German community in Canada

DEMOGRAPHICS

According to the 2011 census there are 3,203,330 Canadians of German ethnicity of which 1,154,550 reside in Ontario and 262,830 in the Greater Toronto Area.

Other cities with significant German population: Vancouver: 187,410, Winnipeg: 109,355, Kitchener: 93,325, and Montreal: 83,850.

Primary Areas of Settlement in the GTA: Milton, Oakville, Halton Hills, Caledon, King, Aurora, Whitchurch-Stoufville, East Gwillimbury, City of Toronto (Parkdale-High Park, Beaches-East York, Scarborough East).

HISTORY

Some immigrants came from what is today Germany, while larger numbers came from German settlements in Central Europe and Russia; others came from former parts of the German Confederation like German-Austria and some emigrated from Switzerland.

After the fall of New France a smaller number of Germans who had fought for prince-elector king George III during the Revolutionary War stayed in North America and mixed with the French-Canadians. However, the first major round of German immigration to Canada began already after the British conquest of Nova Scotia. Many Germans had served in the British army and elected to settle in the new lands. Far more arrived as some of the Foreign Protestants. These were continental Protestants encouraged to come to Nova Scotia to counterbalance the large number of Catholic Acadians. This influx began in about 1751 and to this day the South Shore of Nova Scotia is filled with German town names, surnames, and Lutheran churches. The Little Dutch (Deutsch) Church in Halifax, located on land set aside for the German-speaking community in 1752, was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1997 as the oldest known surviving church in Canada associated with the German Canadian community.

The American Revolution saw a small group of German-American migrants to Canada. German speakers from New York and Pennsylvania (and other areas) made up a significant percentage of United Empire Loyalists. To fight the war, Britain had hired regiments from small German states; these soldiers were known as “Hessians.” About 2,200 settled in Canada once their terms of service expired or they were released from American captivity. For example a group from the Brunswick regiment settled southwest of Montreal and south of Quebec City.

The largest group fleeing the United States were the Mennonites from Pennsylvania. They moved to what is today southwest Ontario, settling around Berlin, Ontario (now known as Kitchener and Waterloo). This large group also attracted new migrants from Germany drawing some 50,000 of them to the region over the next decades.

19th century

The German Protestants developed the Lutheran Church along Canadian lines. In Waterloo County, Ontario, with large German elements that arrived after 1850, the Lutheran churches played major roles in the religious, cultural and social life of the community. After 1914 English became the preferred language for sermons and publications. Absent a seminary, the churches trained their own ministers, but there was a doctrinal schism in the 1860s. While the Anglophone Protestants promoted the Social Gospel and prohibition, the Lutherans stood apart.

In Montreal, immigrants and Canadians of German-decent founded the German Society of Montreal in April 1835. The secular organization’s purpose was to bring together the German community in the city, and act as a unified voice, help sick and needy members of the community and to keep alive customs and traditions. The Society is still active today and will celebrate its 180th anniversary in 2015.

20th century

The population of the Canadian west beginning in 1896 drew further large numbers of German immigrants, mostly from Eastern Europe. Once again Mennonites were especially prominent being persecuted by the Tsarist regime in Russia. The farmers, used to the harsh conditions of farming in Russia, were some of the most successful in adapting to the Canadian prairies. This accelerated when, in the 1920s, the United States imposed quotas on Central and Eastern European immigration. Soon after Canada imposed its own limits, however, and prevented most of those trying to flee the Third Reich from moving to Canada. Many of the Mennonites settled in the Winnipeg and Steinbach, Manitoba, and the area just north of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

In the years since the Second World War there have been about 400,000 German-speaking immigrants.

While Germans are one of the largest constituent ethnic groups in Canada, they are considerably less visible than others. In part this is because the great waves of German immigration were many decades ago and since then Germans have been largely assimilated. Culturally and linguistically there is far less to distinguish Germans from the Anglo-French majority compared to other immigrant groups. Also important is that during both the world wars the Germans were regarded as enemies resulting in Anti-German sentiment.

Ethnic-bloc settlements in the Prairies

There are several German ethnic block settlements in the Canadian Prairies in western Canada. Close to half of people in Saskatchewan are German-Canadians. German bloc settlements include the areas around Strasbourg, Bulyea, Leader, Burstall, Fox Valley, Eatonia, St. Walburg, Paradise Hill, Loon Lake, Goodsoil, Pierceland, Meadow Lake, Edenwold, Windthorst, Lemberg, Qu’appelle, Neudorf, Grayson, Langenburg, Kerrobert, Unity, Luseland, Macklin, Humboldt, Watson, Cudworth, Lampman, Midale, Tribune, Consul, Rockglen, and Shaunavon.

Saskatchewan

In Saskatchewan the German settlers came directly from Russia, or, after 1914 from the Dakotas.They came not as large groups but as part of a chain of family members, where the first immigrants would find suitable locations and send for the others. They formed compact German-speaking communities built around their Catholic or Lutheran churches, and continuing old-world customs. They were farmers who grew wheat and sugar beets. Arrivals from Russia, Bukovina, and Romanian Dobruja established their villages in a 40-mile-wide tract east of Regina. The Germans operated parochial schools primarily to maintain their religious faith; often they offered only an hour of German language instruction a week, but they always had extensive coverage of religion. Most German Catholic children by 1910 attended schools taught entirely in English. From 1900 to 1930, German Catholics generally voted for the Liberal ticket (rather than the Provincial Rights and Conservative tickets), seeing Liberals as more willing to protect religious minorities. Occasionally they voted for Conservatives or independent candidates who offered greater support for public funding of parochial schools. Nazi Germany made a systematic effort to proselytize among Saskatchewan’s Germans in the 1930s. Fewer than 1% endorsed their message, but some did migrate back to Germany before anti-Nazi sentiment became overwhelming in 1939.

Other sources:

The Canadian Encyclopedia  http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/german-canadians/

The Encyclopedia of Canada’s Peoples http://www.multiculturalcanada.ca/Encyclopedia/A-Z/g1

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