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« : Lipanj 02, 2006, 07:56:02 »

Immigration of Croatians into Canada

 " The first mention of individual Croatians in Canada was by the Croatian Canadian author Nedo Paveskovic covering the expeditions of Jacques Cartier in 1543. Croatian Canadian author Anthony Rasporich also mentioned Croatian sailors with Cartier. The sailors were Giovanni Malogrudic from Senj and Marino Maslarda from Dubrovnik. Author Adam Eterovic mentions a Croatian sergeant of a company of marines who had migrated from French Canada to Lousiana in the 1700’s. The Explorer Champlain in 1604 had a "Slavonian" (region in Croatia) miner in his expedition which was a native of Sclavonia and was called Master Jacques. (450 Years of Croatians in Canada, 47)
Croatian immigration to Canada goes back to the very first settlements of Canada, some 450 years ago. The first Croatian people to come to Canadian territory were "solders of fortune", small in number and mostly male, who had come to the North American continent with the aim of making money to sustain families back home. They are referred to in various sources as Kolumbusari (those who came with Columbus) or Amerikantzi, (those who have been to America. For the most part, these individual newcomers did not come to stay. They migrated all over the continent, and they did not form any kind of cultural communities. However, they were the first people to start the trend of immigration of Croatians into Canada, which in varying intensity, has continued ever since.

Since then the immigration trend of Croatians into Canada can be divided into three periods of migrants. The first Croatian "settlers" in the proper sense of the term were the peasants from Austria-Hungary, who migrated largely because of the Turkish wars. They settled in different parts of Canada: most of them went to Ontario, some settled in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, and a small minority went to Quebec. "The largely unorganized and diffusely spread immigrants of the first generation gave way in the 1920s to a larger migration of 15,000 Croatians", which had come with the intention of staying. (Unknown Journey, 18) This second "generation" of immigrants were people of many trades: craftsmen, fisherman and shop artisans, as well as peasants, who initiated political and cultural fraternities in recognition of their heritage. The third group of immigrants, or the post Second World War "generation" of migrants were generally "better educated" and "more urban" than the previous groups. They fortified social and political groups, and began new educational, cultural, and religious organizations, which were the roots of today’s strong and flourishing Croatian community in Canada .

Formation of a Croatian Community

Social and Political organizations

 The original function of the CFU was to provide mutual help, support, and protection of Croatian immigrants in case of death or injury. Eventually, however, the organization developed into the largest social, cultural, and political Croatian organization in North America"(Unknown Journey, 125).  

The first signs of cultural and nationalistic recognition by Croatians in Canada were unions, fraternities and political organizations. These pioneer establishments initiated a "vital nuclei of a network of information, formative institutions, and affiliations with the larger American communities to the South". (450 Years of Croatians in Canada, 125). Organizations like the Croatian Fraternal Union (Hrvatska Bratska Zajednica), the oldest Croatian organization in North America first established in the United States, extended its activities into Canada and established branch offices. The first branch of the CFU was established in British Columbia, in Nanaimo in 1903, followed by branches in Ontario. Small political assemblies, such as the Croatian Peasant Party (Hrvatska Seljacka Stranka) which had its origin in Croatia, grew into strong new political organizations. They started publishing newspapers as a forum for Croatians for expressing their sentiments, as well as for celebrating their culture. The CFU started publishing, the "Zajednicar" (The Fraternalist) and in 1928, the Croatian community in Winnipeg first published a newspaper "Hrvatski Glas" or "Croatian Voice". Between 1930 and 1935 other newspapers such as "Borba" and "Slobodna Misao" were also published. This early political organization established foundations for later promotion of Croatian cultural heritage, and established Croatians as a community.

Croatians also indirectly promoted Croatians and the Croatian culture throught their involvement with Canadian provincial and federal politics. Croatians in Canadian politics were most active with the New Democrats party, and the Liberals, and few very prominent Canadian Croatians, such as David Stupich were in high New Democrats’ provincial ranks. Despite the active involvement on the Canadian political scene, Croatians have continued political involvement in their Croatian communities, participating in Croatian political parties such as the HDZ, the Croatian Democratic Party and the governing party in Croatia.

Croatian Schools and Education

As the Croatian population in Canada grew in the early 1900s, a new need for cultural societies and institutions arose. One of the most important elements of promoting Croatian cultural awareness was the establishment of schools in Croatian language throughout Canada. Since the Croatian Community has always been affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, the schools were, still are today, mostly under the supervision of local parishes. In communities such as Kenaston, Saskatchewan, a church and a Croatian language school were already established by 1913. However, formal school institutions did not develop until 1960s. The largest number of schools opened up in Ontario, where the Croatian community is the most concentrated in Canada. Schools of Croatian a language such as the Hrvatska Pucka Skola (Croatian Elementary School), which by 1989 had 500 enrolled students, enjoyed an enormous success. Croatian language was being taught from elementary levels to High School grade 13. In 1976, Croatian Schools in Canada Incorporated Educational Organization was established in Sudbury Ontario, as a part of a larger Associate of Croatian Schools of America, Australia, Europe Organization. In 1988, the Chair for Croatian Language and Culture was established at the University of Waterloo, by Dr. Vinko Grubisic. This development gave young Candian Croatians "an opportunity to study Croatian at all three levels of [Canadian] educational system", and it brought the recognition of Croatian heritage in Canada to new heights. (Unknown Journey, 106).

