Ukrainian Canadian History and Settlement
This timeline tells the story of how Canada became home to the second-largest Ukrainian diaspora in the world, behind Russia. Starting in 1896, a federal program sought to settle the Prairies with Eastern European farmers by promoting Canada as the “Last Best West.” Immigration skyrocketed, primarily from the Austro-Hungarian provinces of Bukovyna and Galicia. By 1931, Ukrainian Canadians comprised 2.2 per cent of Canada’s population. Today, there are roughly 1.36 million Ukrainian Canadians, comprising nearly 4 per cent of the population and making them the largest Slavic group in Canada.
September 07, 1891
First Ukrainian Immigrants Arrive in Halifax
There was likely sporadic immigration of Ukrainians to Canada as early as 1812. But the first recorded Ukrainian immigrants to Canada were Ivan Pylypow and Wasyl Eleniak, farmers from Galicia. Encouraged by German friends who had settled in Canada, they came in September 1891 seeking a suitable area for settlement.
January 01, 1894
First Ukrainian Block Settlement Founded in Edna/Star, Alberta
In 1892, a small group of immigrants organized by Ivan Pylypow arrived in Winnipeg from Nebyliw, Ukraine. Two years later, the families of Mykola Tychkowsky and Antin Paish left the group to settle east of Edmonton at Edna (now Star). It was Canada’s first and soon largest Ukrainian block settlement. The fertile land with sufficient streams made it perfect for farming, while an abundance of trees provided building material for homes and barns. Pylypiw moved to Edna a year later. The settlement grew as more people arrived from Galicia and Bukovyna.
July 01, 1895
Dr. Jósef Olesków Publishes First Promotional Pamphlet
Ukrainian agronomy professor Dr. Jósef Olesków (born 28 September 1860; died 18 October 1903) published two pamphlets in 1895 encouraging Ukrainian agricultural settlement in Canada. Olesków thought the Canadian Prairie was perfect for the excess rural population of Galicia. His efforts led to a more targeted flow of Ukrainians to Canada than anywhere else, eventually making Ukrainians the largest Slavic group in Canada.
April 01, 1897
Founding of Settlement Block in Dauphin, Manitoba
In 1896, Dr. Jósef Olesków arrived near Dauphin Lake, Manitoba. He determined that it would be perfect for a group of 30 families that he was organizing to move to Canada from Bukovyna and Galicia. They arrived in 1897 and worked with the railway and at sawmills to save money to establish farms. A growing number of Ukrainian settlers survived bitterly cold winters and an 1899 prairie fire that took many homes and barns. By 1913, the predominantly Ukrainian community had become the government seat and commercial centre for the Northern Judicial District.
October 14, 1899
Opening of First Permanent Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada
In 1897, a group of settlers from Bukovyna established homes in Gardenton, Manitoba. St. Michael’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Canada’s first permanent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, was consecrated there in 1899. It is designed in the three-chamber style typical of small churches in northern Bukovyna. Recognized as both a Manitoba Provincial Heritage Site and a National Historic Site, it is the oldest existing Ukrainian church in Canada.
November 12, 1903
First Ukrainian Canadian Newspaper Published
A multilingual teacher, businessman and town councillor, Cyril Genik (born 1857 in Galicia; died 1925 in Winnipeg) was tasked by Dr. Jósef Olesków with bringing a second contingent of settlers to Canada later in 1896. Genik settled in Winnipeg. In 1896, he was hired as an immigration agent, making him the first full-time Ukrainian Canadian in the federal civil service. He also started Canada’s first Ukrainian-language newspaper — Kanadyiskyi farmer (Canadian farmer) — in 1903. Known in the Ukrainian Canadian community as “the Czar of Canada,” Genik was named a Person of National Historic Significance in 1995.
