German-Canadians are those Canadians of German decent. The 2001 Canadian census put their number at 2,742,765. Only a minority of German Canadians are descendents of immigrants from what is today Germany. Far more have come from German populations in Eastern Europe and Russia with significant number of Germans coming from Switzerland and the Low Countries; some, notably Frank Stronach, have also come from Austria. Another large group was those of German decent who came to Canada after spending a significant amount of time in the United States.
While a few Germans moved to New France, the first major round of German immigration to Canada began after the British conquest of Nova Scotia. Many Germans had served in the British army and elected to settle in the new lands. Far more arrived as some of the Foreign Protestants. These were continental Protestants encouraged to come to Nova Scotia to counter balance the large number of Catholic Acadians. This influx began in about 1750 and to this day the South Shore of Nova Scotia is filled with German town names, surnames, and Lutheran churches.
The American Revolution saw an even larger group of German migrants to Canada. Those of German decent made up a significant percentage of United Empire Loyalists. To defeat the revolution, and later to defend British North America from it, the British used large numbers of German mercenaries. Many of them chose to settle in Canada once their terms of service expired.
The largest group fleeing the United States were the Mennonites whose pacifism was discriminated against in the new United States. They moved to what is today southwest Ontario, founding settling around Berlin, Ontario (now known as Kitchener and Waterloo). This large group also attracted new migrants from Germany drawing some 50,000 of them to the region over the next decades.
The population of the Canadian west beginning in 1896 drew further large numbers of German immigrants, mostly from Eastern Europe. Once again Mennonites were especially prominent being persecuted by the Tsarist regime in Russia. The farmers used to the harsh conditions of farming in Russia were some of the most successful in adapting to the Canadian prairies. This accelerated when in the 1920s the United States imposed quotas on Eastern European immigration. Soon after Canada imposed its own limits, however, and prevented most of those trying to flee the Third Reich from moving to Canada.
In the years since the Second World War there have been about 400,000 German speaking immigrants.
While Germans are one of the largest constituent ethnic groups in Canada, they are considerably less visible than others. In part this is because the great waves of German immigration were many decades ago and since then Germans have been largely assimilated. Culturally, linguistically, and physically, there is far less to distinguish Germans from the Anglo-French majority compared to other immigrant groups from Southern Europe, Asia, and Africa. Also important is that during both the world wars the Germans were regarded as enemies and many Canadians attempted to hide their German ancestry, some even changing their surnames. Some German place names, such as that of Berlin, Ontario, were renamed.