The Coptic Canadian History Project (CCHP) is a not-for-profit public history and community outreach organization founded by Michael Akladios (PhD candidate in History, York University) in fall 2016.
Copts are the largest Christian denomination in the Middle East. The term “Copt” is a European form of the Arabic “Qibt”, which is derived from the Greek “Aigyptos” meaning Egyptian. Concentrated in Egypt, they represent approximately 10% of that country’s population. There are also Coptic populations throughout the Middle East and North Africa, with a significant presence in Sudan. Emigration to North America began with a few families in the late 1950s. Today, Canada’s Coptic population is around 50,000.
Several obstacles impede future research of Coptic immigrants in Canada, and across the diaspora. First, there is a scarcity of records pertaining to this group in public archives. Second, many individuals and organizations in Egypt and Canada have amassed troves of archival records of great value to uncovering the histories of diverse Coptic communities. Yet, these collections are not well maintained and are in some cases partially destroyed. The original material remains at the mercy of the heat and liable to degrade with the passage of time. These issues create barriers that make the advancement of historical knowledge difficult.
The Coptic Canadian History Project emerged in response to this reality and intends to bridge the gap between public archives, immigrant communities, and academic scholars. The CCHP aims to identify, archive, digitize, preserve, and provide free access to source materials that reflect the knowledge, collective memory, and experiences of Egypt’s Coptic population, Coptic immigrants, and their descendants.
The benefits of the Coptic Canadian History Project are many. This is the first such initiative in Canada and the first ever repository to prioritize the history and memory of the Coptic emigrant population. The Project will promote the value of ‘ordinary’ Coptic Canadians and the importance of preserving their experiences. It will engage the attention of diverse Coptic communities in order to capture a diversity of opinions and activity that color the Coptic past. It will be a continued repository for information, accessible for educators, researchers, students, and the general public.
Recognizing our potential for building bridges, fostering research, and advancing social and cultural equity, the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections (CTASC) and the Department of History at York University have partnered with the Project. With the support of a prominent Canadian university, the CCHP hopes raise the profile of Copts, highlight their diverse identities and experiences, and ensure that their legacy carries well into the future.
The Project also promotes research of Coptic history and heritage through lectures, digital and physical exhibits, interdisciplinary workshops, and conference presentations. The aim of encouraging community involvement and scholarly collaboration is to unite junior researchers in the field of Coptic Studies and to establish vibrant partnerships with Coptic organizations and individuals. This work will be in partnership with, and a natural complement to, other projects associated with York University’s History Department, such as the Portuguese Canadian History Project (PCHP) and the Greek Canadian History Project (GCHP).
Help support the CCHP. Donate your time. Donate your stories. Encourage others to do the same. The CCHP is deeply committed to encouraging both community involvement and scholarly collaboration. We ask all Coptic immigrants to consider archiving and preserving their family records, all established and junior scholars to introduce their work, and all interested community members to participate directly, share their stories, and leave something new for future generations. Email submissions and inquiries to theCCHP@gmail.com.
Our stories matter. We look forward to celebrating them in our digital café.