March 16, 1910
Biggest Ukrainian Canadian Newspaper Begins Publication
The Ukrainian Voice began publication in Winnipeg in March 1910. The weekly, Ukrainian-language newspaper was soon available across Canada. It became a respected source for political, social, religious and other news, and helped to build and enrich the Ukrainian Canadian community. The paper encouraged readers to support education and to participate in Canadian politics. In 1981, it merged with Canadian Farmer. It ceased publication in 2018, after 110 years in business. Its archives are now held at the University of Manitoba.
June 01, 1911
Census Reports 75,432 Ukrainians in Canada
In the 1901 Canadian census, there were 5,682 Ukrainians in Canada. By 1911, the number had soared to 75,432, or 1 per cent of Canada’s population. Much of this was due to a federal program, begun in 1896, that sought to settle the Prairies largely with Eastern European farmers. A massive advertising program promoted Canada as the “Last Best West” and offered households 160 acres (64.7 hectares) of land for only $10. Thousands of immigrants came to Canada.
First Ukrainian Canadian Elected to Provincial Office
Ukrainian Canadians originally entered politics at the municipal level. They came to control elected and administrative organizations in rural areas. The first Ukrainian elected to a provincial legislature was Andrew Shandro (born 3 April 1886; died 13 January 1942). Shandro arrived in Edmonton with his family in 1889. In April 1913, he was elected to the Alberta legislature as a Liberal for the riding of Whitford. He also served in the First World War and retained his seat in the 1917 election due to legislation that allowed service members to be acclaimed. He won his seat again in 1921 but lost in 1926.
August 22, 1914
War Measures Act Adopted by Parliament, Leading to Internment of Ukrainian Canadians
During the First World War, approximately 80,000 people, most of them Ukrainian Canadians from provinces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, were forced to register as “enemy aliens,” report to the police on a regular basis and carry government-issued identity papers at all times. Those naturalized for less than 15 years lost the right to vote. The Canadian government also imprisoned 8,579 Ukrainian Canadians — men, women and children — in internment camps across the country. (See Ukrainian Internment in Canada.) Many of the men were used as labour in the country’s frontier wilderness, particularly in national parks such as Banff. Personal wealth and property were confiscated.
March 10, 1916
Bilingual Schools Abolished in Manitoba
Criticized for slowing the assimilation of Ukrainian children, bilingual schools (in English and Ukrainian) were abolished in Manitoba in 1916, despite Ukrainian opposition. Saskatchewan followed suit in 1918. The schools were never allowed in Alberta. After the First World War, community-run schools expanded rapidly to preserve Ukrainian language and culture. Pioneer institutes also produced many community leaders. Ukrainian Canadians sustained a robust culture, including literature, folk music, church music and folk dance.
October 15, 1917
Filip Konowal Awarded Victoria Cross by King George V
Some 10,000 Ukrainian Canadians who did not come from Austro-Hungarian provinces (or who lied and said they didn’t) enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces during the First World War. The most notable was Filip Konowal. Identified as Russian upon immigrating to Canada and therefore never interned, Konowal was decorated for his actions in the Battle for Hill 70. Tasked with clearing a series of tunnels and bunkers, Konowal single-handedly killed at least 16 German soldiers while suffering gunshot wounds to his face, jaw and neck. Shortly after Konowal recovered at a hospital in Britain, King George V personally awarded him the Victoria Cross, saying: “Your exploit is one of the most daring and heroic in the history of my army. For this, accept my thanks.”
July 18, 1918
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada is Established
Ukrainian immigrants to Canada were generally either Eastern-rite Catholic or Orthodox Christian. Until 1912, Ukrainian Catholics were under Roman Catholic jurisdiction. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada was founded in 1918. Each church eventually became its own metropolitanate (or bishopric): the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada in 1951 and the Ukrainian Catholic Church in 1956.
