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Politics

From: The Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples/Croats/Anthony W. Rasporich

Political life among the Croatian Canadians has been affected by the changing status of Croatia. During periods of intense conflict, such as World War II and its aftermath, many emigré Croats foreswore any involvement in the politics of the homeland and instead immersed themselves in the political life of their adopted countries. The second and third generations born in Canada were more likely to choose this latter course as a natural outcome of their acculturation and tended to follow the example of their Croatian-American counterparts, who have been highly visible at all levels of American politics.

The first period of political participation and involvement came with the inter-war communities and was divided between the Croatian Peasant Party (Hrvatska Seljačka Stranka [HSS]), whose founding convention was held in Toronto in 1932, and the Communist Party, which was founded in the 1920s and whose organizing efforts among South Slavs began in 1930. In essence, the political activities of the Peasant Party were closely tied to Petar Stankovic’s Croatian Voice and the organizational activities of Franjo Duralija and Ivan Herceg. The Communist Party organization was undertaken first by Tomo Čačić and then, after his arrest and deportation, by Petar Žapkar and Edvard Jardas as editors of Borba from 1930 to 1936. An additional complication was that during the 1930s the Peasant and Communist parties were in competition and conflict with the officially sponsored political activities of the Yugoslav monarchy and its organizations, notably the Yugoslav-Canadian associations. Their official newspaper, Glas Kanade (Voice of Canada), was founded in 1934 but was effective only in Montreal and Toronto. The Croatian Peasant Party had branches in every Croatian community in Canada. Women’s organizations (Hrvatska Žena) provided cultural and educational services. The Communist Party was stronger among single male sojourners and the unemployed, several of whom fought in the Spanish Civil War with the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, including Tomo Čačić, who had been deported from Canada in 1934 as a subversive, and Edvard Jardas, a strike organizer and journalist with Borba. Both eventually served with Tito’s partisans. Some found a place in post-war Yugoslavia; 1,900 Croats left Canada in 1947 and 1948 as povratnici (returnees).

Conservative and nationalist émigrés founded Ujedinjeni Kanadski Hrvati (United Croats of Canada) in 1950 and Hrvatski Oslobodilacki Pokret (Croatian Liberation Movement) in 1960. The newspapers that gave voice to Croatian national aspirations at this time included Naš put/Our Way (Toronto, 1962–72, renamed Hrvatski put/Croatian Way; Toronto, 1972–?), and Nezavisna Država Hrvatska/Independent State of Croatia (Toronto, 1960–71), published by the United Croats of Canada. Such activities were often denounced by the Yugoslav consulate and occasionally by the Canadian government.

Three ministers in the post-1991 independent government of Croatia were Canadian Croats: Gojko Šušak, of Ottawa, minister of the interior and later of defence; Ivica Mudrinić of Toronto, minister of transport and communications; and Ante Beljo of Sudbury, president of the Institute Matica Iseljenika. The Canadian-Croatian Business and Professional Association of Toronto, and its president, Anton Kikas, offered material and moral support for the new regime.

Croats served in elective office in Canada too. David Stupich of Nanaimo was elected to the British Columbia legislature in 1963 (NDP cabinet minister, 1973–75) and to the federal Parliament in 1988. Federal Liberal candidates have included Mladen Giunio-Zorkin of Nanaimo (1968), John Boras (1978) and Robert Grbavac of Lethbridge (1988), and Krsto Mostovac of Montreal (1984). In Alberta, Peter Sekulic was elected in 1993 as a Liberal member of the provincial legislature. In Ontario, Conservative Joseph Mavrinac ran unsuccessfully for Parliament in 1962 and for the provincial legislature in 1967; he did serve, however, as mayor of Kirkland Lake for the next twelve years. Frank Krznaric served four terms on the Timmins city council, 1981–89 and 1991–93. Among post-war immigrants, Liberal John Sola of Mississauga became a member of the Ontario legislature in 1987. Anne Markovich-Hemingway was president of the New Democratic Party in Alberta in 1977. The federal election of 1993 produced four successful Croatian-Canadian candidates: Janko Peric (Liberal-Cambridge); Jan Brown (Reform–Calgary Southeast); Roseanne Skoke (Liberal–Central Nova Scotia); and Allan Kerpan (Reform–Moose Jaw–Lake Centre, Saskatchewan).