the Slovenian
glasilo magazine
radio glas
info centre
who we are

Slovenes in Canada
by Cvetka Kocjancic

Canadians of Slovene origin come from one of the newest and smallest states in Europe. Slovenia, with a population of just over two million people, is a largely mountainous country tucked in between Austria in the north, Croatia to the south, and Italy to the west. Over 90 percent of the population are Slovenes, who speak a South Slavic language and are predominantly Roman Catholic in religion. There are also small groups of Slovenes who live immediately across the border in southern Austria (the Klagenfurt region), in far northeastern Italy, and in southwestern Hungary (where they have traditionally been known as Wends). Despite their lack, until recently, of independent statehood, Slovenes have nonetheless managed to preserve their distinctive identity.

Slovenes came to their present-day homeland in the sixth century, during the great migration of Slavic peoples into the Balkan peninsula. In the course of the eighth century, several tribes united into a state formation known as Karantania that included the territories of present-day Slovenia, southeast Austria, and western Hungary and that was headed by democratically elected dukes. It was also during this era that the Slovene tribes accepted Christianity. From the ninth century, when Karantania ceased to exist, until the close of World War I in 1918, Slovene territory was ruled briefly by Bavaria and then for nearly eight centuries by Austria’s Habsburg Empire. Under its new rulers, Germanic settlers pushed the Slavic tribes farther southward, so that by the fifteenth century, Slovenes were mainly concentrated in Austria’s provinces of Carniola and southern Styria.

It was during the Reformation that Slovenes first began to develop a sense of national self-awareness. Between 1550 and 1560, Protestant reformers printed over fifty books in the Slovene language, including the first translation of the Bible. This cultural and religious revival was short-lived, however, and, during the Counter-Reformation that began in earnest during the early seventeenth century, Habsburg Austria helped to return almost all of Slovenia’s inhabitants to the fold of the Catholic Church. Because German was the language of the state administration and Latin the language of the church, the status of the Slovene language and culture declined.

During the nineteenth century, the status of Slovenes and their culture began to change. A national revival was initiated by writers, teachers, and other intellectuals, who during the revolution against Habsburg rule in 1848 also formulated a political program demanding the unification into one province of all lands where Slovenes lived. Although their demands were not met, Slovene political and cultural awareness remained strong for the rest of the century. After the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in 1918, Slovenes joined other South Slavs to form the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, which was subsequently called the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Not all Slovenes came under Yugoslav rule, however, since about 510,000 (an estimated 40 percent of the Slovene population at the time) were incorporated into Austria, Italy, and Hungary.

With the outbreak of World War II and the fall of Yugoslavia in 1941, Slovenia was divided between Germany, Italy, and Hungary. In response to the occupying regimes, the Slovenes organized a Home Guard and some also joined the Communist Partisans under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito. It was not long before the resistance movements were fighting as much among themselves as against the foreign occupiers. In the closing months of the war, approximately 30,000 Slovenes – many former members in the non-Communist Home Guard – sought refuge in neighbouring Austria and Italy. Although some eventually emigrated to countries abroad, ten thousand or more were returned to Communist-ruled Yugoslavia, where they were executed or died under harsh circumstances.

In the new post-war Yugoslavia led by Marshal Tito, Slovenia was raised to the status of one of the country’s six constituent republics. The centralization of political authority often worked to the disadvantage of Slovenia, however. For instance, although Slovenes represented only 8 percent of Yugoslavia’s population, their republic produced almost 25 percent of all Yugoslav exports. Nevertheless, much of the income from those exports went to support economically less developed republics in Yugoslavia. At the same time, the Slovene language was threatened by subtle manipulation in favour of Serbo-Croatian. The resultant discontent prompted Slovene intellectuals to start a movement for democratic reforms during the 1980s.

By 1989, Communist rule had come to an end throughout most of east-central Europe, and the following year the first post-war democratic elections were held in Slovenia. The Communist Party lost its previous dominant position, and negotiations were undertaken with the federal government of Yugoslavia to transform the country into a confederation of independent states. When those talks failed, Slovenes voted in a plebiscite for secession from Yugoslavia. On 25 June 1991, Slovenia declared its independence. The new country was met with resistance by the Yugoslav army in what has come to be known as the ten-day war. Before the year was over Slovenia had a new constitution, and within a few months it was recognized by most countries and admitted to the United Nations, the Council of Europe, and other international organizations.

