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Politics

From: The Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples/Spaniards/

The political activity of the Spanish community has generally been limited. The low level of education of the first immigrants and their problems in adapting because of their lack of knowledge of French or English prevented them from playing much of a role, either individually or collectively. In addition, they had very little experience of democracy before they arrived in Canada since for decades the Franco dictatorship used both terror and propaganda to convince Spaniards that the best thing was not to become involved in politics. Social relations between the political refugees of the 1940s and those who emigrated later for economic reasons were often marked by tension and suspicion. The political inexperience of the immigrants and their caution around politics were only confirmed by the actions of Canadian immigration officials, who, at the height of the anti-Communist scare, refused admission to some Spaniards who were considered politically radical or subversive.

The most significant political activity dealing with the situation in Spain was the Canadian Committee for a Democratic Spain, which was founded in Toronto in 1971 following a notorious political trial in Spain in 1970; it survived until 1975. This organization was composed of a small number of university professors, artists, and professionals from the Spanish community as well as a much larger number of Canadians connected with the labour movement and the cultural world. The committee’s goal was to make the Canadian public and the Canadian government more aware of the repression that was taking place in Spain. In addition to publishing a newsletter between 1972 and 1975, the committee organized a number of events across the country, such as the Conference for Amnesty in Spain, which attracted participants from outside the country. However, with the exception of the elite group that helped organize it, the committee appears to have had little impact on the mass of the Spanish population in Canada.

The small size of the community has prevented it from developing a national presence or even a presence in defence of a clearly defined neighbourhood or locality. Thus the political role of the immigrants has been small; those who have become citizens are voters, of course, but they have not attracted the attention of the political parties as other, larger communities have. The occasional Spanish Canadian seeks political office: Ricardo López, who came to Montreal in 1964, was elected as a federal Member of Parliament in 1988.

There have been no studies of the political preferences of Spanish Canadians, but it appears that they tend to favour the Liberal Party. (On the other hand, Ricardo López was elected as a Progressive Conservative.) In Quebec, the Spaniards are strongly federalist and reject the sovereigntist options. This has been a polemical issue and has given rise to debates within some regional communities. Some of the Catalans in Montreal suggested the similarities between the case of Quebec and that of their native region in Spain and voted for the Parti Québécois and the Bloc Québécois, but the majority of the community rejected this argument and has continued to hold to the federalist position.