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
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!