Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

Spanish Canadians

Spanish presence on the land we now call Canada dates back several centuries to the voyages of Basque fishermen to the Atlantic coast, and to Spanish exploration of the Pacific coast (see also Spanish Exploration). Archaeologists have uncovered traces of a 16th century Basque whaling station at Red Bay, Labrador. However, significant Spanish settlement did not occur in Canada until the 20th century. The 2016 census reported 396, 460 people of Spanish origin in Canada (70,325 single and 326,130 multiple responses).

Early Exploration
Basque expeditions are recalled in names such as Channel-Port aux Basques, Newfoundland and Ile aux Basques, a small island in the lower estuary of the Saint Lawrence River in Quebec. Numerous Spanish explorations on the Pacific coast between 1542 and 1792 are recalled in names such as Alberni, Laredo Strait, Carmelo Strait,
Mazaredo Sound, Mount Bodega, Quadra Rocks and Narvaez Bay (see also Quadra Island). At one time Vancouver Island in British Columbia was called Quadra and Vancouver's Island to commemorate the friendship between the Spanish navigator Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra and English Captain George Vancouver.

Migration and Settlement
Between 1913 and 1914 about 2000 Spaniards arrived in Canada. Between 1920 and 1945, only 408 Spaniards came to Canada. Some Spanish farmers immigrated to Canada in 1957 under an agreement between Canada and Spain. Most immigrants arrived during the 1960s and 70s (16, 184 between 1961 and 1989) with approximately 1300 arriving each of the peak years 1966, 1967 and 1968. After 1977, immigration dropped off significantly.

The 2016 census reported that 396, 460 people of Spanish origin live in Canada. Most reside in the provinces of Ontario (171, 145), Quebec (85, 360) and British Columbia (64, 475).

Social and Cultural Life
Most Spanish immigrants are formally Roman Catholic, but there is also a very small group of active Protestants. Many Spanish cultural, social and recreational organizations are concentrated in Montreal and Toronto. Very often, they share their activities with other Spanish-speaking groups. Dance groups, especially of the flamenco variety, flourish in several centres.

In the 2016 census, 495,090 people reported Spanish as their mother tongue language (first language learned), representing 1.4 per cent of the total population and 6.4 per cent of immigrant languages spoken as a mother tongue in Canada.

Spanish Festival in Montreal

Experience Immigrating to Canada ~ From Spain

Almost 1.8 Million Canadians Speak Spanish

Canada - Spain Relations

Political and defense relations
Canada and Spain are partners and allies in a strong relationship based on shared interests and values. Both countries, which have decentralised political structures, share an abiding belief in the fundamental values of respect for human rights, democracy, the empowerment of women and diverse and inclusive societies. Canada and Spain are committed to fight against climate change and to work for a sustainable management of the environment. They believe in progressive and open economic and trade relations as a source of prosperity for all. They trust that these values must be preserved in a rules-based international order. A Canada-Spain Cooperation Agenda was agreed by the two Prime Ministers in 2018 in Montreal, accompanied by a Declaration in Favour of Gender Equality.

Spain and Canada are committed to defending international peace and global security. They are excellent partners at the multilateral level and work together within several institutions such as the United Nations (UN). Spain and Canada are active members of NATO and the two countries are active participants in a variety of multilateral peace and security operations, especially in the NATO multinational battle group in Latvia, led by Canada, and in the International Coalition against Daesh in Iraq.

Commercial relations, investment and innovation
Canada and Spain enjoy a stable trading relationship, which has entered into a new chapter with the entry into force of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). As a progressive trade agreement, CETA addresses or eliminates barriers in virtually all sectors and aspects of Canada-Spain bilateral trade, increases jobs and promotes new commercial opportunities for Canadian and Spanish businesses. Spain ratified CETA in December 2017.