March 01, 1922
Former Minister Sifton Praises Immigration of “Stalwart Peasants”
Sir Clifford Sifton was the federal minister of the interior and superintendent-general of Indian Affairs from 1896 until 1905. He initiated the program that raised the number of immigrants to Canada from around 16,000 to more than 140,000 per year. He specifically sought Central and Eastern European farm families. In 1922, when asked about bringing so many non-British settlers to Canada, Sifton said, “I think a stalwart peasant in a sheep-skin coat, born on the soil, whose forefathers have been farmers for ten generations, with a stout wife and a half-dozen children, is good quality.”
September 14, 1926
First Ukrainian Canadian Member of Parliament is Elected
Michael Luchkovich (born 13 November 1892; died 21 April 1973) was born in the United States to Ukrainian immigrants who moved to Edmonton. In the 1926 federal election, Luchkovich was a candidate in Vegreville for the United Farmers of Alberta. He became the first Ukrainian Canadian to be elected to Parliament. A vigorous defender of minority rights, Luchkovich spoke out against the Holodomor in 1932–33. He was also a founding member of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. He ran for the CCF in the 1935 election but was defeated. He went on to write many books and translated many others into Ukrainian.
June 01, 1931
Census Reveals Growing Number of Ukrainian Canadians
The first wave of Ukrainian immigration to Canada (1896–1914) ended with the First World War. After the war came the second wave (1919–39). The 1931 census reported that the number of Ukrainians in Canada had risen to 225,113 — 2.2 per cent of Canada’s population. The census found that, unlike the first wave, less than half of Ukrainians immigrants in the second wave settled on farms. Most found homes in cities and jobs in urban factories or mines, often in central and eastern Canada. But overall, by 1931, more than 85 per cent of Ukrainian Canadians lived in the three Prairie provinces, and 77.9 per cent were rural.
November 07, 1940
Ukrainian Canadian Congress is Founded
In November 1940, the federal Department of National War Services worked with Ukrainian leaders and organizations to form the Ukrainian Canadian Committee to encourage Ukrainians to enlist in the Canadian Armed Forces. After the Second World War, the organization supported Ukrainian-Canadian veterans and Ukrainian war refugees. In June 1989, it became the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. The UCC now supports local, provincial and national organizations in public advocacy work, such as lobbying the federal government in support of human rights and multiculturalism.
July 27, 1947
Death of Publisher, MLA and Community Leader Taras Ferley
Taras Ferley (born 14 October 1882) was a student activist at Lemberg University (now Lviv University) before moving to Canada in 1903. In 1915, he successfully ran as the Liberal candidate in Gimli and became Manitoba’s first Ukrainian MLA, serving for five years. In 1916, he established the Ukrainian Publishing Company. He also founded and/or administered many community organizations. In 1933, he was elected to Winnipeg’s city council and served for a year.
December 12, 1947
War Hero Peter Dmytruk is Posthumously Awarded Croix de Guerre
Peter Dmytruk (born 27 May 1920; died 9 December 1943) was born in Saskatchewan and enlisted with the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Second World War. On 11 March 1943, his bomber was shot down over France. He survived the crash and joined the French Resistance. After 10 months of disrupting the movement of Nazi soldiers and supplies, he was killed in combat in Les Martres-de-Veyre on 9 December 1943. After the war’s end, the village named a street after Dmytruk and erected a monument to him on the spot where he died. The French government awarded him the Croix de Guerre in 1947.
June 20, 1956
First Ukrainian Canadian Woman Elected to Provincial Office
Mary John Batten earned a law degree from the University of Saskatchewan. After winning the Saskatchewan Liberal Party’s nomination in Humboldt, she won the riding in the 1956 election. She was re-elected in 1960. Batten left politics in 1964 to become the first woman in Saskatchewan (and only the second in Canada) to serve as a federal judge. In 1983, she became Saskatchewan’s first female chief justice.
