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The Methodist Church and Ukrainians in Canada, 1901–1925: A Study in Assimilation Policy

Description: CIUS Seminar Audio Part 1 and 2. Part 2 audio begins at 4:45.

The seminar, "The Methodist Church and Ukrainians in Canada, 1901-1925: A Study in Assimilation Policy," was given by Vivian Olender on October 23. Anglo-Celtic Canadians at the turn of the twentieth century believed Canada should develop as a homogeneous, white Anglo-Saxon and Protestant (WASP) nation; the concept of a pluralistic and multicultural society was incomprehensible. Ukrainian immigrants, in particular, were treated as members of an inferior race and culture. During this period Canadian Methodists believed WASP culture to be the Christian culture, and their church to be Church of Christ . Thus religious sanction was given to both the superiority of WASP culture and the prevailing prejudice against Ukrainians. In Methodist literature of the period, Ukrainians are described as "dirty, unkempt, and unlettered children." Ukrainians are similar in appearance to Anglo-Celts but "most of them are shorter and stouter and maybe more dark faces." They also wear a "strange attire of innumerable layers" so that it is difficult to distinguish the men from the women.

An extensive programme of home missions was established in Ukrainian bloc settlements on the prairies to preach the gospel of salvation by assimilation and adoption of WASP, middle-class values. Methodists concentrated on the Ukrainians because they belonged to the inferior Slavic race and were members of a decadent church. Second, Ukrainians immigrated in large numbers and were highly visible in their traditional peasant clothes. Third and most important, Ukrainians settled in large bloc colonies which hindered assimilation. Methodists were concerned that the unassimilated Ukrainians would use the power of their vote to bring Canada down to the Ukrainian level.

Converts who joined the Methodist church were alienated from their fellow Ukrainians because they were compelled to accept the WASP lifestyle and with it, a condemnation of Ukrainian culture. Ukrainians considered these individuals to be traitors. Ironically, the main result of the Methodist home mission programme was to reinforce the identification of Ukrainian ethnicity with the Ukrainian Catholic or Orthodox churches.

Found in CIUS Newsletter Vol 3 Issue 1 (Winter 1978)
Author: CIUS
Publisher: CIUS
Date: October 23, 1978
Contributor: Vivian Olender
Language: English, Ukrainian
Original Format: Magnetic tape, audio cassette

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CIUS, “The Methodist Church and Ukrainians in Canada, 1901–1925: A Study in Assimilation Policy,” CIUS-Archives, accessed July 16, 2020, https://cius-archives.ca/items/show/1971.
Unless otherwise noted, this work is subject to a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license .