The Hungarian-Canadian Émigré Press, the Political Immigration and     Conflict with Hungary, 1956-1989

Christopher Adam
Presented on November 13, 2008, in Lublin (Poland)

Hungary’s Foreign Ministry was keenly interested in the political activities of Canada’s sizeable Hungarian immigration, especially following the suppression of the 1956 Revolution, when more than 38,000 refugees were offered asylum by Canadian authorities. Yet the Foreign Ministry’s purpose went far beyond simply collecting information on political, cultural and social events organized by Hungarian-Canadian professional associations, fraternal benefit societies, newspapers and other community groups. Hungary’s Foreign Ministry, along with the state security agency, aimed to exacerbate existing ideological divisions among these immigrants and, at the very least, locate potentially “friendly” elements and encourage them to step into contact with Hungary. The Hungarian Embassy in Ottawa and the World Federation of Hungarians served as the main vehicles behind this venture.  While in the early fifties and sixties Hungarian authorities tried to use Canada’s Hungarian Communist émigré community—which had been a powerful political force during the interwar period—government officials soon realized that this cohort had become sectarian, lacked the will to involve left-leaning refugees after the 1956 Revolution in the movement and was ultimately suspicious of Hungary’s Communists.

Public archives in both Canada and Hungary offer rich material on Hungarian Canadian communities and their political activities. Furthermore, much of this documentation has not previously been researched in any detail. The largest collection of material on immigrant communities is available in Ottawa, at the National Archives of Canada, and these include the unpublished materials of four major weekly newspapers, as well as smaller, private collections. In addition to this Canadian documentation, two archives in Budapest, Hungary also house significant collections on Canadian Hungarians. These include reports and other documents created by the Hungarian Embassy in Ottawa and Hungary’s Foreign Ministry, both of which monitored the activities of what they labeled as “friendly” and “enemy” émigré communities and press organs. Other material stored at the Hungarian National Archives includes the papers of the World Federation of Hungarians, as well as personal collections of the most politically active immigrants. Additionally, the Historical Archives of Hungarian State Security (ÁBTL) preserves a significant number of files relating to agents who had been sent to Canada, in order to collect information the country’s political émigrés. This paper is a synthesis of material stored at the National Archives of Canada, as well as at the Hungarian National Archives in Budapest, and the ÁBTL.  By examining unpublished, primary sources preserved at these three institutions, the paper shows how Hungarian authorities went beyond simply amassing information on Hungarian-Canadians, but actually aimed to deepen already existing divisions, in order to disrupt their anti-Communist political activities.