Arts and Culture

 "In their struggle to preserve their identity and culture Croatians have cherished and passed on to new generations - both in Canada as well as in their homeland- their beliefs, religion, traditions, arts, and crafts, folkart, dances, music, games, stories, and priceless musical instruments" (Unknown Journey, 123).
An important cultural aspect of all Croatian communities in Canada has been the preservation of various forms of folk culture. As early as 1930, Croatian community institutions, such as the Hrvatski Narodni Dom, in Hamilton were established. However, like the Croatian language school system, it was not until 1960’s that Croatian Folk art started thriving. "In 1973, the Croatian Folklore Federation of Canada was formed by Canadian-Croatian folklore groups across the country. Its "main objective [was]to organize festivals and workshops for teachers of Croatian music and dances'[. . . ,] to publish books and manuals for students and teachers of Croatian folklore"and to preserve the cultural unity among the Croatian youth. (Unknown Journey, 124). In the 1970 many new folklore groups were established. The Folklore ensemble Croatia in Mississauga, Croatian Folklore Ensemble Zrinski-Frankopan Incorporated, Croatian Parish Folklore Group Sljeme, Croatia Folklore Group Knez Branimir, The Croatian Tamburica Orchestra Vatroslav Lisinski, and folklore ensemble Croatoan are just a few of the existing folklore groups. These large folklore societies can be found throughout many cities in Canada such as Victoria, Vancouver, Lethbridge, Edmonton, Welland, Kitchener, Montreal, Timmins, and Sudbury. Over the past several years, the participation and membership in these societies has greatly increased. For example, the membership of the Tamburitza group in Ontario increased to 90 people in 1996, and in the dance ensemble increased up to 140 people. Its total current membership stands at 1555 people.

As well as establishing community folk groups, Croatians have also been very active in the Canadian artistic scene. They have been active in Canadian literature, theater, and visual arts. In literature, there are some very active Croatian writers, such as Alain Horic and Stjepan Hrastovec. A number of Croatian Canadian visual artists, who have begun their Career in Croatia studying under Academy of Fine Arts in Zagrab, have come to Canada and have promoted Croatian culture through their art. Better known artists include sculptors Augustin Filipovic and Ante Sardelic, painter Anton Cetin, and painter Rajka Kupesis, who has exhibited nationally and internationally.

Sports involvement

One cannot speak of the Croatian community in Canada without mentioning the participation and the strong success of Croatians in the field of sports. One sport in particular, soccer, has put Croatian Canadians in the spotlight for many years. In 1955, Hrvatski Sportski Klub Croatia, (Sports Club Croatia) was first established in Toronto. It was the home of the Toronto Metros, a well known Croatian soccer club which enjoyed an enormous success in the early and mid seventies. The "succession of prizes" of the Toronto Metros includes the National Soccer league title 1971, 1972, 1973; the national Soccer League Cup in 1972 and the league playoffs in 1971, 1974" (Unknown Journey, 138). By 1972 its membership stood at 600 people. This astounding success of Toronto Croatian Soccer Club in the early and mid 1970s "culminated in the North American Soccer League Championship in 1976, [and it] represents a high point of ethnic and community pride." (Unknown Journey, 23.) Participation by Croatian Canadians in other sports has been less visible, an example of which is the success of Croatians in provincial and national chess championships.

As well as establishing Croatian community teams, Croatians have participated individually on Canadian national teams. In Hockey in particular, North American wide known Croatian hockey players include Frank Mahowlich (now a Senator), who played for the Toronto Maple Leafs and helped them win four Stanley Cups, and his brother Peter Mahowlich, the star of the Montreal Canadians. Both players were honored "to be chosen as [members] of the six player contingent from Montreal Canadians who played for Team Canada in 1972 against Soviet Union" (Unknown Journey, 148). Other known Croatian players include Martin Nicholas Pavelich and Matthew Ivan Pavelich in hockey, and George Chuvalo in boxing.

Croatian Community Today

The hard work on the part of the Croatian Community in Canada in order to preserve, and celebrate its national heritage has shown impressive results.

The Croatian Community in Canada is well established today. It has established churches in almost every major city, totaling over 20 parishes from Montreal to Vancouver. Each major city has its own organized community with established cultural organization, which includes political and business organizations, religious organizations, network of Croatian schools, and folklore societies. Croats continue participating in local and national art festivals, exhibitions, Canadian sports teams, and they continue the tradition of their own sports clubs. They have integrated themselves in the Canadian society with success, showing themselves to be a dynamic and able people. At the same time, they have succeeded in maintaining their own culture, and establishing themselves as an important cultural group in Canada.
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