Greek immigration to
Canada began early in the 19th century. Greeks from the islands (eg,
Crete, Syros and Skopelos) and from the Peloponnesus, especially the
poor villages of the provinces of Arcadia and Laconia, settled in
Montréal as early as 1843.
Greek immigration to Canada began early in the 19th century. Greeks from
the islands (eg, Crete, Syros and Skopelos) and from the Peloponnesus,
especially the poor villages of the provinces of Arcadia and Laconia,
settled in Montréal as early as 1843. However, in 1871 only 39 persons
of Greek origin were known to be living in Canada. Greek immigration,
sporadic prior to 1900, increased considerably in the early 20th century
as a result of poverty, wars and political upheavals at home. The 2006
census recorded 242 685 people of Greek origin in Canada. These numbers,
however, do not necessarily include those Greeks born in other countries
such as Cyprus, Egypt, Turkey and the Balkan countries who identify
themselves as Greeks.
Migration and Settlement
In 1901, 213 Greek immigrants resided throughout Canada; in 1911 the
number was 2640; in 1931, 5580 and in 1941, 5871. Immigration was halted
during WWII, but from 1946 to 1981 about 116 300 Greek immigrants
entered Canada. According to the 2006 census, 63% of the 242 685 Greek
Canadians lived in Montréal (61 770) and Toronto (90 585). About 82% of
Greek Canadians lived in the provinces of Ontario (132 440) and Québec
(65 985). In large Canadian cities Greeks tended to cluster in certain
communities or neighbourhoods composed of their own ethnic background.
Generally the pre-WWII immigrants had little formal education, yet some
of them are now among the wealthiest members of the Greek community, in
which they are very active. Post-WWII immigrants were overrepresented in
the unskilled occupational categories. In time many of them moved up the
social scale by establishing their own small businesses.
Immigrant entrepreneurs are actively involved in the restaurant
business, the FUR INDUSTRY, fruit and grocery wholesale and retail
firms, travel agencies, etc. Those Greek immigrants who are
professionals typically work as engineers, lawyers, doctors, university
professors and civil servants. The Canadian-born Greeks, however, tend
to enter higher professional and skilled occupations than their parents
through higher academic attainment.
Social and Cultural Life
With the growth of Greek immigration after 1905, Greek settlements in
Canada began to show signs of ethnic community formation. Cultural and
patriotic associations were established first to help the immigrants
adjust to the new society, to combat prejudice and discrimination and to
preserve the Greek language and culture. In time the ethnic associations
generated an interest in the formation of parish communities to perform
both religious and cultural functions.
The establishment of the first Greek ORTHODOX CHURCHES in Montréal
(1906) and in Toronto (1909) signified the beginning of Greek parish
communities in Canada. The majority of Greek Canadians belong to the
Greek Orthodox Church, headquartered in Toronto. The church has
contributed significantly to the preservation of Greek identity through
the use of the Greek language in religious services and through its
devotion to Greek ideals. The leader of the Greek parish communities is
the Metropolitan Bishop of Canada, through whom the church is associated
with the Greek Orthodox diocese of North and South America. In 1993, 58
Greek Orthodox churches had been established throughout Canada to serve
the spiritual needs of Greek Canadians. In the 2001 census, 215 165
people reported Greek Orthodox as their religion.
Major Greek organizations include the American Hellenic Educational and
Progressive Association, introduced into Canada from the US in 1928, the
Greek Orthodox Youth of America, the Hellenic Canadian Federation of
Ontario, the Hellenic Canadian Federation of Québec and the Hellenic
Canadian Congress. The congress was organized in 1986 to function as an
umbrella organization for all Greek Canadians and to provide them with a
united voice on the ethnocultural affairs at the federal governmental
level. Many regional, philanthropic and social societies have been
established to help newcomers and the regions from which they emigrated,
and to promote understanding of Greek culture. The Veterans Association
of the Greek National Resistance (1941-45) against Nazi occupation was
established in 1981 in Montréal and Toronto and in 1991 in London,
In the early 1980s a secular model of Greek community organizations
appeared in various cities, including London, Sarnia and Markham in
Ontario, and in Edmonton as an alternative to the traditional parish
community structure. This type of organization constitutes an
ethnocultural community without any religious functions of church
affiliation. Greek Canadians are eligible for membership regardless of
their religious background. The establishment of secular community
structures are inevitable consequences of post-WWII demographic changes
within Greek communities.
Several Greek Canadian newspapers, eg, the Hellenic Tribune, the Greek
Canadian Weekly, the Greek Courier, theGreek Canadian Pressand the
Hellenic Canadian Cultural Review, as well as magazines, have helped
Greeks integrate into Canadian life while keeping them informed of
events in Greece and Canada. Greek Canadians are also served by a number
of Greek radio and television programs provided by multiethnic stations,
particularly in the cities of Toronto and Montréal. Customs and
traditions include celebrations of Greek national holidays (particularly
March 25, Greek Independence Day), religious festivities and holidays
and annual dances and picnics.
The Greek family and Greek language schools play an important role in
teaching children the Greek language and values, and in providing them
with some sense of identity with Greek culture. Since the 1960s Greek
language schools have grown in variety and enrolment and in the 2006
census 123 575 people in Canada reported Greek as their mother tongue
(first language learned). The preservation of Greek culture is important
to Greek Canadians as it provides them with personal pride for the
contributions of their ancestors to Western civilization and a sense of
belonging in coping with alienation in a complex society.
Despite the efforts to preserve their cultural heritage, Greek Canadians
of the mid-1990s are uncertain about the future of Hellenism in Canada.
New social trends such as decrease of Greek immigrants to Canada,
decline in ethnic group membership and increase in marriages outside the
Greek group are viewed by Greek Canadian scholars and leaders of Greek
organizations as a threat to the survival of Greek culture in Canada.
However, as active participants in the Canadian Mosaic, Greek Canadians
of all generations will continue to make important contributions to the
economic and cultural growth of Canadian society.
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