Swiss Communities in Canada
Swiss Mercenaries working for the French arrived on the island of St. Coix in 1604. The most prominent Swiss immigrant in 17th-century New France was Jacques Bizard (1642-92), a mercenary who in 1672 arrived as aide-de-camp to the Comte de Frontenac.
Swiss merchants and pioneers were granted lands in 1665 at Le Grand Anse. Known today as La Pocatière, Qué, it is still popularly known as "Le canton des Suisses."
Canada has been a destination for Swiss emigration since the 17th century.
Switzerland opened its first consulate in Montreal in 1875 and established diplomatic relations with Canada in 1945.
Unlike other Europeans, a very low proportion of Swiss arrived in Canada before 1971 with nearly 85% arrived after 1971.
Canada is a country founded on agriculture and it was built largely by immigrants and the children of immigrants. Canadian agricultural statistics 2001 show more than two-thirds of Swiss immigrant farmers are in Ontario and Quebec, predominately in the dairy industry.
The Swiss franc began its climb to a very favorable exchange rate in the early seventies, making Canadian land a bargain by comparison. Swiss farmers in Canada report that Canada’s topography is much more conducive to farming.
Post World War Two the majority of Swiss immigrants were professional and entrepreneurial individuals, the majority of whom went into urban centers. Provincial capitals had their own Swiss clubs, associations and publications.
Ilona Shulman Spaar is the author of "Swiss Immigration to Canada" commissioned by the Consulate General of Canada in Vancouver on it's 100th anniversary. Published in 2013.
The book covers Swiss pioneers, colonies and group settlements, club life, economic life, academia, arts and artists, and more.
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In the 1850s, gold miner and businessman George Stelli became the first Swiss to settle in the province of British Columbia. Other Swiss followed including legendary Swiss mountain guides brought their mountaineering skills and expertise in mountain rescue and avalanche safety to Canada in the early 1900's. Filmmaker Josias Tschanz, Swiss-Canadian, was commissioned by the Consulate General of Vancouver to make a documentary on the guides as part of the mission's 100 year celebrations.