by Anna Bratulic
Theres more to modern Greek culture than souvlaki. That
was the feeling expressed by the audience at the second in an annual lecture
series organized by Concordias Hellenic Studies Unit.
Some in the audience, which included Liberal MNA Christos Sirros and consul-general
of Greece in Montreal Ioannis Papadopoulos, wondered aloud whether Greek
culture in Canada had dwindled to a few quaint, ethnically-tinged activities
such as eating souvlaki or attending popular bouzouki nights.
The lecture, Social Changes and the Prospects of Hellenism in Canada,
was given by Dr. Peter Chimbos, professor of sociology at the University
of Western Ontario. He outlined the chances for survival of the culture
and institutions that Greek immigrants brought with them or established
when they first settled here over 100 years ago.
Adaptability to change
Chimboss reflections on the subject were not as bleak as some would
expect, he said. Even though second- and third-generation members of ethnic
groups lose a certain tie to the mother country, Canadas Greek community,
as well as other ethnic groups who are in the same boat, has managed to
retain its identity very well. There are an estimated 80,000 people of
Greek descent in Montreal alone. Concordia claims 1,500 among its student
Ethnic groups are affected by social and democratic changes in society,
but at the same time are capable of revealing both adaptability and resistance
to change, Chimbos said. Furthermore, members of ethnic groups
can experience upward social mobility without being assimilated, without
losing their ethnic identity, contradicting the assimilation theorists
who claim that if you are to climb up in the social structure, you are
to assimilate first.
The biggest threat to the survival of Hellenism in Canada, he said, is
a combination of several factors including a steady decline in Greek immigrants
to Canada, inter-marriage, and a de-emphasis on the philosophy of multiculturalism.
Teaching younger-generation Greek Canadians to speak their native tongue
at an early age can be a very potent anti-assimilation force.
Concordia is doing its part to preserve Hellenism in Canada by increasing
the number of Greek-based courses offered at the university and by trying
to extend academic cooperation with universities in Athens. Rector Frederick
Lowy is planning to visit Athens in May to do just that.
The coordinator of the Hellenic Studies Unit, Communication Studies Professor
Nikos Metallinos, said that right now Concordia is working with McGill
and the Université de Montréal to set up the Montreal Interuniversity
Centre for Neo-Hellenic Studies, which would offer bachelors and
masters degrees in Hellenic studies. Funding is coming from a variety
of public and private sources, including the government of Greece, which
has donated $500,000.
What Im trying to do is establish a strong basis of Hellenic-related
subjects in our university in order to meet the demands of the Interuniversity
Centre, Metallinos said. Again this year, the Hellenic Studies Unit
plans to offer a summer class in Greece.
As well as Professor Metallinos, the Hellenic Studies Units advisory
committee comprises Paris Arnopoulos (professor emeritus, Political Science),
Andreas K. Athienitis and Ted Stathopoulos (both from the Centre for Building
Studies), Stylianos Perrakis (Finance), Georgios Vatistas (Mechanical
Engineering) and Christos Katsafadis (president, Hellenic Students Association).
The next lecture in the 2002 Hellenic Studies Unit lecture series is
Greece and the Balkans, by Dr. Thanos Veremis of Tufts University,
on April 26 at 7 p.m. in Room H-767. For more information, contact Professor
Nikos Metallinos at 848-2536.