The first person born in what is now known as Czech Republic (and in the Hradcany Castle, no less) who had a considerable impact on the development of Canada — although he never visited it — was Prince Ruppert of Bohemia. The son of the Winter King and Elizabeth, daughter of King James, Ruppert was born at the time of his father’s coronation in summer, 1619, just a little over a year before the battle of White Mountain (which his father lost). As his parents were ready to leave the country, a baby’s crying attracted the attention of his father’s chamberlain who threw the baby-boy into the last wagon leaving Prague in his parents’ train. On May 2, 1670, King Charles signed a royal charter giving “Our Dear and Entirely Beloved Prince Ruppert” and the seventeen others who formed the company the monopoly of trade on the territory draining into Hudson Bay, and making them its “True and absolute Lordes and Proprietors”.
The first Czech immigrants who came to Canada were most likely the Moravian Brethern who after the failure of their first attempt in 1752, succeeded in 1771 to establish their first religious community in Labrador to carry on missionary and social work among the Inuits. Other groups founded in 1792 a settlement on the Thames River in Ontario which they called Fairfield, where on October 5, 1813 the American and British forces fought the Battle of Moraviatown. The mission was maintained by the Moravian Brethern until 1902, when it was taken over by the Methodist, now the United Church.
The large scale immigration of Czech and Slovaks to Canada started in the mid-1880 and came in four waves: before World War I. (a fair number of them served in the “Bohemian Detachment” of the 223rd Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force in the First World War), between the two World Wars, in 1948 after the communist coup d’etat, and after the 1968 Soviet invasion to Czechoslovakia. The first Slovak immigrant was Jozef Ballon, who landed in Canada in 1878 and started a wireworks factory in Toronto. A significant group of Czech immigrants settled in Kolin, Saskatchewan, in 1884. Although they can be found in every larger community in Canada, the Czech and Slovak immigrants concentrated in Southern Ontario, Manitoba, British Columbia, around Montreal and in Alberta. Most of them were quite successful, many left their mark on a larger community and were inducted into the Order of Canada.
Our organization, under the name of Czechoslovak National association of Canada was founded in 1939, as an organization of Canadians of Czech and Slovak origin. It was incorporated as a non-profit corporation on September 28, 1960. In May 1995 it changed its name to Czech and Slovak Association of Canada — Ceské a Slovenské sdružení v Kanade.
The main objects of the Association are: — To develop the highest standards of citizenship in Canadians of Czech and Slovak origin;
- To promote tolerance, understanding and goodwill between all ethnic groups in Canada;
- To assist Czech and Slovak refugees;
- To help to maintain and defend freedom and democracy in Canada;
- To support Canada’s efforts to uphold, strengthen and establish democratic system of government everywhere in the world.
Our Association’s record of service to the causes inspired by our charter is a proud one. During World War II. our Association whose then Secretary General, Karel Buzek, C.M. established 92 chapters all across Canada, provided significant aid to the Allied forces and particularly to the Czechoslovak units based in Great Britain. As well, many members of our community enlisted in all three branches of the Canadian armed services.
After the Coup d’etat in February 1948 in which the Communists executed, tortured or put in concentration camps some of the best men and women of our native land and expropriated every last barber shop, our Association helped to keep alive the ideals of freedom and democracy in Czechoslovakia and did much for the refugees in the refugee camps in Europe, and later in Canada. Particularly effective was the work of the Women’s Council of the Czechoslovak Association of Canada, and Canadian Fund for Czechoslovak Refugees. We shall always be grateful to the Canadian Government for bringing, within six months of the coup d’etat, some 12,000 Czech and Slovak refugees to Canada. We believe that a huge majority of them proved worthy of Canada’s compassionate gesture.
Since the fall of the Iron Curtain we provided assistance to the newly born democracy in Czechoslovakia by coordinating efforts of various organizations such as Democratic Corps of Assistance (Vancouver), Education for Democracy (Toronto), Canada-Czechoslovakia Chamber of Commerce (Toronto), Canadian Fund for Czechoslovak Universities (now Canadian Fund for Czech Universities) and by supporting Canada’s policy of admitting Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to NATO.
The Czech and Slovak Association is a member of the Canadian Ethnocultural Council and of the Ontario Council Agencies Serving Immigrants.