Macedonian Immigration to
At the turn of the century, one of the largest groups
of non-British settlers to arrive in Canada were villagers
from the Balkan mountains, then part of the Turkish
Empire. These early residents (and their descendants)
call themselves Macedonians. They speak Macedonian,
and have their own social and economic institutions
including churches, fraternal and self-help organizations,
and community-based enterprise, mainly in Metropolitan
Toronto and the southern Ontario region.
Migration and Settlement
The majority of Macedonians who migrated to Canada
arrived in the aftermath of the Illinden Uprising of
1903 - a heroic but unsuccessful attempt by Macedonians
to end Ottoman domination.
An internal group census in 1910 found about 1090 Macedonians
in Toronto, principally from the provinces of Kostur
(Kastoria) and Lerin (Florina), areas which were once
important vilayets of the Ottoman Empire but are now
identified as portions of northern Greece. By 1940 readers
of various Macedonian political and nationalist almanacs
were informed that there were upwards of 1200 families
The exodus of Macedonians from northern Greece was
to continue in the aftermath of WWII and the Greek Civil
War (1947-49). Immigration from Vardar (formerly Yugoslav)
Macedonia and Pirin Macedonia in Bulgaria also began
in the postwar period. This exodus gained momentum in
the 1960s and continues to the present. Government indices
of population are not helpful in determining the size
of the community because Macedonians fell under the
general heading of those from Turkey, Greece, Serbia
(or Yugoslavia) and Bulgaria.
The most recent Canadian census (1996), which provides
for self-declaration of ethnic origin records 30 915
Macedonians in Canada - the sum total of individuals
making single- or multiple-group responses. Centered
in Metropolitan Toronto, small groups of Macedonians
could also be found elsewhere in Ontario in Cambridge,
Guelph, Hamilton, Kitchener/Waterloo, Markham, Mississauga,
Newmarket, Niagara Falls, St Catharines, Thornhill,
Thorold and Windsor. Community spokespersons believe
that there are actually 100-150 000 Macedonians in Canada.
Many early Macedonian immigrants found industrial work
in Toronto, either as factory hands or labourers in
abattoirs, local sheet metal industries, or iron and
steel foundries. From these jobs, they quickly progressed
to the ownership of a great number of restaurants, grocery
stores and butcher shops. Macedonian entrepreneurs and
their descendants eventually employed their numerical
strength within the food service industry as a catapult
into a variety of larger and more sophisticated ventures.
The majority of Macedonians today are employed in the
professional, clerical and service sector of the economy.
Social Life and Community
The social life of early Macedonian immigrants revolved
around mutual and benevolent societies established on
the basis of village or place of origin. Such Macedonian
brotherhoods and benevolent organizations such as Zhelevo,
Banitsa, Buf, Oshchima and numerous others operating
in Toronto became valuable storehouses of comradeship,
job information and worksite strategies.
In the postwar period the Macedonian mutual benefit
societies and brotherhoods evolved into social and national
clubs, playing a role as centres of immigrant culture
as members' working conditions and incomes became subsumed
under the headings of social insurance and workers'
Since 1970, Macedonian ethnocommunity group life has
grown and now serves a number of special interests and
needs. A number of business and professional associations
have been established including the Canadian Macedonian
Restaurant Co-op, which was founded in 1979; the Canadian
Macedonian Business and Professional Association (1992);
and the Macedonian Canadian Health Professionals' Association,
formerly the Macedonian Canadian Medical Society (1992).
Youth and student groups include the Macedonian Association
of Canadian Youth, which was founded in 1992; the Ryerson
Association of Macedonian Students (1992); and the Association
of Macedonian Students at the University of Toronto,
which was granted official recognition as a university
campus group in 1989.
Religion, Cultural Life and Education
Macedonians belong to the Eastern Orthodox branch of
Christianity. They established SS. Cyril and Methody
Church in Toronto in 1910. It united immigrants from
many different villages into a single religious community.
