Czech Refugees in Cold War Canada

Reviewed by Dave Baxter

Posted July 28, 2020

Tens of thousands of Czech refugees left their homeland and came to Canada during the Cold War. Once they got here, many of those same refugees organized and worked to put their fingers on the scales of politics in this country.

Author and historian Jan Raska’s own family left Czechoslovakia in 1985 in search of what he says was “a better life and greater economic opportunities elsewhere.” In his book Czech Refugees in Cold War Canada, he explains that many Czech immigrants who came to Canada between 1945 and 1989 brought with them strong democratic and anti-communist values.

Along with those values came skills at political organization. Czech newcomers, Raska suggests, formed organizations “in which they could attempt to influence developments in their homeland and Canadian foreign policy towards Czechoslovakia.”

The book tells how Czech refugees and the Canadian government often worked in lockstep, with Canadian authorities advancing the refugees’ anti-communist agenda and the refugees supporting “Canada’s Cold War agenda of preventing communist infiltration.” Raska explains that “they lobbied their fellow citizens for political support in returning a parliamentary democracy to Czechoslovakia while strengthening democratic values in Canada.


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This article originally appeared in the August-September 2020 issue of Canada’s History.

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