Until the end of World War II Slovenia was mostly agrarian, and overpopulation and a shortage of work had forced many Slovenes to emigrate. Before 1920 they emigrated to Canada through the United States. Canada became an especially attractive destination after the United States set limits on immigration in 1924. In 1925 Canada gave “preferred” status to immigrants from the countries where Slovenes lived (Yugoslavia, Austria, Italy, and Hungary). The number of Slovene immigrants in this first wave grew: 613 in 1926, 704 in 1927, and 1,008 in 1928. When Canada closed its doors during the Depression, Slovene immigration almost ceased, and returns to the homeland increased until 1932, when 210 persons went back. Slovenes represented 14 percent of all Yugoslav immigrants to this country; scholars have estimated that nearly 4,600 entered Canada between the wars and over 1,200 returned home.

The second wave of Slovene immigration lasted from 1947 to 1951. Canada accepted only about 2,500 Slovene political refugees from camps in Austria and Italy and favoured young, single workers. About 52 percent of the newcomers were farmers. There were not many intellectuals among them, except for those under forty years of age and students.

The third wave, 6,000 strong, arrived between 1951 and 1970. It included family members of pre- and postwar immigrants, as well as young men and women who escaped and then waited in refugee camps until their immigration was arranged. After 1960 the economic situation compelled many more Slovenes to emigrate. Since the Yugoslav borders were open, most settled in western Europe, whence they could frequently visit home. Many later moved to Canada and Australia to be with friends or relatives.

Women represented only 35 percent of all Slovene immigrants to Canada. After 1960, however, there were more women than men, as males already settled in Canada sponsored their wives or fiancées. Three-quarters of all Slovene immigrants were aged 15–29 years, nearly 16 percent were 30–44, and only 2 percent were 45 or older.

In the 1991 census, 8,050 Canadians claimed exclusively Slovene origin, and 3,465, partly Slovenian origin, for a total of 11,515. Neither of the questions regarding “language spoken at home” and “ethnic origin,” however, obtained consistently accurate responses from Slovenes. Many identified themselves as Yugoslav, and some even called their mother tongue “Yugoslav.”

According to community estimates, approximately 25,000 first- and second-generation Slovenes are actively involved in ethnic organizations. In small towns, where Slovene organizations exist, the self-estimate based on membership or attendance at club functions is quite reliable. For cities, estimates are based on membership in Slovene parishes: Toronto, 10,000; Hamilton, 4,000; Edmonton, 1,600; Winnipeg, 1,600; Montreal, 1,400; St Catharines, 1,040; Thunder Bay, 420; Kitchener, 400; London, 400; Calgary, 250; and Ottawa, 240.

As well, some Slovenes of the first, second, and third generations do not associate with Slovene churches and organizations, though they understand the language and keep close ties with relatives in Slovenia, and some live in places that lack Slovene clubs. Adjusting for these factors would bring the total to between 35,000 and 40,000.

Arrival and Settlement
Most Slovene immigrants came to Canada in three periods: 1920–39, 1947–51, and 1951–70. The first and third groups had primarily economic motivations; the second, political. Before 1920 the few Slovenes who entered Canada did so from the United States, which already had thriving Slovene communities. In the 1850s the missionary Frederick Baraga laboured among the Indians on the north shore of Lake Superior. Charles Planinshek arrived in Canada in 1910, lived among the Inuit and Indians of northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and in 1929–31 lectured about the Inuit in countless American towns and cities. A group of Slovene immigrants from the United States settled in Trail, British Columbia, around 1928 to work in lead mines and on farms.

Between 1925 and 1930 Canada accepted only young, healthy Slovenes who had no criminal record or military obligation and were willing to work as labourers and farmers. Emigration was organized by travel agents in Ljubljana. The prospective immigrant had to pay passage to Canada and sign a contract to work on a railway or farm for a certain period. Small groups destined for farms in Saskatchewan and Manitoba or for railways in British Columbia emigrated together. Many Slovenes were disappointed with working conditions, and most felt lonely. When their contracts expired, they began to concentrate in mining towns.

