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


SLOVAK SOM, AJ SLOVAK BUDEM!

When you ask someone living in Canada who he or she is, the answer will more than likely be not that they are Canadian but that they belong to some ethnic group, Italian, Chinese, Polish.

Except when they are outside Canada, then they become Canadians.

Much the same happens to minorities in Slovakia where if you ask a person who he or she is, notwithstanding that they have lived in Slovakia for many years, they will say they are Hungarians or Jews or Czechs. And when they are outside Slovakia they will identify themselves as Hungarians or Jews or Czechs living in Slovakia!

Try as hard as we might to be accepted as Canadians in Canada, we will always be referred to as Slovaks, and for this reason what happens in Slovakia is of great importance because what happens there affects us here and how other Canadians regard us.

Just the other day, Hillary Clinton, wife of the U.S. president, was in Bratislava, and the U.S. telecast indicated Americans were concerned about the poor economic future of Slovakia, legislation that threatened freedom of speech, and the poor treatment of minorities in Slovakia.

I have not heard of the United States offering support for its Slovak minorities for schools and language training. In fact they are closing down Slovak churches in the United States. Slovakia does however support its minorities and for this Slovakia gets no thanks at all.

Quebec has laws to protect the French language. Is it wrong for Slovakia to enact legislation protecting the Slovak language in Slovakia?

Yet in a two-minute news clip, the American media denigrated the good name and reputation of Slovakia which had been built up during the last three years by the hard work of the Slovak people which showed itself in excellent economic performance. But there are those who don't want to see Slovakia succeed and sow doubts in the minds of those having the power and influence to help Slovakia into NATO, the EU etc. This telecast was pure mischief, and we should be prepared to speak out to defend Slovakia.

By the same token, our representatives in public life in Slovakia have to understand that everything they do is examined carefully by outsiders. Our legislators have the responsibility to enact laws that are in accord with accepted human rights because we must not only be seen to be a democratic people, we must also seem to be a democratic people.

Each of us inherited from our parents elements of Slovakia's past, and nothing will ever wash away our Slovakness. For this reason, we should learn as much as we can about our Slovak heritage and wear it with pride. We must come together as a community because interaction between ourselves serves to reinforce our Slovak identity. The pride with which we bear that identity will convince others that to be Slovak is worth it.

I am a Canadian, and proud to be one. But I am also of Slovak heritage and I bring with me to the Canadian table all the experiences and values that come with being Slovak. We have so much to tell our fellow Canadians about the worth of preserving one's language and culture, of what it means to live under various forms of government and their effect on one's culture and language, of what freedom and independence are all about.

They say that in the future as economies become intertwined, borders between nations will become meaningless. As computers and the Internet take over communications in which English will be the communicating language, this will be the ultimate test of the strength of our Slovak language and culture.

Let us rise and proclaim that even then "Slovak som, aj Slovak budem."

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.