Austrians

Austrians come from the Federal Republic of Austria (Österreich), a country located in the alpine region of central Europe, which celebrated its millennium in 1996. The official language of Austria is German and the predominant religious denomination is Roman Catholicism.

Prior to 1918 the present Austria was part of a much larger multinational state, called the Austro-Hungarian Empire, of which Vienna was the capital. Austro-Hungary's territory also included present-day Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia and the area of the present Czech Republic and Slovakia, as well as parts of Romania, Poland, the Dalmatia, Bosnia and northeastern Italy. Ethnic Germans from the non-German countries of the former empire are sometimes called Old Austrians (Altösterreicher).

In 1918 Austria-Hungary disintegrated into a number of successor nations. The Republic of Austria was proclaimed, but its development was hampered by economic difficulties and political dissension. It was occupied in 1938 by German forces and integrated into the German Reich, but was re-established after WWII.

Migration and Settlement

Since the final decades of the 19th century, Austrians have arrived in Canada in a number of distinct waves. Like other immigrants, they left their homes for economic or political reasons to seek freedom, opportunity or land in Canada. In the 2 decades prior to WWI, a large number of German-speaking families of Austro-Hungarian origin were attracted to the Prairies. They came from Ukraine, Bukovina, Hungary, Transylvania, Burgenland and Lower Austria. The Saskatchewan communities of Claybank, Edenwold, Fort Qu'Appelle, Indian Head, Kendal, Kennell-Craven, Mariahilf-Grayson, Markinch, Silton, Spring Valley and Vibank were among the destinations of this wave of agricultural immigrants. The 1921 census showed 57 535 Austrians in Canada.

A second phase of Austrian immigration brought about 5000 people to Canada between 1926 and 1933. This group was more urban and tended to settle in the larger population centres to a greater extent.

After Austria's annexation by Germany (Anschluss) a number of refugees and prominent émigrés of Austrian origin came to Canada. While their political views were divergent, these Austrians initiated a number of organized activities toward the re-establishment of an independent Austria.

Finally, the most numerous influx of immigrants from Austria took place after WWII, from 1946 until the early 1970s. During this period, 67 000 people - giving Austria as the country of their last permanent residence - arrived in Canada. In the 2006 census, 194 255 persons were listed as being of Austrian origin. More than one-third (68 195) of this total reside in Ontario, where the biggest concentration exists in the Toronto-Hamilton urban areas. Alberta and BC are also provinces where a large number of Austrian immigrants have settled.

Social Life and Community

Austrians are widely dispersed among the general population of Canada. They have been able to adapt quickly, culturally and economically to the Canadian way of life. Many have been successful in business and industry, the arts and professions. Austrian societies and clubs exist in many major cities in Canada. The focus of these organizations tends to be social, cultural and sentimental, rather than nationalistic. For this reason, Austrians in Canada often affiliate with German and Swiss Canadians, with whom they are most akin culturally. German-language newspapers and ethnic broadcasts usually accommodate the ethnic spectrum of these 3 German-speaking groups in Canada.