Before 1939 there were Slovene communities in Kirkland Lake (500 members), Timmins (264), Toronto (113), and Thunder Bay (75), Ontario, in Vancouver (200), and in Noranda (199) and Val-d’Or, Quebec (69). Many Slovenes who had saved enough money were leaving the mining towns of northern Ontario to settle on fruit farms near St Catharines, where their descendants still live.

Political refugees arriving in the late 1940s often served one year of contractual work on farms and railways after which they sought jobs in cities, especially Toronto. Skilled craftsmen went into business, mainly in residential construction. Those with higher education upgraded their knowledge and later became doctors, lawyers, and teachers.

Slovenes entering Canada in the 1960s and 1970s had a much easier time. Many knew compatriots here who could help them. Also, since the Yugoslav government no longer restricted emigration, many left legally and could return home at will. This group was better educated and could get jobs as skilled craftsmen, which Canada badly needed. Most stayed in Ontario, where compatriots helped them get work in factories and in construction.

Economic Life
Slovenes pride themselves on their industriousness. Although starting out in Canada as manual labourers, miners, or railway workers, they managed to support their families and buy houses. Though men were the principal breadwinners, women played an important role. Often urban families would take in a few Slovene boarders. This arrangement provided extra income for families, protected single men from loneliness and homesickness, and helped keep Slovenes together. On farms women worked alongside their husbands in vineyards and orchards. After the war, single females became domestics or factory workers, while married women stayed home, raising children and keeping a few boarders or assisting their husbands in their enterprises. Females who arrived after 1960 were better educated and better prepared to join the paid workforce, since many had been employed in Slovenia.

With the growth of communities, especially in Toronto, an economic infrastructure began to develop. In the 1950s J.E. Krek’s Credit Union and the Slovenia Parishes Credit Union were established in Toronto. Doctors and lawyers catered to their countrymen, and craftsmen opened up businesses, most of them still concentrated in Toronto. Construction firms predominate, though there are quite a few real estate agents, travel agents, butchers, and jewellers. Most enterprises are family-operated. A few Slovene businesses have made their marks in the larger Canadian economy – most notably, Marineland amusement park in Niagara Falls, owned by John Holer.

Honesty and hard work are so highly valued within the ethnic group that members of Kirkland Lake’s Vzajemna podporna zveza Bled (Bled Mutual Benefit Society, or BMBS) have to pledge “to earn their living honestly, and not to cause embarrassment to their organization and to their ethnic community.” Unemployment is low among Slovenes. While many belong to unions, they could hardly ever be found among activists or on the picket lines. Slovenes are three times less likely to be in the lower-income brackets than the average Canadian. Few families rent apartments or live in subsidized housing. Slovenes include foremen in steel and automobile factories, lawyers in big corporations, computer programmers, doctors, and professors. Many participate actively in Canadian charitable organizations. Though most show little interest in political careers, some have served on governmental advisory boards.

Community Life
Most Slovene immigrants, even university graduates, had to start in Canada at the bottom. Those who have succeeded in business or in a profession have remained close to their compatriots. In community life there is little differentiation by class. It is understood that those who are better off can contribute money; professionals, services; and others, volunteer work.

Social life is part of Slovene culture. Pioneers working on farms or railways could not wait to escape to towns where other Slovenes lived. Though simple, uneducated people, they wanted to preserve their culture, especially singing.

Slovenes were also concerned about social security. Before World War II many had joined the Slovenska narodna podporna jednota (Slovenian National Benefit Society) of Chicago or Krajnska slovenska katoliška jednota (Krainer Slovenian Catholic Union) of Cleveland. In 1933, when Canada’s workers had no social programs, the BMBS, based in Kirkland Lake, Ontario, offered its members financial assistance in case of illness or accident. The BMBS extended its operation and by 1943 had thirteen branches throughout Canada. It is still active, though in 1986 it transferred headquarters to Beamsville, Ontario, since many Slovenes had moved to southern Ontario.

In most towns, a single club served local Slovenes. However, with growth of the nationwide community after 1945, other associations emerged, especially in Toronto, where several political associations were founded, as well as the first Slovene parish. The priests guided charitable, educational, cultural, and social activities and helped unify factions of immigrants. Clubs and churches set up Slovene schools, choirs, and folklore groups. In Toronto social clubs corresponded to regions of origin in Slovenia, as with the cultural associations Simon Gregorcic, from the coastal region; Vecerni zvon (Evening Bell), from the Prekmurje region; and Beloranjski sklad (Belokranjski Foundation), from the Belakrajina region.