January 21, 1961
Birth of NHL Superstar Wayne Gretzky
A second-generation Ukrainian Canadian, Wayne Gretzky is the NHL’s all-time leader in goals, assists and points. Considered by many to be the greatest hockey player of all time, “the Great One” held or shared 61 NHL records when he retired in 1999 after 20 seasons. Other notable Ukrainian Canadian hockey players include Terry Sawchuk, who won the Vezina Trophy four times and holds the record for most shutouts (103), and Dale Hawerchuk, who scored 100 points or more in six seasons with the Winnipeg Jets.
June 01, 1961
Census Reports 473,337 Ukrainian Canadians
The 1931 census found that there were 225,113 Ukrainians in Canada. By 1961, that number had risen to 473,337, just under 2 per cent of Canada’s population. The census reported that the mother tongue of 86.5 per cent of Canadians was English or French and 3.1 per cent was German. In fourth place was Ukrainian at 1.9 per cent.
July 09, 1961
Taras Shevchenko Monument Unveiled in Winnipeg
Ukrainian Canadian writers and poets created a thriving Ukrainian-language literature in Canada. The Ukrainian community raised $175,000 to erect a monument to Taras Shevchenko, Ukraine’s national poet, on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature. Nearly 25,000 Ukrainian Canadians attended the unveiling by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. Since 2006, the Shevchenko Foundation has awarded the $25,000 Kobzar Book Award.
The “Father of Multiculturalism” is Appointed to the Senate
Paul Yuzyk (born 24 June 1913; died 9 July 1986) was born in Pinto, Saskatchewan. His parents had immigrated from Ukraine. Yuzyk became a teacher, then a University of Manitoba professor of History and Slavic Studies. He wrote books on Ukrainian Canadian history and culture. Prime Minister John Diefenbaker appointed Yuzyk to the Senate. Yuzyk later rejected Lester B. Pearson’s concept of bilingualism and biculturalism and successfully introduced the idea of a multicultural country. The “father of multiculturalism” played a central role in making Canada the first country in the world to adopt a multiculturalism policy, in 1971.
June 01, 1971
Census Reports more Ukrainian Canadians Living in Cities and Towns
The 1971 census reported that there were 580,660 Canadians of Ukrainian descent, making up 2.7 per cent of the country’s population. Only 57.8 per cent lived on the Prairies, and 75 per cent of all Ukrainian Canadians were urban. The proportion of Ukrainian Canadians in agriculture had fallen to 11.2 per cent, slightly above the Canadian average. The number of Ukrainian Canadians working in trades, sales, teaching, medicine and law had increased since the last census.
November 01, 1971
Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village Society is Founded
Every summer since 1972, the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, located 50 km east of Edmonton, has offered visitors a glimpse into the lives, homes, workplaces and challenges faced by early Ukrainian settlers. Over 40 heritage buildings have been moved to the site. They have been restored and furnished to reflect the settler experience from the 1890s to the 1930s. The village hosts summer camps and school trips and offers a museum and a gallery. (See also Historic Sites in Canada.)
July 28, 1975
World’s Largest Pysanka is Unveiled in Vegreville, Alberta
The Vegreville and District Chamber of Commerce chose to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the RCMP in Alberta by celebrating the town’s Ukrainian heritage. The town commissioned Canadian artist Paul Maxum Sembaliuk and Utah professor Ron Resch to design and construct the world’s largest pysanka (a meticulously decorated Ukrainian Easter egg). The aluminum egg weighs 2,300 kg, is 9.4 m tall and contains 524 star patterns and 2,208 equilateral triangles.
July 01, 1976
Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies is Established
The Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) was established in July 1976 at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Arts. It gathers, preserves and disseminates scholarship regarding Ukraine and Ukrainians in Canada and around the world. It has offices in Edmonton, Toronto and Lviv, Ukraine. Since 1976, the CIUS Press has published books on Ukrainian history and Ukrainians in Canada. The CIUS also publishes the Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine, which began in 2001.
