SCCC Swiss Canadian Chamber of Commerce (Ontario)

SUISSE news Fall 2018 / August 2018

Swiss National Day on August 1
Beat Guldimann

The Swiss National Day on August 1, 2018 was a special occasion; at least for Swiss living in Toronto. The first ever raising of the Swiss National flag took place in the heart of Toronto. Here is the speech delivered for this celebration by our Honorary Consul Beat Guldimann as well as some photos of this special event.

Dear fellow Swiss and friends of Switzerland,

A heartfelt Grüezi to all of you; willkommen, bienvenues, benvenuti and benveni to the first ever raising of the Swiss flag at Toronto City Hall in celebration of our National Day!

My name is Beat Guldimann, Honorary Consul of Switzerland in Toronto. I am passing on greetings from the Swiss Ambassador in Ottawa, Beat Nobs, and the Consul General in Montreal, Elisabeth Boesch-Malinen, who are both engaged in events in their respective cities today.

First off, I would like to thank the City of Toronto, represented today by Councillor Jim Karygiannis, for lending the City Flagpole to the Swiss community for the day. The City’s generosity is a testament to how Toronto values its immigrant population and how we embrace multi-culturalism in this wonderful city!

Today marks the 727th year since 1291, when a handful of gutsy Swiss patriots rose against the rule of the Habsburgs. Legend has it that on August 1st, 1291, the leaders of the three founding Cantons first swore the oath of confederation on a scenic meadow rising above Lake Lucerne called “The Rütli”. 

This oath was one of defending freedom from oppression, and of fearing God while believing in the power of mankind. The slogan “Live Free or Die” never made it on the licence plates of Swiss cars, as it did in New Hampshire, but it was the glue that brought 20 more Cantons to this highly successful experiment of freedom and self-determination over half a millennium. 

2018 is an important year for the Swiss in Toronto as it marks the 100th Anniversary of the Swiss Club of Toronto. It was 1918 when a small group of  Swiss living in Toronto founded a Swiss Club. The end of the First World War was near, the Roaring Twenties were ahead. Canada represented open spaces, resources, land in abundance to farm on, opportunity. This is what brought Swiss folks over here 100 years ago and it still is the case today.

A hundred years later it takes some imagination to consider the courage it took Swiss immigrants to leave their homeland and cross the Atlantic. There was no daily flight from Zurich to Pearson. Getting here was painful, costly and risky. And Toronto was not the center of the Canadian universe (as we sometimes believe we are!), Montreal was!

After a long journey by ship across the ocean and up the St Lawrence to Quebec and Montreal, Swiss immigrants most likely had no idea what they were getting themselves into. But the Consulate General of Switzerland in Montreal was ready to help them find out.

You heard right: Switzerland takes pride in being one of the pioneers in setting up a consular service across the globe to assist the growing number of Swiss citizens leaving their country for a brighter future. Recognizing the importance of Canada as a destination of Swiss seeking opportunity, Montreal became the first such representation in 1875 – even before London or New York.

Today, the Swiss Community continues to play a strong role in Canadian life and economy. There are over 40,000 Swiss living in Canada, more than a quarter of them in Ontario. “Swissness” can be encountered anywhere in Toronto, from Swiss cheese at the St. Lawrence market, to the countless chocolate boutiques that are popping up everywhere and Swiss watches on display at jewellers across the city. Swiss and Canadian universities collaborate actively on scientific discovery and our cross-border trade in goods, services and knowledge is thriving.

We are proud to be an active contributor to life in Canada and Toronto and we look forward to another 100 years!   I am now happy to introduce our three special guest speakers who will share a few words:
  • Councillor Jim Karygiannis
  • Alexandra Soriano, President of the Swiss Chamber of Commerce of Ontario 
  • Thomas Guignard, President of the Swiss Club of Toronto
After that, we will listen to some more tunes played by the Trillium Alphorns as we gather around to enjoy a small taste of Swiss food before we return to work or wherever the afternoon takes us today!

Councillor Karygiannis, the podium is yours!

Thank You!