History of the GCAA
The German-Canadian Association of Alberta was founded in 1967 by a group of Edmonton businessmen under the leadership of William Zeidler and with the support of former Mayor William Hawrelak. These progressive-minded individuals recognized the value of our cultural diversity and the need for an umbrella organization for the german-speaking community long before the introduction of multicultural policies by the government.One of the principal concerns of these founders was communication. It was conceived to publish a monthly news-magazine which could serve as the voice of the Association and a communication medium for German-speaking Albertans. Thus the Alberta Echo was born -- under the competent leadership of Elsa Petrikowski since the beginning. For 33 years, from 1968 to 1999, the Alberta Echo appeared monthly with a circulation of over 2,500 copies per edition.Later, through the initiative of the Association, the German Language School Edelweiss was founded in 1969. The aim of this venture was to provide a means for younger generations to learn German and to perfect their knowledge of their mother tongue. Edelweiss was also the first private german language school in Alberta to offer courses for high school credits and also one of the first to be able to award the German Sprachdiplom.Over the past 35 years, the German-Canadian Association of Alberta has become a permanent part of the multicultural mosaic of this province. Served after William Zeidler by the following presidents -- Dr. Harald Schwarz 1971, Robert P. Wekherlin 1972-1977, Benno Knodel, Marieles Zielke, Rita Schuetz, Maria Knak, and since 2004 by Heinz Kleist-- the Association now has 25 member organizations from Medicine Hat to Grande Prairie and well hundreds of volunteers who assist with the planning and implementation of its various programs and activities.
Role of the GCAA
Today, the German-Canadian Association of Alberta is working hard for multiculturalism, a most important aspect of Alberta's pluralistic society, as well as for the future of our German-speaking population, both young and old. For many years now, the Association has increasingly supported and staged cultural programs and presentations in order to promote young artists and talent and to involve them in the process of multicultural development. The annual Operetta Evening as well as the Art Exhibition are events organized specifically for this purpose. The "Miss Oktoberfest Pageant" offers talented youth from all ethnocultural groups and all parts of the province an opportunity to experience German-Canadian culture and also to win valuable monetary prizes. Our weekly German Pension Counselling Service helps qualifying Albertan's with the preparation of applications for German pension benefits. This service as well as the annual Seniors' Appreciation Day are important gestures of thanks for the older members of our province who have contributed so significantly to its growth.Watch over the media, interchange with the general population and other ethnocultural groups as well as the promotion of heritage language education are taken care of through the efforts of three Standing Committees. The presentation of the German Language Achievement Award represents another practical contribution to heritage language education. Education is also the main goal of the Association's Cultural-Historical Research Project ("German Culture in the Canadian Mosaic"), which seeks to research the history, contributions, lifestyle and culture of our German-speaking population from 1882 to the present for the benefit of present and future generations. Through such research work, it is our goal to set straight the facts of German-Canadian history and thereby help to clear up prejudices and misconceptions.The German Days -- a three-day cultural festival, re instituted by the Association in 1986 -- is staged annually with the goal of broadening public awareness of the history, culture and the enormous contributions of German-speaking Canadians to the development of the province. The German-Canadian Association of Alberta has also represented the German-speaking population for 26 years at the Edmonton Heritage Festival in an attempt to further such ethnocultural awareness.
At its 15 January 2005 meeting, the GCAA voted to adopt the following objectives:
- To represent the German Canadian community in Alberta
- To promote German language and culture in Alberta.
- To promote communication and cooperation among member organizations and individuals.
- To assist and provide leadership and guidance to organizations and individuals who are involved in promoting German language, culture and education.
- To provide a forum for the consideration and discussion of issues affecting the interests of the German-Canadian community of Alberta.
- To enhance the multicultural nature of Canada through interaction with organizations of other ethnic and/or language origin, and to participate in multicultural activities.
- To recognize the achievements of Albertan's to promote the above objectives.
Past Presidents of the GCAA
History of "German Days"
With the annual celebrations of German Days in Edmonton and Calgary, the German-Canadian Association revitalized one of the most significant events in Western Canada's history, an event of great organizational endeavour. For eleven years - from 1928 to 1939 - German-Canadians met in the prairie provinces to celebrate their cultural heritage from the old country. The first German Days celebrations were held in Edmonton, where on the 8th and 9th of August, 1928 German-Canadian settlers and their descendants gathered to celebrate their culture and language. Three prominent members of the German-speaking community in Edmonton were instrumental in the introduction of German Days: these were Gustav Koerman, founder of the Alberta Herold; pastor and U of A professor Dr. Rehwinkel, who promoted German language instruction in Alberta; and Bernhard Bott, the editor of the Courier in Regina
This event represented the largest expression of German-Canadian activity in Western Canada, attracting between 3,000 to 8,000 people. Most of them were people who did not belong to German-speaking clubs or organizations. They welcomed this occassion to renew old ties and make new contacts in the greater community despite bad roads and long distances. In Saskatchewan, German Days started in 1930 and alternated between Regina and Saskatoon. In Winnipeg, the German Association of Manitoba was founded for the sole purpose of organizing German Days. In 1934, German Days was introduced in Toronto.
At that time, as today, the German population consisted of a diverse group with many talents which were displayed on this occasion. German Days then were not that much different from German Days today. The choirs have always enjoyed great popularity; sports activities, folk dancing and art displays were even then part of this colorful kaleidoscope. Traditionally, officials from the government and celebrities from the community were also invited to participate in this celebration. German Days continued until the outbreak of World War II.
In 1986, the German-Canadian Association of Alberta, recognizing a need for such an event in the German-speaking community, resurrected the German Days. Each year since, the event has grown and been improved upon, so that it now spans two days and enjoys the participation of both old and young alike, from many areas of the province.
Renamed as the German Culture Festival in 1996, the highlight event remains the Volkfest at the Victoria Soccer Club, 14020 - 142 Street, Edmonton, Alberta. Details of this year's event can be found here.