Just prior to Chri­st­mas 2021, Eto­bi­co­ke-Lake­sho­re MPP Chri­sti­ne Hogarth tabled legi­sla­tion that pas­sed in Ontario’s Legi­sla­tu­re reco­gni­zing the Polish-Onta­rian community’s histo­ric con­tri­bu­tion to buil­ding our pro­vin­ce. Roy­al Assent was given by Ontario’s Lieu­te­nant-Gover­nor, Eli­sa­beth Dowd­swell, on Thurs­day Decem­ber 10, 2021, which fore­ver esta­bli­shes May as Polish Heri­ta­ge Month in Onta­rio. Polish Heri­ta­ge Month is an oppor­tu­ni­ty to edu­ca­te Onta­rians abo­ut the hard­ships that Polish Onta­rians went thro­ugh to achie­ve the­ir liber­ty and under­sco­re the signi­fi­can­ce of the Polish Cana­dian com­mu­ni­ty in Ontario’s history.

This Bill was the first pie­ce of legi­sla­tion reco­gni­zing Polish Heri­ta­ge Month in the histo­ry of Onta­rio. Accor­ding to the 2016 cen­sus, some 524,000 Polish Cana­dians call Onta­rio home. That is far more than any other pro­vin­ce. Onta­rio is home to near­ly 524,000 Polish Cana­dians, who have lived in Onta­rio ever sin­ce the 19th cen­tu­ry. Sin­ce then, people of Polish heri­ta­ge have made signi­fi­cant con­tri­bu­tions to a wide ran­ge of Ontario’s socie­ty, eco­no­my, poli­tics, sports, scien­ce, and cul­tu­re. Near­ly 12,000 live in Eto­bi­co­ke-Lake­sho­re alone.

An exam­ple of the deep roots of the Polish dia­spo­ra in Onta­rio is found in the town­ship of Wil­no in Ren­frew Coun­ty, Onta­rio. Most of the ori­gi­nal set­tlers in the area came aro­und 1858 from the Polish cul­tu­ral region of Kashu­bia. Today the area rema­ins vibran­tly rooted in Polish cul­tu­re with many Polish sco­uting camps loca­ted the­re. Inte­re­stin­gly, World War 2 Polish figh­ter ace Jan Zuro­kow­ski and later AVRO Arrow test pilot, made his home in Barry’s Bay. The set­tle­ment was esta­bli­shed in 1864.

One of the most famo­us Polish immi­grants to Onta­rio is Sir Casi­mir Gzow­ski. Casi­mir was an engi­ne­er and a lawy­er by tra­ining. He was signi­fi­cant in buil­ding Onta­rio and Canada’s rail network, the Wel­land Canal and Yon­ge Stre­et to name just a few major pro­jects. He was also the first com­mis­sio­ner of the Nia­ga­ra Parks Com­mis­sion and Acting Lieu­te­nant Gover­nor of Onta­rio. Rele­vant to the events of the pre­sent day, Sir Casi­mir fought in the Novem­ber revo­lu­tion aga­inst Rus­sian aggres­sion in the Polish upri­sing of the 1830–31. When the upri­sing was defe­ated, Casi­mir came to the US and then ulti­ma­te­ly Canada.

reklama

The Polish people have a long histo­ry of demo­cra­tic chan­ge and one of the key events in May com­me­mo­ra­tes Con­sti­tu­tion Day in Poland. This was the imple­men­ta­tion of the first demo­cra­tic and pro­gres­si­ve con­sti­tu­tion in Euro­pe on May 3rd 1791. This is the one of the most impor­tant dates in Poland’s histo­ry and marks the cen­tu­ries long strug­gle for fre­edom and inde­pen­den­ce by the Polish people. This applies espe­cial­ly to Polish-Onta­rians, who­se ance­stors fought for liber­ty whi­le resi­sting cen­tu­ries of inva­sion and aggres­sion inc­lu­ding most recen­tly in the last cen­tu­ry aga­inst Nazi and Soviet occupation.

“One reason I ente­red public life was to safe­gu­ard Ontario’s demo­cra­tic tra­di­tion,” Hogarth said, when tabling An Act to Proc­la­im the Month of May as Polish Heri­ta­ge Month. Poland has always had a demo­cra­tic tra­di­tion and a desi­re for fre­edom. This histo­ry inspi­red me as I came to know the many accom­pli­sh­ments and con­tri­bu­tions of Polish-Onta­rians to the diver­se cul­tu­ral and eco­no­mic fabric of this pro­vin­ce. Polish Heri­ta­ge Month will justly hono­ur the­se contributions.”

Hogarth noted that her riding is home to seve­ral Polish Catho­lic chur­ches, to Polish Cul­tu­ral orga­ni­za­tion Polish Natio­nal Union in Cana­da inc­lu­ding the Con­su­la­te of the Repu­blic of Poland. “I am very pro­ud to have made this bill a reali­ty on behalf of the Polish-Onta­rian com­mu­ni­ty in my riding and inde­ed across Onta­rio,” Hogarth conc­lu­ded. “This May and eve­ry May after­ward, all of Onta­rio will sha­re in the cele­bra­tion of Polish Heritage.”