Immigrants with special interests formed sports clubs (Planica Hunting and Fishing Club, Slovenia Sports Club, Slovenian Athletic Association, Slovenian Hunters and Anglers Club), social/cultural clubs (Holiday Gardens, Slovenian National Home, Slovenian Summer Camp), theatre clubs, and folklore groups. Most have between 100 and 200 members and own their own dance hall or an out-of-town summer resort with clubhouse, swimming pool, sports facilities, and campgrounds. They organize picnics, dances, and cultural and sports activities in summer and banquets in winter. Most were founded in the 1950s and 1960s. Leaders are elected by members at annual meetings. Out of the common concern for the elderly, the Slovenski starostni dom Lipa (Linden Old Age Home) was built in 1987 by the Slovenian Linden Foundation, financed entirely by the community.

The political situation in Slovenia in the early 1990s led to several new organizations being formed in Toronto. The Kanadski slovenski kongres (Canadian Slovenian Congress), founded in 1990, with branches in Quebec (Montreal), Ontario (Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Windsor, Thunder Bay), Manitoba (Winnipeg), and British Columbia (Vancouver), has joined the World Slovenian Congress, established in 1991. Its objective is to unite Slovenes in Canada and around the world, to defend the rights of Slovenians in their homeland and abroad, and to promote friendship between Canada and Slovenia.

The Vseslovenski kulturni odbor (All-Slovenian Cultural Committee), launched in 1990 in Toronto, represents the majority of Slovenian clubs, organizations, and institutions in southern Ontario. It coordinates activities and organizes collective action, such as gathering information on Slovenia and distributing it to immigrants in Canada, collecting information on Canadian Slovenes, organizing tours of cultural groups from the homeland, and fund-raising. The committee also has close ties with other Slovene clubs across Canada. Operating within the committee are the radio club Glas kanadskih Slovencev (Voice of Canadian Slovenians), the Slovenski informacijski center (Slovenian Information Centre), and the Slovenski sklad (Slovenia Relief Fund). As well, the Kanadski slovenska gospodarska zbornica (Canadian Slovenian Chamber of Commerce) was founded in 1991. Since 1997, the committee has published the bimonthly magazine Glasilo Kanadskih Slovencev (Voice of Canadian Slovenes).

The first Slovene organization in Hamilton, Ontario was the Društvo svetega Joñefa (Slovenian Society of St Joseph), set up in 1934; it helped establish St Gregory the Great Slovene parish in the 1960s and the Villa Slovenia retirement home in 1992. The parish offers a spiritual, cultural, recreational, and social centre and operates a Slovene school, a choir, a folklore group, a youth club, and a sports club within the Hamilton-Wentworth Slovenian Cultural Society. The Slovenian Coordination Committee represents these organizations as well as others in Ontario: the Lipa Park Slovenian National Home in St Catharines, Bled-Planica in Beamsville, Slovenski park (Slovenian Park) in Cambridge, the Slovenian Cultural Association Sava in Kitchener, and the Slovenian Cultural and Social Club Triglav in London. Ontario also has Slovene clubs in Ottawa, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, and Windsor. In Montreal’s thriving community, activity centres around the Church of St Vladimir and Bishop Baraga’s Society. In Winnipeg the Slovenian Club of Manitoba was founded in 1953 and the Slovenian Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in 1963. In Alberta Slovenes are concentrated in Edmonton and Calgary. Many Slovenians settled in Vancouver and Kelowna in the 1960s.

Slovenes were most active between mid-century and the late 1970s, during which time the first generation created an environment in which their children could develop an interest in their ethnic heritage.

Family and Culture
An average Slovene family consists of mother, father, and three children. It lives in its own house, in a better-than-average part of town or in a suburb. When the children grow up, they marry and move out into their own houses. According to one study, 90 percent of Slovenes live in their own houses. Within the first generation 76 percent married within the ethnic group; half married or knew their spouses in Slovenia. Among the second and third generations, however, only 19 percent married within the group.

Elderly people like to stay in their homes and do things for themselves. Only those with a serious illness or handicap, who are left alone, would consider moving into an old age home.

