Among the first Albanians to settle in Toronto was a businessman, Mr. Shamata, who arrived around 1902. He owned and operated his shoe store on Bloor Street West for more than 50 years.
Albanians, known as “Shqipetare” (Sons of the Eagle), are direct descendants of the Illyrians, the oldest inhabitants of Southeastern Europe. The first wave of Albanians to arrive in Canada arrived between 1904 and 1906. They settled in the greater Toronto area, working in factories and restaurants. Early cultural activities centred around konaks (boarding houses), religious organizations, and nationalist clubs. The second wave of immigrants came to Canada after the First World War. Among the new settlers was Sejdali Qerim, a prominent businessman who helped found the first mosque in Toronto.
Following the Second World War, many families immigrated to Canada from Albania, some settling in Ontario. Others entered Canada from countries such as Greece, Yugoslavia, Italy, and Turkey. The early 1990s saw another wave of Albanians immigrating to Canada, many settling in Toronto. Many of these recent settlers include professionals such as engineers, doctors, teachers, and accountants.
Toronto’s Albanian community currently numbers around 20,000. There are several Albanian social and sports clubs and organizations in the Toronto area, including: two soccer teams (Illyria and Kosovo-Albania), the Albanian-Canadian Community Association, and the Canadian Albanian Relief Effort, which carries out charitable work for Albanians in need.