1890–1924. ORTHODOX COMMUNITIES IN CANADA
1890s: from their homelands lying within the Austro-Hungarian Empire immigrate to America a large number of Galicians, Bukovinians and Carpatho-Russians. Many of them eventually settle in Canada, particularly in the Western provinces, where large areas of land are still available for farming.
Bishop Nicholas (Ziorov) of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, the ruling bishop of the Russian Orthodox mission in North America with his see in San Francisco, receives since 1894 persistent requests for clergy from the Orthodox faithful in Canada’s Western provinces. He organizes missionary tours with priests from elsewhere in the diocese.
Fr.Dimitry Kamnev from Seattle celebrates what is believed to be the first Divine Liturgy on Canadian soil on June 12, 1897, at the village of Wostok near Edmonton in Alberta. Fr. Dimitry and his deacon, Vladimir Alexandrov, convert the entire population of Wostok – some 600 Galician Uniats – to Orthodoxy. In the same year, Bishop Nicholas becomes the first Orthodox Hierarch to visit Canada.
1900: By this year, priests from Minneapolis are able to make pastoral visits to parishes in Manitoba and Assiniboia (Saskatchewan) on a regular basis. On Sept. 1 Canada’s first permanent priest is appointed: Fr. Jacob Korchinsky sets up the St. Barbara mission in Edmonton and works at building up the body of Christ in Alberta.
1901: Bishop Tikhon (Bellavin) of the Aleutian Islands and North America consecrates three churches in Canada.
1903: Bishop Tikhon incorporates the Church in Alberta, Saskatchewan and the NWT.
1906: there are 18 parishes and three priests in Canada under the omophorion of the Russian Church – almost all the Orthodox in Canada.
Already there are immigrants from Russia in Vancouver.
1907: The parish of Sts Peter and Paul is founded in Montreal by Archbishop Platon (Rozhdestvensky) and Fr. Theophan Byketov. Later that year, Archbishop Platon takes over the duties of Archbishop of North America, with the see now in New York.
1906-1909: in the aftermath of the First Russian Revolution, a number of Russian political activists, fleeing the Tsar’s reprisals, settle in Vancouver. A social and political club exists in 1909-1918.
1914: with the beginning of hostilities in Europe, the call goes out across the country for volunteers in the military service. More than 2,000 Russian Canadians sign up. Fr. John Ovsyanitsky serves as chaplain to the battalion formed from these volunteers.
1916: Canada is established as a separate bishopric (Vikariatstvo) within the North American archdiocese. Bishop Alexander (Nemolovsky), the Vicar Bishop of Alaska responsible for overseeing Canadian affairs since 1913, is transferred to Holy Trinity Cathedral in Winnipeg, thus becoming the first resident bishop of the Orthodox Church in this country. He begins to convene councils of clergy and laity. The parish of Christ the Saviour is established in Toronto.
1917: after the downfall of the Tsar, All-Russian Church Council is convened in Moscow. Archbishop Evdokim appoints Bishop Alexander to administer the archdiocese in his absence. Archimandrite Adam Philipovsky is left in charge of the affairs of the Canadian bishopric. The Bolshevik coup later that year prevents Archbishop Evdokim’s return, and Canada is left without a bishop for ten years.
The Bolshevik seizure of power in North America is a major disaster for the Orthodox Church in North America, from which it never fully recovers. Suddenly there are no more clergy or funds coming from Russia, which results in hardship and calamitous disorganization.
1918: The disintegration of the Archdiocese into separate ethnic jurisdictions begins. It has 64 parishes and 47 clergy in Canada, including two Serbian, one Bulgarian, two Syrian and four Romanian parishes, the remainder being either Russian or Ukrainian. Already four Greek and six Romanian parishes are outside the Archdiocese. The Canadian bishopric is divided into four deaneries.
1919: the newly formed Ukrainian Greek-Orthodox Church of Canada breaks off its relationship with the Archdiocese and looks elsewhere for hierarchical protection.
1921: The Greek Archdiocese of North and South America is formed.
1922: Archbishop Alexander resigns his post and returns to Europe. The Third All-American Council confirms Metropolitan Platon as head of the Archdiocese. The final approval from Patriarch Tikhon comes a year later.
1918-1926: waves of anti-Bolshevik refugees come to America and Canada. Over 100 families make their way to Vancouver.
1924: the Fourth All-American Council declares the North American archdiocese “temporarily autonomous” until such time as normal relations with the Mother Church can be restored.
The Patriarchate of Antioch founds a North American diocese and gradually unites the Syrian-Arabic parishes with itself.
The first Divine Liturgy is served in Vancouver, B.C. on Sept. 14 at the local YMCA by Archimandrite Antonin Pokrovsky.