Many Slovenes of the first generation helped their brothers or sisters immigrate to Canada. Many support their relatives back home, especially ailing parents. Slovenes are also as eager to bring relatives over for a visit as they are to travel to the homeland themselves.

Maintaining their culture is important to Slovenes. The first Slovenian-Canadian cultural association, Lira (Lyre), founded in 1927 in Windsor, had an active drama section and a choir for a few years. In the 1930s the centre of cultural activity was Kirkland Lake, Ontario, where the Slovensko pevsko in dramatsko društvo Triglav (Slovenian Choral and Theatre Society Triglav) was active until 1960; members produced concerts and plays in their town, as well as in Timmins and Noranda.

After 1951 Toronto became the group’s cultural centre. The Slovenian Cultural Association, led by Stanko Brunsek, produced fourteen plays in six years, including comedies by Molière. The Slovensko gledališce (Slovenian Theatre), founded in 1955 in Toronto by Vilko Cekuta, has staged over 140 performances of forty plays by Slovene and other writers. Neži Cekuta-Elliot started her theatrical career there and later performed in musicals in Toronto and at Stratford, Ontario. In the early 1990s members of the Lipa Park Club in St Catharines formed a drama section, and Toronto’s Slovenska igralska skupina (Slovenian Theatre Group) was founded in 1987.

Slovene church choirs often present folksongs and operettas. Youth choirs, organized by churches or Slovene schools, also participate in community functions. Each of Canada’s five Slovene parishes have church choirs, and there are also choirs that operate independently or within clubs. In the 1980s choral music experienced a revival, as many new choirs were formed in southern Ontario.

Slovenes enjoy polka music and social dancing, popular in the homeland where almost every village had its own musician. Among peasant men immigrating to Canada in the first half of this century, many played the accordion. The tradition is kept alive by the Lipa Park Button Box Club from St Catharines. Musicians immigrating to Canada formed their own polka bands, linking up with the second generation. There have been over fifty Slovene polka bands in the past forty years, many short-lived. The bands still perform at Slovene weddings, picnics, dances, banquets, and, other functions. Many also play in German clubs. Walter Ostanek, a son of Slovene immigrants, came, after thirty-five years of playing, to be regarded as Canada’s polka king and won Grammy awards three years running.

Folklore has become the most popular form of cultural expression for Canada’s Slovenes. Folklore groups perform at club functions and represent the community at multicultural festivals. Usually children are enrolled in Slovene dance classes at an early age and remain active until their mid-twenties. Folklore groups keep Slovene youths together and promote friendships within the second and third generations, who may not understand the language but enjoy the traditions. Ciril Soršak, founder and leader of Plesna skupina Nagelj (Folklore Group Nagelj), set up in Toronto in 1959, has been a major influence in this field.

First-generation Slovenes place great emphasis on the Slovenian language. They use it at home, with friends, at club meetings, at Slovene functions, on radio, and in church. While many young people can follow a conversation or a performance, they feel more comfortable talking and writing in English. Not many had the opportunity to attend Slovene schools, and even those who did could not get enough practice. Slovenian immigrants tended to live close to each other at first, but there is now no area (not even a neighbourhood) where they predominate. (The greatest concentration is in the Alderwood section of Etobicoke in Metropolitan Toronto.) In the days before television, they spent more time with their compatriots, providing their own entertainment. Furthermore, many Slovene women have joined the paid workforce and thus have much less time for their children and grandchildren.

Slovene Canadians do not have as much enthusiasm for books and newspapers as their co-nationals back home, who are among the world’s leaders in books read per capita. Nevertheless, there have been numerous Slovene-language periodicals and bulletins published, especially since 1945.

The first Slovene-Canadian periodical was Edinost (Unity; Toronto, 1942–48), published by the Canadian-Yugoslav Federation, which supported Tito’s liberation forces in Yugoslavia. At its height, it was a weekly paper with some 1,200 subscribers.

