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Egyptian Immigration to Alberta

Egypt, home to the Great Pyramids and other monuments erected by one of the world’s earliest civilizations, is located in the northeast corner of the African continent. Its large population of almost 75,000,000 makes it the second largest African and largest Arab nation.

Egypt’s history of immigration is new. Egyptians began arriving in Canada in the 1950s and did so in small numbers. Many of these earliest Egyptian immigrants, groups including Jews and Armenians, were ethnic minorities in their homeland. The slow pace of early immigration was not a reflection on Canada, but rather on Egypt: Egyptians were simply not immigrating to any country. In fact, during the 1960s, Canada was the most popular destination among Egyptians.

During the 1960s, Egyptian immigration began to accelerate. Many who left Egypt in the 1960s did so because, although they had achieved high levels of education and attained professional designations, they were unable to find work in their chosen disciplines. The only way for them to further their careers was to immigrate to countries such as Canada. Egyptian immigration was motivated more by political than by economic factors. Many Egyptians were upset at their country’s defeat to Israel in the Six Day War of 1967. In addition, having passed legislation allowing such things as dual citizenship, the Egyptian government began to make it easier for Egyptians to immigrate.

Immigration declined in the 1970s and early 1980s but saw an upswing in 1985 when Canada’s immigration policy changed to allow immigration by investors. Over the next six years, over 5,400 Egyptians entered Canada. More recently, immigration has continued to grow. In 2001, Egyptian immigrants numbering 2,578 represented the fourth largest source of Arab immigrants (behind Morocco, Algeria, and Iraq).

While many of the earlier Egyptian immigrants, because they spoke French as a second language, settled in Montréal, more recent immigration has focused on Toronto. In 2001, Alberta was Egyptians' third most popular choice behind Ontario and Québec. Most Egyptians have favoured Montréal and Toronto for several reasons: these cities’ boast the largest pre-existing Egyptian populations and their large cosmopolitan nature resembles that of Cairo and Alexandria.

For the most part, Egyptians have settled well into Canadian society. They have tended to arrive with professional degrees and have found work in their areas of specialization. However, since the attacks of September 11, 2001, many Egyptians have reported escalating discrimination, believing that non-Arabs lump all Arab or Muslim people into a single category or deems them terrorists.

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