September 27, 1979
First Ukrainian Canadian Woman Appointed to Senate
Martha Palamarek Bielish (born 20 October 1915; died 18 May 2010) of Smoky Lake, Alberta, became the first woman of Ukrainian background to be appointed to the Senate. A former farmer and school trustee and an advocate for women’s rights, Palamarek Bielish was also the first female senator from Alberta. She was appointed 50 years after the Famous Five from that province won the right for women to be recognized as “persons.” (See Persons Case.)
December 19, 1983
Laurence Decore is Made a Member of the Order of Canada
Laurence Decore (born 28 June 1940; died 6 November 1999) was born in Vegreville, Alberta. He was an Edmonton alderman from 1974 to 1983 and the city’s mayor from 1983 to 1988. Decore was appointed to the Order of Canada for his vast community service. He also co-authored section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which enshrined multiculturalism in Canada’s constitution.
June 04, 1991
Census Reports Continuing Growth in Number of Ukrainian Canadians
The 1991 census reported that 1,054,295 Canadians were of Ukrainian descent and comprised 3.9 per cent of the country’s population. More Ukrainians worked in agriculture than the Canadian average, but the majority of Ukrainian Canadians were urban and worked in a wide range of professions. The census found that 196,000 Canadians reported Ukrainian as their mother tongue. It also found that 23.2 per cent of Ukrainian Canadians were Ukrainian Catholic, 20.1 per cent were Roman Catholic, 18.8 per cent were Orthodox, 10.9 per cent went to the United Church and 12.6 per cent reported no religion.
December 01, 1991
Ukraine Votes for Independence
In a national referendum with 84 per cent turnout, 90 per cent of Ukrainian voters cast a ballot for Ukraine to declare independence from the USSR. The Soviet Union split into 15 independent countries following its formal dissolution on 31 December 1991. Canada was the first Western country to recognize Ukraine’s independence. In 1994, Ukraine surrendered its nuclear weapons to Russia in exchange for a guarantee that its border would always be respected. By the end of the century, economic hardships had led to 23,000 people leaving Ukraine for Canada. After 2001, roughly 2,500 immigrated per year.
November 25, 2005
Federal Government Atones for Internment
In 2005, Parliament passed the Internment of Persons of Ukrainian Origin Recognition Act to acknowledge and atone for its treatment of Ukrainian Canadians during the First World War. In 2008, the government established the $10 million Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund to finance projects to educate Canadians on the subject.
August 22, 2014
100th Anniversary of War Measures Act is Recognized
On the 100th anniversary of Parliament’s adoption of the War Measures Act, the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the federal government unveiled 100 commemorative plaques about internment across the country. In 2013, Parks Canada opened a permanent exhibit — Enemy Aliens, Prisoners of War: Canada's First World War Internment Operations, 1914–1920 — in Banff National Park to increase public awareness of internment.
May 10, 2016
2016 Census Figures
By 2016, Canada was home to the second-largest Ukrainian diaspora in the world, behind Russia. Approximately 1.36 million Canadians, 3.8 per cent of the population, have Ukrainian heritage, making them Canada’s 11th-largest ethnic group. As of 2016, 51 per cent of Ukrainian Canadians, nearly 700,000, lived in the Prairie provinces, where they comprised 11 per cent of the population; 27.7 per cent lived in Ontario, 16.8 per cent in British Columbia and 3 per cent in Quebec.
February 24, 2022
Russia Invades Ukraine, Sparking Humanitarian Crisis
After annexing Crimea in 2014 and fighting for control of the Donbas region ever since, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. By 8 March, the resulting refugee crisis was the biggest in Europe since the Second World War. By 25 October, more than 7.7 million people had fled Ukraine. Between 1 January and 16 October, 105,651 Ukrainians arrived in Canada. The Canadian government received 628,492 temporary resident applications, as well as 60,000 applications for a special three-year visa created specifically for the crisis. The Canadian government pledged to take in an “unlimited” number of Ukrainian refugees.