Among several short-lived periodicals the more important were Vestnik (Bulletin; Toronto, 1960s), a monthly magazine published for three years by Slovene university students of North America; Slovenska misel (Slovenian Thought; Toronto, 1961–65), produced by the Društvo Slovencev Baraga (Slovenian Baraga Society); and Dnevnik (Diary; Toronto, 1976–79), a monthly magazine edited by Ivan Dolenc. Publications still in existence include Lovski vestnik (Hunters’ Yearbook; Toronto, 1979– ), published by the Slovenian Hunters and Anglers Club of Toronto; Slovenska država (Slovenian State; Chicago and Toronto, 1951– ), produced by the Slovenian National Federation of Canada to promote the anti-Communist sentiments of post-World-War II political immigrants; and Božja beseda (Word of God; Toronto, 1950– ), a religious monthly launched by the Slovenian Vincentian Fathers. Articles written by Slovene Canadians have also appeared in Slovenian periodicals and newspapers in Slovenia, Austria, the United States, and Argentina.

Most books written by Slovene Canadians were published in Argentina and Austria, and they included religious, autobiographical, and souvenir books; language manuals; and translations. The Reverend Franc Sodja published eleven works, and the Reverend Tone Zrnec, a language manual, a book of poems, and other works. The Reverend Charles Ceglar is collecting everything written by and about Bishop Baraga, a Slovene missionary to Ottawa and the Chippewa Indians who is a candidate for beatification. John Krizanc received the Governor General’s Literary Award for his play Prague . Among other writers are Ted Kramolc, Ivan Dolenc, Cvetka Kocjancic, Zdravko Jelincic, and Tom Ložar.

Slovene radio programs have provided information on club activities, promoted Slovene music, and helped preserve the language. In 1965 Frances Starchev started her daily program “Caravan of Friendship,” on Toronto’s CHIN FM, aimed at immigrants from Yugoslavia. After the disintegration of Yugoslavia in 1991, she had a weekly program on the same station until December 1997, when she retired; the program was taken over by the All-Slovenian Cultural Committee. Between 1977 and 1986 a weekly radio hour sponsored and produced by Radio Club Slovene Evening focused on news from Slovenia and communities in Canada, community announcements, and ethnic heritage. Since 1991 the All-Slovenian Cultural Committee’s “Voice of Canadian Slovenians” has done the same.

Among notable artists are Ted Kramolc and Tone Kobal. Andy Stritof in 1925 became the first Slovene artist to settle in Canada. Janko Cadež has received the Wilderness Award for his artistic animation in a film on the Canadian artist Emily Carr.

Education and Religion
Among pre-1939 immigrants peasant men were predominant. Canadian immigration policy right after World War II kept out many potential immigrants with higher education; only declared farmers were accepted. As many as 36 percent of the immigrants between 1947 and 1951 had not finished elementary school. Between 1951 and 1960 tradesmen made up 40 percent of all Slovene immigrants. Since then, 27 percent of Slovenians have upgraded, or completed, their education in Canada.

Slovene Canadians value education highly. Many children of Slovene farmers and miners have become professionals. Most go to Catholic schools; churches and clubs provide supplementary education in the Slovene language. In Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton, and Winnipeg, parishes have run Slovene-language schools since the parishes were founded. In other places, Slovene clubs staffed and housed language schools when numbers justified. The peak period for these schools was in the 1960s and 1970s. Since 1980 the declining number of immigrants, families moving to suburbs, and women joining the paid workforce have reduced attendance. Between 1961 and 1986, 900 children were students in the Slovene school at Our Lady of Miraculous Medal in Toronto, and 222 completed all seven grades. Slovene schools provide the basics in Slovenian language, history, geography, and literature.

Most Slovenes are Roman Catholic. Slovene missionaries were among the first immigrants to the New World. In 1853 the Reverend Frederick Baraga, who ministered to the Indians around the western Great Lakes, became the first bishop of Sault Ste Marie. Baraga wrote prayerbooks in the Ottawa and Ojibwa (Chippewa) languages and a grammar and dictionary of Ojibwa, which took him ten years to complete. Father Francis Pirc, stationed in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, also made frequent trips to the Canadian side. The present archbishop of Toronto, Aloysius Cardinal Ambrožic, came to Canada from Slovenia in 1948.

In 1934 Father Bernard Ambrožic of Chicago first visited Slovene communities in Ontario. In preparation for a Slovene parish in Toronto, the Sodality of Mary Women’s Association was founded in 1948, and the men’s Holy Name Society in 1949. Soon after his arrival in Toronto in 1948 the Reverend Jakob Kolari began to publish the monthly Word of God. In 1954 Our Lady Help of Christians Church was completed in downtown Toronto.

