Every year Canada attracts hundreds of thousands of immigrants from different countries; today it is also open to Ukrainians who come here in search of a better life. There are special immigration programs for our compatriots, who can come to the country with a work or study visa. If you plan to study in this country, then later you can count on employment and citizenship. As a rule, this is what happens, and very few people return to their home country. This is where the largest Ukrainian diaspora is located, because Ukrainians began to immigrate here over 100 years ago.

How many Ukrainians are there in Canada?

Today Ukrainians account for approximately 4% of the population of Canada and occupy the seventh place in the TOP of national minorities of the country.

In March 2020, 1.354 million people confirmed their Ukrainian origin. This was reported by the Ambassador of Ukraine in Canada Andriy Shevchenko. Of these, about 350 thousand people have both Ukrainian parents and more than 950 thousand people have one parent.

The ambassador added that under the "new wave" of migration to Canada from Ukraine very often come people with a high education and good professional training.

"So we can sadly say that in this way Ukraine may where losing people who could have been of great benefit here. But once again, I will return that we live in a time where it would be absolutely naive to think that it would be possible in any artificial way to restrain, to detain, to keep out, to persuade. We have to think about how to motivate, how to create here such conditions, so that people would have a great desire to go abroad, to study, to get to the world, to create contacts there, to start a common cause, and to return here to realize themselves here, "- the ambassador said.


It is customary to distinguish four waves of Ukrainian emigration.

The first immigration movements to Canada began because Ukrainians wanted to get rid of the huge fees imposed by the Austro-Hungarian government. There were none here at the time. So the Ukrainians settled in remote wilderness areas together with their families, forming small communities.

The first Ukrainian settlers in Canada were Ivan Pylypiv and Vasyl Yeleniak, both from the village of Nebylov (Austria-Hungary, now Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast) 

Pylypiv founded the settlement of Edna-Star (Alberta), the very first and largest group settlement of Ukrainians in Canada. The initiator of the mass migration of Ukrainians to Canada is considered to be Dr. Joseph Oleskiv, who stimulated and popularized emigration to Canada from Western Ukraine as well as Galicia and Bukovina in the late 1890s.

The second wave of resettlement that history has recorded falls at the end of World War I. At that time, people began to shift from farming to urban life, and moved en masse to industrial centers, mainly Toronto and Montreal. Now they still have the largest number of Ukrainians.

The third wave of emigration was mainly driven by political motives and began at the end of World War II. These are mostly repatriates from the British, American, and French occupation zones.

The fourth wave - the so-called "Zarobitschanskaya" - began in the 1990s. Its main reason was the economic difficulties of the transitional period in Ukraine.

Now we can already identify the fifth wave, which began after the events in Ukraine in 2013 -2014.

"Dark times" for Ukrainians in Canada

It is not customary to remember this, but in the fate of Ukrainian immigrants was not all as rosy as it is sometimes presented. After Britain entered World War I, nearly 10,000 Ukrainians were interned and placed in Canadian camps. The fact is that most of the interned Ukrainians came to Canada from Bukovina and Galicia, then owned by Austria-Hungary. They entered on Austro-Hungarian passports. Thus, with the outbreak of World War I, they were enlisted in Canada in the category of domestic enemies. The absurdity was that Ukrainians who had moved to Canada could not have any warm feelings toward Austria-Hungary.

The Ukrainians were deprived of their property and possessions and sent to camps. Having come to Canada with dreams of well-being and prosperity, Ukrainians were deprived of their means of livelihood.

Most of the interned Ukrainians worked in industry and mining. There was a war going on, and there was a shortage of workers. Their wages were far below those of wage laborers.

According to Canadian historians, a total of 24 concentration camps operated across the country, which later became "politically correct" to refer to as internment camps.

Prisoners were denied the right to read newspapers and their correspondence was strictly censored. Physical labor in the camps was grueling, with food rations often inadequate for physiological needs and living conditions in the harsh climate. Many prisoners died of illness, committed suicide or were shot while trying to escape. Even children who had been caught with their parents behind the barbed wire also died.

It was not until February 1920 that the captured Ukrainians were able to be released from the camps.

Why does Canada attract Ukrainians?

One of the important factors that attracts many migrants from Ukraine to the country is the help and support of the diaspora, the ties here are very strong. Up to the fact that together they help to take out mortgages to purchase housing on more forgiving and favorable terms. No matter what city you move to, you will find compatriots to help you adapt, solve household and more serious issues.

