The Republic of Albania is a small nation in southeastern Europe on the west coast of the Balkan peninsula. Canadian Albanians have their roots in Albania, although the country of their birth could be Yugoslavia, Greece or Albania itself. Additionally, there are ethnic Albanians in Yugoslavia - "Shqipetare" (Sons of the Eagle) - and Albanians who live in Greece. Albanians from Albania are divided into 2 main dialect groups: the Ghegs from the northern half of the country and the Tosks from the southern half of Albania. About 70% of Albanians are Muslims: 20% belong to the Orthodox Church and 10% are Roman Catholic.
Migration and Settlement
The first Albanians arrived in Canada at the beginning of the century, following internal pre-war revolutionary upheavals. Few immigrated to Canada after WWII. Most of the post-war Albanian immigrants settled in either Montréal or Toronto. Some found jobs in Calgary and a few in small communities in Ontario (eg, Peterborough).
After the inter-ethnic conflict in the former Yugoslavia between ethnic Albanians and Serbian military and police forces, many Albanians left Kosovo as refugees. Some have come to Canada, and in 1999 the Canadian government created a program to offer safe haven to 7000 Albanian Kosovar refugees.
However, they continue to appreciate their ethnic heritage and their Albanian national history, even though their ancestors may have left Albania several centuries ago. Those Albanians from Albania proper are active in their business and social organizations. They are frequently found in the food service industry.
Social and Cultural Life
According to the 2006 census, there were 22 395 Albanians in Canada, of which 11 385 (51%) were located in Toronto. This is an approximation because it has been shown that 2nd- and 3rd-generation Canadians of Albanian origin may not specifically name their ethnic background. Therefore, the real number of Albanians in Canada remains an estimate, and their sociocultural activities and festivals for the most part represent local communities and groups of families. Albanians are strongly patriarchal, and often live in extended family households.
Albanians have rich folkloric traditions, especially music, dance and traditional clothing.