By the end of the 1950s many Slovenes had settled in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke, where in 1959 the parish of Our Lady of Miraculous Medal was founded. Under the Reverend John Kopac it soon became the largest and most active Slovene parish in Canada. Assisting the parish are the Sisters of Mary of the Miraculous Medal, who came to Canada in 1967 and live next to the church. The Etobicoke church, with its large hall, is a centre of religious, cultural, and educational activity in greater Toronto; it operates the Catholic Women’s League, a choir, a Slovene school, Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, the Youth Club, the Slovenian Theatre Group, and the folklore groups Mladi glas (Voice of Youth) and Planika (Edelweiss).

The Vincentian Fathers minister to Slovene communities in Oshawa, Ottawa, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, and Windsor, Ontario, as well as in Quebec and all four western provinces. They also provide spiritual support to the residents of the Lipa Old Age Home in Toronto. There are Slovene Roman Catholic parishes in Montreal, Hamilton, and Winnipeg. Most priests in Slovene churches have come directly from Slovenia; only a few have studied for the priesthood elsewhere. Organized in the Catholic Women’s League, women help the church and needy parishioners; they also serve on parish councils, Sunday school boards, and on social and cultural committees. The blessing of food at Easter, processions on the feast of Corpus Christi, and pilgrimages to a shrine of Mary attract even those not regularly attending church.

The churches in Canada maintain close ties with Slovenia. Bishops from the homeland often visit Canada, complementing tours by cultural groups from Slovenia.

For Slovene Canadians, political activity – almost exclusively a male domain – has centred on the homeland and divided the community. The first post-war immigrants were very active. Some were anti-Communist fighters – the Home Guards – who on arrival in Canada in 1952 allied themselves with compatriots in Argentina and the United States to form the Društvo slovenskih protiko-munisticnih borcev tabor (Slovenian Anti-Communist Fighters Tabor), which has been gathering information on Communist wartime crimes in Slovenia and has published books on wartime events. In 1954 the Slovenian National Federation of Canada, established four years earlier in Toronto by Vladimir Mauko and Rudolf Cuješ, took over the monthly Slovenska država, which still appears. Its anti-Communist approach and its strictly political content appeal mostly to the post-World War II political immigrants. The Research Centre for Slovene Culture has published a few books and several issues of Razgovori in razgledi (Talks and Views; Toronto, 1954–57).

In 1987 former members of the Slovenian Christian Democratic Party and of the Slovenian People’s Party, along with some cultural groups and Slovene credit unions, organized the Slovenski kanadski svet (SloveniaCanadian Council) in Toronto. It organizes traditional functions on an annual Slovene day, as well as lectures on Slovenian politics and economics throughout the year.

The majority of immigrants arriving since 1950 may have empathized with the suffering of their predecessors, but they did not share the hatred of the Communist regime and felt that any political change had to come from the people in Slovenia. However, when Slovenes decided to create a democratic state, Slovene Canadians united behind them. In the wake of the attack against Slovenia by the Yugoslav army in June 1991, Slovenes in Canada raised money for their homeland, staged massive protests, and organized a lobby to secure Canadian recognition of the new republic.

Intergroup Relations
As Slovene immigrants of the 1920s and 1930s scattered all over Canada, they often sought the company of other Slavs whose language was similar, especially Croats and Serbs. Through mutual Slavic friends they often met other Slovenes. Mining towns with a strong Croatian community attracted Slovenes as well. While friendships, especially between Slovenes and Croats, were common, ethnic clubs were usually exclusive. Slovenes in Canada were heavily influenced by their U.S. compatriots, who had well-established religious, cultural, and social organizations and publications, mainly Ameriška domovina (American Home) and Prosveta (Enlightenment), that reached many Canadian Slovenes.

During World War II a common concern for the Yugoslav homeland somewhat united Canadian Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs. The League of Canadian South Slavs principally spread information and raised assistance for war-torn Yugoslavia. Slovenes also participated via their own branch – the Liga Kanadskih Slovencev (League of Canadian Slovenes). The arrival of political refugees after 1947 and the installation of a Communist regime in Yugoslavia transformed attitudes. Only a few pre-war immigrants remained loyal to this pan-Yugoslav League, which later changed its name to Bratstvo i jedinstvo (Brotherhood and Unity) and published the newspaper Naše novine (Our Newspaper; Toronto, 1971–91), with a small Slovene section.

