"Canada’s Churches and the Reception and Integration of Hungarian Refugees, 1956-57.”

Hungarian Studies Association of Canada (HSAC)
      York University (Toronto)
      Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences
      May 2006

This paper examines the attitudes of Canadian churches and faith communities to the arrival of nearly 40,000 Hungarians to Canada between November 1956 and June 1957. The essay explains the outreach efforts of various denominations--including both Hungarian-Canadian and English and French communities--with an emphasis on the activities of the Catholic Church, the United Church of Canada and Jewish congregations.

Tending to the needs of tens of thousands of refugees and offering various social welfare programs was a daunting task, especially for Canada's existing Hungarian churches and congregations. Nevertheless, the arrival of such a large wave of Hungarians brought with it the promise of renewal for stagnating communities. For some French-Canadian Catholics--most notably for the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society-- Hungarian refugees also meant the introduction to Québec of a significant non-Catholic, 'alien' population and this prospect caused a degree of consternation.

This paper presents the different approaches applied by various religious communities to the problem of first accepting and then integrating Hungarian refugees after the failed 1956 revolution. The paper also offers a comparative study between the attitudes of the generally conservative Catholic establishment, the traditionally more liberal and multicultural United Church of Canada and Jewish communities in Montreal and Toronto.

Christopher Adam