The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

1995 Audit of
Anti-Semitic Incidents

The Jewish Community in Canada - a brief overview

The 1991 census published by Statistics Canada reported that 356,315 of the 27 million people in Canada were Jewish. This amounts to only 1.3% of the entire population of the country. In 1991, Toronto and Montreal were reported to have 162,605 and 101,210 Jewish residents respectively, and no other locale had more than 20,000 Jewish residents. In fact, Jews comprise less than one half of one per cent of the population of Canada outside of the two aforementioned cities. The fact that Toronto and Montreal have the two largest Jewish communities in Canada (three quarters of the Jews in this country live in these two urban areas , with 45.6% in Metropolitan Toronto, and 28.4% of Canada's Jews living in Greater Montreal) accounts for the fact that the overwhelming majority of reported cases of anti-Semitism occur in these centres.

Vancouver, the third largest Canadian city, has 19,375 Jewish residents (5.8% of the Jews in Canada), 1.3% of the total Vancouver population of 1,584,115. The Ottawa-Hull area, known as the National Capital Region, is home to nearly 12,000 Jews, 3.3 % of the Jewish population in Canada. Winnipeg, with 15,000 Jewish residents, has the highest concentration of Jews (2.3%) of any city other than Montreal (3.3%) and Toronto (4.2%). In no other Canadian urban area do Jews make up more than one per cent of the total population.

Jews have lived in Canada since the 18th century. However, the first significant waves of Jewish immigration from Europe started in the 1870's. Eastern European Jews often moved to Winnipeg or to rural areas to work as farmers - one of the few occupations for which immigrants were allowed into Canada.

During the Second World War the Canadian government refused to allow Jewish immigrants fleeing the Holocaust to enter this country, with one government official stating that "none is too many" when asked how many Jews would be let into Canada. However, thousands of Jewish war survivors were permitted entry in the late 1940's and 1950's. The impact of post-war emigres on the Canadian Jewish community is perhaps the most significant difference between patterns in American and Canadian Jewish immigration. Holocaust survivors who came to Canada comprise a more significant percentage of the total Jewish community here than in the United States, largely because the Canadian government had restricted Jewish immigration earlier.

Until the 1970's Montreal was regarded as the principal hub of Canadian Jewry. Although other cities had Jewish communities, Montreal was the oldest and largest, and was considered the most important Jewish centre in Canada. However, the threat of Quebec separation in the mid-1970's was a frightening prospect for many Jews, the vast majority of whom were Anglophone. Thousands of Montreal jobs were relocated to Ontario, as were tens of thousands of Montreal's Jews. Although the new census data will not be available until late in 1996, a recent study conducted by J. Torczyner, D. Brotman, and J. Brodbar (1995) entitiled "Rapid Growth and Transformation: Demographic Challenges Facing the Jewish Community of Greater Toronto" suggests further shifts in the Jewish population, particularly in the wake of the ongoing Quebec Referendum debate and the increase in nationalist rhetoric. Today, Toronto is considered the Jewish capital of Canada, with approximately 165,000 people in the community.

Canadian Jewry tends to be more traditional than the American Jewish population. In 1990, forty per cent of affiliated Jews identified themselves as Orthodox, another forty per cent as Conservative, and twenty per cent as members of the Reform movement. As well, in recent years Reconstructionist congregations have opened in Toronto and Montreal.

The original plaintext version of this file is available via ftp.

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