Press Backgrounder: The Refugees of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution


When Soviet troops marched on Budapest in 1956 to crush a revolution that sought political reform and independence from the Soviet Union, thousands of Hungarians fled to safety in neighbouring nations. Many of these people would then emigrate elsewhere to settle permanently. With the support of its population, in 1956 and 1957 Canada received more than 37,500 of these Hungarian refugees. Spurred on by popular sympathy for the refugees, the federal government worked in cooperation with non-profit organizations to quickly select, transport, and resettle people, a process which established an important model for the reception of future refugees to Canada. Hungarian refugees settled across the country, with many choosing to live in Toronto, Vancouver, Montréal, and other urban centres, where they made significant contributions to economic and cultural life.

The influx of Hungarian refugees into Canada contributed significantly to Canadian society, particularly to its cultural diversity. It fueled a cultural movement that saw an increase in social clubs, artistic performance, new publications, and sporting events based in the Hungarian community. During this time, Hungarian Canadians emerged with a renewed pride in their ancestry. Furthermore, the thousands of Hungarian refugees, many of whom were young and educated, contributed to the expansion of Canada’s economy by contributing their skills to the Canadian workforce. In addition, this large immigration wave from an Eastern Bloc country led the way for other movements from Communist countries.

Moved by the Hungarian refugee situation, the public quickly rallied to their cause, prompting the government to do everything it could to help with their resettlement. Their arrival also helped Canadians adopt a more positive attitude toward immigration and transformed Canadian immigration policies.

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