Early Slovene political groups in Toronto had allies in anti-Communist organizations of other eastern European ethnic groups. They often joined Serbian or Croatian demonstrations in front of the Yugoslav embassy. The Slovenian National Federation of Canada belonged to the Canadian Ethnic Press Club.

Sport offers many opportunities for Canada’s Slovenes to interact with other ethnic groups. Croat, Italian, Macedonian, Portuguese, and Serbian soccer teams often compete at Slovene tournaments. Quite a few individuals have made their way in Canadian sports, including world figure-skating champion Elvis Stojko.

Since the majority of Canadian Slovenes after 1950 were economic immigrants who did not wish to take part in Yugoslav or anti-Yugoslav politics, they formed their own cultural clubs. In multicultural festivals, they display their culture, including souvenirs from the homeland and culinary specialties.

Group Maintenance and Ethnic Commitment
The Roman Catholic Church represents traditional Slovene values and rituals and provides community support, as do Slovene schools, credit unions, scout groups, choirs, and youth groups. Some organizations receive federal or provincial grants to fund Slovene-language schools or other special projects, but most regard maintenance of their ethnic community as their own responsibility. Social clubs provide “a small homeland away from home” where immigrants and their descendants can meet relatives and friends, especially on weekends, to talk in their own language, to eat familiar foods, and to dance to their favourite music. Two or three hundred people may attend a wedding or the funeral of a fellow Slovene.

Slovene refugees resented their Communist homeland; however, more recent immigrants kept in touch with Slovenia and often visited it while it was still part of Communist Yugoslavia. In the 1970s and early 1980s the Canadian-Slovenian Cultural Exchange Group organized tours of polka bands and choirs from Slovenia; also, the athletes of Slovenia Sports Club and the dancers of the Carnation and Voice of Youth folklore groups visited Slovenia. The relationship with the homeland has dramatically improved since 1991. Several agencies in Slovenia, such as Slovenska izseljenska matica (Slovenian Immigrant Association), the World Slovenian Congress, and the Slovenija v svetu (Slovenia Abroad), assist immigrants.

The establishment of diplomatic relations between Ottawa and Ljubljana has filled Canadian Slovenes with pride. In 1993 the Slovenian embassy was opened in Ottawa, with Marijan Majcen as ambassador. The recent political changes in Slovenia have caused an outpouring of support from Canadian Slovenes for their homeland, and many have taken Slovenian citizenship for their children, mostly for sentimental and patriotic reasons. However, not many have moved back – not even those who were most eagerly awaiting democracy. The first generation has established firm roots here, while the second and third consider Canada their true home.

Further Reading
Information about Slovenia is available in: Slovenian National Federation of Canada, This Is Slovenia (Toronto, 1958); Cankarjeva Založba, Discover Slovenia (Ljubljana, Slovenia, 1992); Edward Gobetz, ed. with the assistance of Milena Gobetz and Ruth Lakner, Slovenian Heritage (Willoughby Hills, Ohio, 1980); The Case of Slovenia, Writer’s Journal Special Edition (Ljubljana, 1991); and a quarterly magazine, Slovenia, published in English by Slovenska izseljenska matica (Slovenian Emigrant Association) in Ljubljana.

Data on Slovene Canadians is available in Peter Urbanc and Eleanor Tourtel, Slovenians in Canada (Hamilton, Ont., 1984), and Rado Genorio, Slovenci v Kanadi (Slovenes in Canada; Ljubljana, Slovenia, 1989). More recent information on Slovene organizations and institutions can be found in the booklet Slovenians in Canada: Directory of Organizations and Institutions (Toronto, 1993), prepared by Cvetka Kocjancic and published by the All-Slovenian Committee. The struggle of a Slovene immigrant to adapt to life in Canada is portrayed in Cvetka Kocjancic, Unhappy Rebel: The Life and Times of Andy Stritof (Toronto, 1993).

Article abstracted from Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples originally created and published in 1998 by The Multicultural History Society of Ontario.