The early immigrants to Toronto and their descendants
founded 2 additional churches that are either under
the spiritual jurisdiction of the patriarch in Bulgaria
or are part of a Bulgarian diocese within the Orthodox
Church in America. They are St. George Macedono-Bulgarian
Orthodox Church, which was founded in 1941, and Holy
Trinity Macedono-Bulgarian Church, which was founded
Postwar arrivals to Canada subsequently founded Macedonian
Orthodox parishes under the spiritual jurisdiction of
the Metropolitan and Holy Synod of the Macedonian Orthodox
Church in Skopje. They are as follows: St Clement of
Ohrid, which was founded in Toronto in 1962; St Dimitria
of Solun, which was founded in Markham in 1992; St Ilija,
which was founded in Mississauga in 1979; St Sunday,
which was founded in Ajax in 1993; and St Naum of Ohrid,
which is located in Windsor.
The community has also created a number of group newspapers,
radio and television programs, folkdance troupes, sporting
organizations and historical and literary societies.
Newspapers include Makedonska Tribuna/Macedonian Tribune,
the weekly voice of the Macedonian Political (Patriotic
since 1952) Organization, which was founded in Indianapolis,
Indiana, in 1927; United Macedonians, the quarterly
of the United Macedonians of Canada Organization, is
published in Markham; and the monthly, Makedonija/Macedonia,
was founded in 1984 and is published in Scarborough.
Radio programs include Glas od Makedonija/Voice of
Macedonia, Makedonski Svet/Global Macedonia and Makedonski
Zrak/Macedonian Ray. Television programs include Makedonska
Narodnost/Macedonian Nation and Makedonski Koreni/Macedonian
The children of Macedonian immigrants are integrated
in the mainstream of Canadian cultural life, and also
figure prominently in the professional fields of law,
medicine, science and technology, education, sports
and recreation, and the arts and entertainment industry.
The Macedonian language belongs to the South Slavic
group of languages. Various dialects of the language
are spoken and maintained in the home and the literary
language is taught to children in community and school
heritage language classes.
Suggested Reading R.F. Harney and Harold M. Troper,
Immigrants: A Portrait of the Urban Experience, 1890-1930
(1975); Harry V. Herman, Men in White Aprons (1978);
Lillian Petroff, Sojourners and Settlers: The Macedonian
Community in Toronto to 1940 (1995).
See one of the truly great Canadian novels, Michael
Ondaatji's In the Skin of a Lion, about Macedonian labourers
in urban Canada in the 1920s.
With permission from the author, Dr.
& Settlers: The Macedonian Community in Toronto
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MACEDONIAN ROOTS IN CANADIAN SOIL
(Makedonci vo Kanada)
Canada, you are indeed a land of multi-cultural Immigrants
Many people heard your call and they came
Macedonians leave their beloved homeland
Your promise of hope and freedom they come to claim.
You invite them, come people from Aegean, Pirrin, Vardar
Come; join other new life seeking peoples
Leave Macedonia, as children will one day leave home
Come; build families, homes, businesses, Churches with steeples.
You counsel them, embrace me and I will embrace you
Nothing will be given to you, nothing here is free
Macedonians are not strangers to hard times or hard work
Things will go well here, endure you will see.
You persuade them, give me your youth, muscle, sweat
Give me your hopes, dreams, your plans, your brain
Establishing a foothold in this new country will be hard
Remember immigrant, it's your children who will reap and gain.
And work they did, daytime, night time, part time, overtime
In slaughterhouses, tanneries, factories, restaurants and mill
No work was too hard, or beneath such a hardy people
As these freedom loving Macedonians, of intelligence and will.
They rub shoulders with the multiracial people of Canada
Learn the English language; retain culture and procure them a place
Their honest, and religious character, prove them second to none
In Business, Arts, Academics, and Politics, they bring honor to their Race.
One day when we sons and daughters, stand at our parents graves
After those hope seeking immigrants, have ended their days of toil
Then we will understand it is our roots we plant; for far from Macedonia
Our parent’s bodies will become part of Canada's soil.
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The Canadian Macedonian Historical Society is a non-profit,
charitable organization, providing all Canadians a perspective
on Macedonian history and culture.
Our objective is to develop pride and awareness amongst
our members and within the entire Canadian community
as to who we are, where we came from, and where we are
The Historical Society is supported by volunteers and
funded through programmed events and donations. If you
would like to support the Society by making a donation