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Many of the Finnish immigrants that arrived in Canada between 1880 and 1930 brought with them the Socialist beliefs of their homeland. The challenging employment conditions that they faced in their new country encouraged many to become active in the labour movement and to create cooperatives and trade unions. This also resulted in the rise of Socialist associations, the largest of which was the Finnish Socialist Organization of Canada (FSOC, founded in 1911), later known as the Finnish Organization of Canada (FOC). The FSOC had close ties to the Communist Party of Canada; by 1914, it consisted of sixty-four locals with 3,062 members.

Vapaus, meaning “Liberty,” was a Finnish-Canadian newspaper published in Sudbury, Ontario between 1917 and June 26, 1974. It was published in the Finnish language, under the direction of the FSOC, whose previous newspaper Työkansa had gone bankrupt in 1915. Vapaus focused on activities and events in the local Finnish community and in the homeland. By the 1930s it had a circulation of 5,000, and in 1935 publication duties were transferred to the Vapaus Publishing Company Limited. The newspaper was twice shut down for its Communist leanings: in 1929, for printing negative comments about King George, and in 1940 when the FSOC was deemed illegal by the Canadian government, resulting in publication of the newspaper going underground.

In 1974, Vapaus merged with Liekki, a Finnish-Canadian literary magazine. The resulting publication, Viikko sanomat, moved to Toronto.  Later, the paper resumed the Vapaus name and was published until 1990, after which it was replaced by the FOC’s bilingual magazine Kaiku, meaning “Echo.” Issues of the Vapaus from 1921 to 1930 and 1948 to June 26, 1974 have been digitized and are made available here.

Contributed by Multicultural History Society of Ontario.