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, Ontario.
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.