At 4 a.m. on a cold winter morning, a thousand-year-old Swiss tradition is brought to life as masked revellers parade through city streets with fifers and noisy drums to wake the neighbourhood. The Basel Carnivale, held on the Sunday closest to February 28, originally celebrated the departure of mercenary soldiers from Switzerland. Toronto’s participants, members of the Canadysli carnival group, warm up from the brisk morning parade in Etobicoke by eating quiche and a traditional hearty soup.
Although they are a small community in Toronto, with only 3,500 members, the Swiss have played a role in Canada’s history. Swiss soldiers served in Acadia in 1604, and pioneer Sebastian Fryfogel (1791–1873) is credited with opening the Huron Tract east of Lake Huron. The Swiss are one of the oldest ethnic communities in Ontario, dating back to 1786 when a group of Swiss-born Mennonites left Pennsylvania and moved into York, Niagara, and Waterloo counties. Other early settlements included Zurich, Ontario, named after the Swiss city and founded in 1856 by a group of farmers from Berne.
Most of the early settlers who came to Toronto and the surrounding areas were agricultural workers and dairy farmers. In 1918, the Swiss Club of Toronto was formed to provide cultural, social, and recreational activities for special-interest groups. Today, members of the Swiss Rifle Club still practise traditional Swiss shooting exercises using single-shot rifles.
A wave of immigration between 1960 and 1974 brought Swiss professionals to Canada, many contributing to trade, industry, and banking. In Toronto, hotel administrators and chefs have bolstered the reputation of the city’s hospitality and tourism industry. Swiss-born academics and professors lecture at the city’s universities, and in the towers of Toronto’s financial centres, world-renowned Swiss banks have established offices.
CREDIT SUISSE FIRST BOSTON, (Tel. 416-352-4600, 100 King St. W).
UBS BANK (CANADA), (Tel. 416-343-1800, 154 University Ave., Suite 800).
NATIONAL DAY. Cultural events, speeches, dancing, and singing highlight the celebrations on National Day, August 1. Switzerland existed as a confederation as early as 1291, although it was not officially named until 1803. In 1988, on the 70th anniversary of the Swiss Club of Toronto, joint festivities were held with National Day that included a barbecue in the countryside as well as a huge celebration in the CNE.
GRUEMPELTOURNIER (SOCCER TOURNAMENT) is held every summer for members of the Swiss Club and their family and friends.
SWISS RADIO, CHIN 100.7 FM, (Tel. 416-531-9991, 622 College St). Saturday, 6:30 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. Host: Markus Rickli.
TELL TALE, (Tel. 416-733-1827, Fax 416-733-7663, 238 Willowdale Ave), is delivered free to the members of the Swiss Club. Publisher: Heidy Lawrance.
THE SWISS CLUB TORONTO, which meets in various locations, is the largest and oldest Swiss organization in the city, with more than 500 members. President: Erika Tiéche, (Tel. 416-424-4661).
Groups that belong to the Swiss Club include:
AMICALE ROMANDE, (Tel. 416-488-6493). Contact: Jean-Marc Velen.
BOWLING, (Tel. 905-634-3824). Contact: Doug Gross.
FIVE-PIN BOWLING, (Tel. 905-837-0455). Contact: Erika Roth.
GYMNASTICS, (Tel. 416-534-5141). Contact: Suzi Hubler.
JASS SECTION, (Tel. 905-513-1825). Contact: Albert Lenz.
MEN’S GROUP, (Tel. 416-493-8025). Contact: Arno Sigrist.
SWISS RIFLE CLUB, (Tel. 905-707-0243). Contact: Heinz Vollenweider.
WOMEN’S SECTION, (Tel. 416-223-7257). Contact: Elizabeth Walder.
YOUNG SWISS, (Tel. 416-593-4323). Contact: Daniel Kobler.
YODEL CHOIR, (Tel. 416-249-2076). Contact: Urs Doerig.