In 1771 a lay religious community, the Moravian Brethren (which had emerged in Saxony in 1727 as a continuation of the old Hussite Fellowship of Brethren), arrived in Labrador to do missionary and social work among the Inuit. Not long afterwards a group of Moravian Brethren from the US led by David ZEISBERGER founded Fairfield, commonly known as Moraviantown, on the Thames River near present-day Thamesville, Ontario. The colony was razed during the WAR OF 1812, but the mission, rebuilt across the river, continued until 1903.
Czech immigration into Canada started in the mid-1880s (see IMMIGRATION POLICY). The first recorded Czech immigrants settled in Kolin, Saskatchewan, in 1884. In Alberta, Czechs founded Prague; in Manitoba, Moravian Brethren settled in the Mennonite community. The early immigrants included farmers, miners, artisans and labourers who came for economic reasons. After 1921, when the US introduced a quota system for immigration, many Czechs immigrated to Canada instead.
The 1921 census reported 8840 people of Czech origin in Canada; this figure jumped to 30 401 (1931), 42 912 (1941) and 57 840 (1971). Emigration increased in 1938-39 as a result of German occupation, and rose again in 1948 with the establishment of a communist regime, and in 1968 because of the Soviet invasion. In 2006, the last census year for which figures are available, there were 98 090 persons of Czech and 64 145 of Slovak origin in Canada.
The Czechs and Slovaks have as a rule had little difficulty integrating themselves into Canadian life, but they have also been rather successful in maintaining their cultural heritage. Their first newspaper, the Slovenské Slovo (Slovak Word), started publication in the coal-mining town of Blairmore, Alberta, in 1910. There are now several publications. The national association, the Czechoslovak National Alliance (established 1939 in Toronto), promotes Czech and Slovak cultural and educational activities and is also active in the social field.
Another Czech social and cultural organization is the Sokol ("Falcon") movement, patterned on an athletic and patriotic organization founded in the Czech lands in the 19th century. Although the majority of Czechs and Slovaks are Roman Catholic, it was not until larger Czech and Slovak communities were founded that Czech-language parishes were built. There are also some Greek-rite Catholics, predominantly from the eastern parts of Slovakia, as well as numerous Czech and Slovak Baptist congregations. Czechs and Slovaks have made important contributions to Canada's economic development and Canadian cultural life.
The most well-known of these include Thomas BATA, head of the worldwide Bata shoe-manufacturing and retailing enterprise; Stephen ROMAN, pioneer of uranium mining in Canada; the KOERNER brothers, leaders in BC's lumber industry; Oskar MORAWETZ, composer; Peter C. NEWMAN, author; the poet and novelist Pavel Javor; and writer Josef SKVORECKY.
Author JOHN GELLNER Revised: EDIT PETROVIC
Links to Other Sites
Canadian Multiculturalism Day
Canadian Heritage's guide to celebrating Canadian Multiculturalism Day.
Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples
The website for the "Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples." Click on the links for feature articles about Canada's many multicultural communities, access to their extensive digital archives collection, learning modules, and much more. From "Multicultural Canada."
Face to Face: The Canadian Personalities Hall
"Face to Face" features outstanding Canadians whose ideas and contributions have transformed this country. Click on the photos in "Meet the Personalities" to see their biographies. From the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
Ethnocultural Portrait of Canada
This website offers Canadian population data (2006) by ethnic origin. Also, find information for individual provinces and territories by clicking the "Select a view" window above the chart. For more information, click on the "Ethnocultural Portrait of Canada" link at the top of the page. From the website for Statistics Canada.
From the archives: Josef Skvorecky on Sunday Magazine
Listen to a CBC interview with acclaimed Czech-Canadian writer Josef Skvorecky.