Politics and Intergroup Relations

From: The Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples/Romanians/G. James Patterson

Most of the Romanians emigrating to Canada opposed the governments under which they had lived. In Hungarian-ruled Transylvania, the conservative Magyar gentry exploited the Romanian peasants, forcing many to emigrate. Similar exploitation occurred in Austrian Bukovina, where the landlords were Romanian. Post-World War II emigrants left a war-torn and Communist Romania, in which life became increasingly difficult and totalitarian in the 1980s.

The new immigrants have avoided politics, although subsequent generations and more advanced levels of education have eased this tendency. Gradually some Romanian Canadians have begun joining political parties, and a few have gained elected positions. Tony Ruprecht has been a member of the Ontario legislature. Most Romanians were attracted to Canadian parties that denounced communism. Many second-generation Romanians are relatively conservative, perhaps reflecting their hard-won status in Canada; their children tend to be slightly more liberal. Few internal political structures or group movements exist. Toronto is home to the press bureau of King Michael, pretender to Romania’s throne. Since the revolution of 1989 in Romania, a few immigrants have returned to take positions in the new post-Communist government.

Romanian Canadians are generally not part of the “power structure” of Canadian society, but neither are they alienated from it, and they interact positively on occasion as needed with those in power. Many feel some kinship with other Eastern Orthodox groups, such as Bulgarians, Greeks, Russians, Serbs, and Ukrainians. Some Ukrainians and Romanians on the prairies intermarried in the early years and attended the same Romanian Orthodox or Ukrainian Orthodox churches.

Romanians have often thought of their country as a “Latin island in a sea of Slavs.” They have generally not been friendly with the Hungarians, because of centuries-old animosity, with Hungary ruling Transylvania and discriminating against ethnic Romanians in the decades before World War I, and Romania controlling the region after the war, and similarly oppressing its Hungarian minority.

Minorities from Romania such as the Gypsies and Jews seem to have recently had strained relationships with their ethnic Romanian neighbours in Canada – a change from the situation earlier. For example, Romanian Orthodox Christians and Romanian Jews in Toronto have differed over anti-Semitism in Romania, even though the early Bukovinian Jews in Lipton, Saskatchewan, generally interacted well with Romanian Orthodox settlers, with whom they had a lot in common.

Accommodation with the larger society in Canada occurred early on the part of Romanian immigrants, and such patterns continue among the newly arrived. Postwar immigrants were conversant in French and often in English and wanted to acculturate, grateful to be free of homeland problems. Third- and fourth-generation Canadians of Romanian descent from a small town in Alberta may not seem very Romanian to a recent immigrant living among Romanians in Montreal but may well identify their ancestral heritage as Romanian.