Immigration to Canada from Syria began in 1882. The first wave consisted mainly of small merchants; the second wave, beginning in 1946 (including Palestinians), was mainly of blue-collar workers; the third wave, beginning in 1962 (including Palestinians) brought white- and blue-collar workers in about equal numbers.
Immigrants of Syrian origin have tended to retain their heritage more completely than have those of other Arabic nationalities. In the 1970s, while there was a trend towards acculturation among second-generation Syrian-Canadians, the third generation was divided between those who were assimilated almost completely to Canadian culture and those who adhered very strongly to the culture of Syria. Syrian-Canadians have been noteworthy for their preservation of the authentic classical Arabic music tradition, a tendency found also among Syrians in their homeland. This indeed explains the success of several visits to Canada by the Aleppo classical singer Sabah Fakhri and his chamber music ensemble featuring mainly traditional instruments (Qanun, 'ud, violin, darabukkah, and riqq) and a men's chorus. While the composition of the performing group at a Syrian-Canadian concert is similar to that at other structured performances in the Arab-Canadian community (see Arabic music), such performances by Syrians feature classical music and only occasionally include commercialized Arabic music. Members of the audience at these concerts frequently dance the 'Dabkah' and the belly dance. Authentic folk singing, with or without instrumental accompaniment, tends to be reserved for private gatherings of Syrians from particular localities, although classical music also may be performed on such occasions. Among Canadian musicians of Syrian parentage are Paul Anka, Edmund Assaly, King Ganam, and George Haddad. See also Egypt; Lebanon