LIVING SLOVAK
THE CHURCHES, CENTRES OF ACTIVITY
THE ORGANIZATIONS
WILL YOU SPEAK SLOVAK?
THE UNKNOWN ARTS
SOCIAL NEEDS
COMMUNICATIONS
IS IT TIME TO GO BACK?
IT'S ONLY POLITICS
YOU'VE GOT TO BE THERE
WHO WILL SPEAK FOR US?
REMEMBERING THE PAST
THE WIRED COMMUNITY
PROJECTS TO CONSIDER
SPORTS TIMES
A PLACE TO SHOW OUR STUFF
THE STRUGGLING ARTS
COME TOGETHER
WHAT YOU MUST DO
SLOVAK SOM, AJ SLOVAK BUDEM!

Slovaks in Canada
in the Year 2000

by John V. Stephens, Q.C.,
Honorary Consul, Slovak Republic


LIVING SLOVAK

(Originally published as SLOVAKS IN CANADA IN THE YEAR 2000)

By JOHN VOJTECH STEPHENS Q.C., Honorary Consul, Slovak Republic

There are less than five years to the beginning of another millennium; less than five years to consider what the Slovak community in Canada will be like in the year 2,000.

Slovak immigration to Canada began at the turn of the 20th century, and in the almost 100 years that have followed, there now are more than 120,000 Canadians of Slovak origin. Growth has been slow, and it has taken three waves of immigration to get to 120,000 -- before the Second World War, after the Second World War and after the Russian invasion of Czecho-Slovakia. Today immigration from Slovakia has practically stopped.

Other ethnic groups have come to Canada in much larger numbers, and they will increase rapidly in size in the future just by natural progression, leaving the Slovak community a very small group among Canada's ethnic communities.

Slovaks live all over Canada so that you can't point to any one place and say that is the Slovak district, the way one can point to an area and say that is the Chinese district where many Chinese-descent people live or that is the Italian or Jewish district. There are just not enough of us to make a visible impression that Slovaks are here in numbers.

Slovaks made an impression beyond their numbers prior to 1968. In the late 60s and the early 70s, the Slovak voice was heard in Canada. Government leaders would speak at major Slovak functions, once even the Prime Minister of Canada. Today the Slovak community is considered a part of the white majority as programs are created to assist visible minorities. Canadians forget the discrimination there was against Slovak people in the early years of our immigration and which still exists today, as it does for other East Europeans.

Nevertheless it is not unusual for a person attending Mass in such places as Calgary and Regina to hear outside the church Slovak spoken in small groups of people who have retained the Slovak language but who have lost all contact with the Slovak community in Canada. What a surprise it was for me to hear Slovak spoken on the tennis courts in Stanley Park in Vancouver!

One can understand the first generation immigrant wanting to learn the English language, to find suitable employment and to settle the family. It is often only after that the first generation immigrant seeks out other Slovaks and considers attending events. This process is vital to keeping the community alive. This should be seen not just as a social need but as a responsibility to one's roots. Our forefathers did this; there is no reason why present-day immigrants should not do the same.

Despite there being 120,000 Slovaks in Canada, there are less than 10,000 who attend Slovak churches or who have joined Slovak organizations. In the next four years, we must find ways of attracting these people back to the community or the Slovak community will pass unnoticed into Canadian history as just one ethnic group that came here, assimilated, and disappeared.

We need to re-establish the Slovak identity so that people in the future will identify themselves not just as Canadians but as Slovaks!

Copyright of "Slovaks in Canada in the Year 2000" 1996 - John V. Stephens, Q.C.
All other contents & photographs 1997, Ondro Mihal.
All comments should be forwarded to
Ondro Mihal at omihal@slovak.com.
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Last update on
May 29, 1997.