Canada announced today that it had dropped visa requirements for Estonian citizens. Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said he was pleased that Canada had taken the long-awaited step. "We hope the visa-free regime will soon be extended to other new member states of the European Union as well," he said.
The minister gave recognition to the EU's executive commission, whose efforts helped bring about the visa facilitation. Canadian Immigration Minister Monte Solberg said the decision would help develop the relations between the two countries.
"Canada has the largest community of Estonians outside Estonia, and we enjoy strong trade and tourism ties," the minister was quoted as saying by AFP news agency. "This decision will help build on that relationship."
According to the Canadian government, four-fifths of all Estonian immigrants in Canada arrived shortly after World War II. Between 1947 and 1960, 14,310 Estonians immigrated, 11,370 of them between 1948 and 1951. Eighty thousand political refugees left Estonia in 1944 for Sweden and Germany and from there re-emigrated to other countries, including Canada. More than 9,000 moved to Canada from West Germany, about 4,000 from Sweden, and about 1,000 from other countries.
Most were allowed into Canada as contractual laborers, but they later moved to Toronto, Montreal, Hamilton, and Vancouver. From Sweden, Estonians immigrated directly to Montreal or Toronto. Estonian communities formed in urban Canada; the largest, in Toronto, contained about half of all Estonians in Canada. Montreal's had 3,000, and Vancouver's 1,500. In the 1991 census only 21,255 people considered themselves wholly (12,940) or partially (8,315) of Estonian ethnicity.