The first Serbs to arrive in Canada came to British Columbia between 1850 and 1870. Many were employed in mining or forestry near such towns as Phoenix, Golden, Prince Rupert and Kamloops.
By 1900, Serbs began to arrive in Alberta. Many of these early settlers had migrated north from the north-west region of the United States. Coal mining attracted them to Lethbridge, while road construction was a source of employment for those in Macleod and Cadomin. Many Serbs worked on the construction of railway lines that now extend from Edmonton to the Pacific coast.
The period between the two World Wars witnessed a major increase in Serbian immigration to Canada. Over 30,000 Yugoslavs came to Canada between 1919 and 1939, this included an estimated 10,000 Serbs. Many of these immigrants were single, working men who had left families in their home country to seek work in Canada. The vast majority of Serbs arriving between the wars settled in Ontario or British Columbia. During this time, ties to Europe were strong and pressure from Belgrade resulted in certain Serbian Canadian newspapers being banned.
Major changes occurred in Yugoslavia during World War II. The newly established independent communist government was opposed by some Yugoslavs. Many post war refugees refused to return to their homeland to live under a communist regime. The Serbs, emigrating to Canada at this time, came from a variety of occupational backgrounds, including military and academic professions and the skilled trades.
Officially there were 80,320 persons who identified themselves as wholly or partly "Serbian", living in Canada in 2011. However, this number may be much higher as there are some 65,505 people who identify as Yugoslavs living in Canada, many of whom may be Serbs. The major center of Serbian settlement in Canada is Toronto, which is home to the 3rd largest Serb diaspora population after Vienna and Chicago; the 2006 census showed that the total of ethnic origin responses for Serbian was 25,160 while together with Yugoslav it amounted to a combined total of around 38,000. Other Serbian strongholds include Windsor, Kitchener, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary.