Shortly after World War II – more specifically, during second half of the 1940s and throughout the 1950s, Canada received some 100,000 immigrants from the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (about an equal number from Estonia and Latvia, somewhat more from Lithuania). They had fled their beloved homeland ahead of the oncoming Soviet army; and they did not wish to return home when the war had ended, to be made citizens of the Soviet Union against their will. Many of them had managed to escape across the Baltic Sea to Sweden; for others, the escape route went through a number of DP (displaced-person) camps in Germany. In the end, members of both groups were the lucky ones – they received immigration visas to Canada and landed soon at its shores and begun to build new home in Canada!
Owing to the reason for leaving their birth-homeland, many of them remained strongly motivated to helping their brothers and sisters left behind and – by then – had been incorporated against their will into the Soviet Union. This wish to help their compatriots back home placed an extra burden on the Baltic newcomers to Canada, over and above the usual problems associated with starting life in a new and unfamiliar land. They took upon themselves, to:
- Keep alive their national heritage and culture; to build on it and share its fruits with rest of the multicultural Canada;
- Make sure the free world is made fully aware of the real political and socio-economic conditions in their occupied birth-homelands, and to appeal to the Western nations for political support in finding a way to end the Soviet occupation in the Baltics.
As is noted in the introductory section, the mid-1900 newcomers to Canada from the three Baltic countries had strong motivation to preserve their national heritage and to help their compatriots in occupied homelands to regain freedom. In order to recruit Canada’s political support in this – especially for the second task – it was necessary for them to assist the Canadian Government and its people with receiving full information about the real political and socio-economic conditions in the occupied Baltics (as distinct from the “information” provided by the soviets to West at the time). For this, each of the three Baltic communities in Canada – in addition to founding their various religious, ethno-cultural, cultural and youth organizations in major centres throughout Canada – also founded their central sociopolitical organizations.
Thus, the Estonian Central Council in Canada, Latvian National Federation in Canada, and Lithuanian-Canadian Community were born in Toronto in the late 1940s. Even though the names of these organizations went through some changes in the early years of their existence, their purpose and operational aims have remained basically unchanged over the six decades since their founding.
In the interest of increasing effectiveness of their message to rest of Canada, the three Baltic central socio-political organizations decided to combine themselves into an umbrella organization that could speak for all of them, when needed. In the first edition of a multi volume Works on Estonians in Canada (“Eestlased Kanadas I”), Enn Salurand, Secretary General of the Estonian Central Council writes that upon arrival of the Lithuanian Consul General V. Gylis in Toronto in 1949, the Baltic Federation in Canada (“BFC”) was founded in Toronto the same year. For the Estonian community, its BFC founding father was banker Artur Ekbaum; and for the Latvians, it was Reverend A. Lusis.