All diasporas have the right to preserve their cultural values and pass on their heritage and traditions to their descendants.

Ukrainian women are also invited by single Canadian men who want to get married with a Slavic bride.

Ukrainian diaspora in Canada these days

They play a larger role in Canada than the almost twice larger diaspora of Ukrainians in the United States. The three Midwestern provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have become the center of Ukrainian culture. Ukrainian immigrants have become fighters for advanced multiculturalism.

Ethnic Ukrainians who were successful on the Canadian political scene include William Gavrilyak, Edward Stelmakh, and Roman Gnatyshyn. Thus, the Ukrainian diaspora has a great political and economic weight in Canada.

The geography of settlement is as follows: most Ukrainians are concentrated in the eastern part of the country: Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec City, Toronto, Edmonton, Leithbridge, Montreal.

Ukrainians lead an active social life: they organize festivals, parades, and celebrate their holidays. 

It is well known that Canada is a land of many nationalities. In 1971, it became the first country in the world to adopt an official multiculturalism policy. Ukrainians, like many other nationalities, are part of this Canadian cultural mosaic. To celebrate the anniversary of the arrival of the pioneers, an exhibition at the Surrey Museum pays tribute to them: Ukrainians in Canada: 125 years.

The anniversary of their arrival in the country is therefore an important event, especially since nearly 1,300,000 Canadians are of Ukrainian origin, or 3.7% of the population (2011 census). This makes Canada the third country with the largest Ukrainian community in the world, after Ukraine itself and Russia.

Why such numbers?

At the end of the 19th century, misery and famine ravaged Ukraine, and its inhabitants were the serfs of the Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires. At the same time, the young Canadian government launched a great seduction campaign to attract new inhabitants to the still wild West, and offered the cost of the trip, land and a few farming tools to each candidate. About 170,000 Ukrainian peasants immigrated to the Canadian Prairies. This first wave of immigration would be followed by three other major waves of immigration due to the Second World War and the collapse of the USSR.

These dedicated workers contributed to the development of Canadian agriculture, industry and railroads. The reception among the Canadian population, however, was more mixed. As Roman Herchak, leader of the Ukrainian Community Society in Richmond, points out, "Ukrainian immigrants were sometimes looked down upon by Anglo-Saxons. Some had to change their family names to find work.

Ukrainian culture in the spotlight

These hopes and difficult beginnings, along with elements of Ukrainian folklore, are on display at the Surrey Museum through July 9. Colourful embroidery, musical instruments, painted eggs (Pysanky) and other traditional objects are on display in this free trilingual exhibition open to all.

Ukrainians in Canada: 125 years is part of an annual series of exhibitions called Community Treasures that celebrate the different communities in the City of Surrey. Lynn Saffrey, Manager of the Surrey Museum, emphasizes the benefits of this opening: "Our team has the pleasure of learning about these cultures and objects and, in return, we provide a space and the skills to share this knowledge with our visitors. For this exhibit, the Surrey Ukrainian Society and the Kule Folklore Centre (University of Alberta) were involved.

"The first link is food

Many other organizations exist in British Columbia to keep Ukrainian culture alive and shared. There are community centers in a multitude of cities, from Surrey to Langley, Nanaimo, Victoria, Kamloops and Richmond.

The Ukrainian Community Society of Ivan Franko in Richmond is a non-profit organization that offers a wide range of activities. Traditional dance groups, bilingual book clubs on Ukrainian themes, Pysansky workshops and food events bring together people from all walks of life. Friday night suppers are organized every third Friday of the month (except in July and August) and are a great success. They are an opportunity to discover some typical specialties prepared by the volunteer members. Roman Herchak, president of the organization for many years, adds "the first link is food. It is what brings people together in the kitchen and around the plate".

Roman Herchak also reminds us that Ukrainian immigration to Canada is still relevant because of the economic, political and social difficulties in the country. But the profile of immigrants has changed. "They are young and have studied engineering or new technologies.

Ties to Ukraine remain strong, and politics is at the heart of the discussions. The Richmond center, for example, hosted the makers of the documentary Babylon 13 about the Ukrainian revolution in the winter of 2014. As a quote in the center's library reminds us, "Nature has been generous with Ukraine; history has not" (Orest Subtelny).