The strength of the bilateral economic relationship lies in strong two-way investment and collaboration. Bilateral innovation and technological cooperation is facilitated through Horizon Europe and the international Eureka program, where organizations such as Canada’s National Research Council and Spain’s Centre for Industrial Technological Development (CDTI) support market-oriented joint projects.

Youth mobility, education and culture
Spain and Canada enjoy strong academic relations with more than 100 agreements between Canadian and Spanish universities. Spanish students increasingly choose Canada as a destination for their studies and the multiple agreements between Canadian and Spanish universities attest to the excellent collaboration between the two academic communities. Thanks to the bilateral Youth Mobility Agreement (2009), young Spaniards and Canadians have increasingly taken the opportunity to work and study in Canada and Spain respectively.

Spain also has Memorandums of Understanding with several provinces, including Alberta (2006), Manitoba (2014) and British Columbia (2016), to support Spanish-English bilingual education opportunities.

Spaniards have shown great interest in Canadian art and culture. Spanish editors translate and publish Canadian authors in Spain. Canadian visual and performing artists are regulars on the Spanish cultural scene. The Spanish film market is highly receptive to Canadian cinema. Collaboration in the audio-visual field between both countries is facilitated by the coproduction agreement between Canada and Spain in cinema, television and other audio-visual formats.

May 2021

W. H. Fraser
By reason of the recent death of Professor W. H. Fraser of the University of Toronto, Spanish studies have lost a staunch friend. Professor Fraser was born at Bond Head, Simcoe Co., Ont., in 1853. He prepared for the university at Bradford High School, and then, after several years of teaching in country schools, entered the University of Toronto. He was graduated in 1880 and soon after became master of French and German at Upper Canada College, Toronto. After a year of study passed abroad in 1886, Professor Fraser was appointed head of the department of Italian and Spanish in the University of Toronto. He had nearly completed 30 years of faithful and brilliant service in his alma mater when death called him, December 28, 1916.

Professor Fraser is best known in the United States as one of the authors of several very successful French and German grammars. It will therefore surprise many to learn that he had taught neither of these languages for over 30 years previous to his death. While his name was familiar to all Romance scholars, few in this country knew him intimately. He seldom attended the meetings of the Modern Language Association, and never contributed to technical journals. His interests were broad rather than specialized.

Teachers of Spanish should never forget that Professor Fraser was the first departmental head on this continent to organize a four year course in Spanish. This is the more remarkable because to this day no other Canadian university includes Spanish in its curriculum; the same is true, I believe, of all Canadian high schools. As an administrator his career was one long struggle, characterized by many disappointments, but rewarded with many conspicuous successes. His first task was to engage in newspaper propaganda to gain for his university adequate financial support from unwilling legislatures. Next he embarked in a campaign to secure for the modern languages their rightful place of equality with the traditional classic subjects. To the end of his life he was forced to contend to ensure a dignified status for the two “minor” languages which he professed. Education in Canada is bureaucratic, state-controlled. Admirable as this system is in many respects, it makes very difficult the task of the educational reformer. Entrenched conservatism is buttressed with acts of parliament. Only a popular demand can readily effect a change. Happily there are many signs of such a demand in Canada at present. Canada is experiencing a reflex of the vast interest in things Spanish now felt south of the line. Newspapers and politicians are beginning to clamor for more instruction in Spanish. Teachers’ meetings frequently discuss the question. Everything now indicates that Spanish has a bright future
in Canada. It will soon be taught in many secondary schools and then universities can no longer ignore it. The growing importance of Spanish in the mother country, too, works to the same end. (Leeds and the University of London have recently founded chairs of Spanish.) And when this result is brought to pass, no small part of it will be. due to the life work of Professor Fraser. Professor Fraser has many claims to gratitude on the part of modern language teachers. Teachers of Spanish will remember him as the pioneer of the Spanish movement in Canada.

University of Chicago
G. T. Northup

The Latin American Community in Canada
Canadian Cultural History about the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Arts & Culture in Canada
Canada's online shop for authentic Spanish food

Return to our History Page




This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.