the hotel be open, would meeting rooms be open and available, would airports and airlines be operating, and how many delegates were likely to attend. Moreover, what would the conference cost? Yet, these concerns could not just continue forever and hold us back. Thus in the fall of 2022, with a consistent easing of restrictions, it was decided to go ahead with the conference in May 2023.

The conference organizing committee was headed by Tom Hedekar, the president of the Nanaimo Club. Thus on Thursday, May 25, he bid all the delegates welcome to the conference at the Nanaimo Museum, located practically around the corner from the hotel. The delegates all received a Conference Kit which included the 2023 Heritage Book and a beautiful, knitted Viking helmet, handmade by members of the Nanaimo Club. While enjoying the wine and cheese, welcome remarks were made by Tom Hedekar, Danish Ambassador Hanne Fugl Eskjær, the Hon. Lisa Marie Baron, Member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, and Federation President Rolf Christensen.

Friday morning the Danish Canadian National Museum held its Annual General Meeting. Museum President Connie Swarbrick presented her Annual Report, while Doreen Soderberg gave the Manager’s Report, Cheri Vohs presented the Financial Statements, and Ellen Bonde the Secretary’s Report. Vice-President Svend E. Nielsen discussed the plans for the Museum expansion and handed out a pamphlet developed for fundraising.

Friday afternoon was spent on Newcastle Island, now renamed Saysutshun, where Bill Merilees spoke about the interesting history of the island lying just off Nanaimo. In the evening the Danish Canadian Museum gave a presentation and held both a live and a silent auction. Meanwhile, the Nanaimo Club had arranged prizes for the best Danish outfit or Viking costume, with the judges accepting bribes!

Saturday morning the Danish Federation held its Annual General Meeting, chaired by Ed Kuhlman. As in Winnipeg, each member organization gave an annual report. The elections to the executive were chaired by Svend E. Nielsen, and elected were Rolf Christensen, Ed Kuhlman, Lisa Olsen and Sune Overgaard, as respectively president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer. Sune Overgaard presented the Danish Federation’s finances as well as the Reviewer’s Report. After, Gerda Andersen was reappointed Reviewer for the coming year. In his Annual Report the president mentioned that Svend Berg of Montreal, one of the founders of the Danish Federation, had passed away, and that Granly, the Danish Church in Surrey, B.C., had closed. On a happier note the president mentioned that last year New Denmark, the oldest Danish settlement in Canada, could celebrate its 150th anniversary, while The Danish Club of Montreal could commemorate its 100th anniversary, both celebrations, however, being postponed to this year.

At the Saturday luncheon Rolf Christensen launched his book Cape Scott Pioneer. The Life and Times of Carl Brinck Christensen, a book about the attempt to establish a Danish colony on the tip of northern Vancouver Island in the late 1890s. Tom Hedekar emphasized how the book fitted in with the theme of the conference.

Saturday evening the Nanaimo Club hosted Det Store Kolde Bord at Bowen Park, with over 100 people in attendance at the large community centre, located in a beautiful park. Two former guardsmen from the Royal Danish Guards’ Association, Kenneth Olsen and Knud Nielsen, carried in the Canadian and Danish flags and the two national anthems were sung. There were door prizes, a presentation by the Guards as well as the band The Doctors of Rock & Roll, who got everyone out on the dance floor.

Sunday morning there was a bus tour to Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park, where some of the largest and tallest trees in the world are found. A group photo was taken in front of The Monarch of Cathedral Grove. The bus also stopped at Little Qualicum Falls, a winding waterfall in the hilly forest. After the tour it was back to the hotel for the Farewell Lunch and Closing Ceremony. Tom Hedekar thanked all the delegates for coming. Rolf Christensen also thanked the delegates and pointed out that the Conference was held not just to conduct business, but to socialize, network and have fun. Tom Hedekar then handed the Danish Federation Fane and Mailbox over to Sune Overgaard, the president of the Danish Lutheran Church of Toronto, which will be hosting the Conference in 2024. That concluded a busy and successful conference with superb weather. All the delegates left the conference motivated and with renewed energy.