Today, March 27, 2014, marks 135 years of Greek life in Canada. Zeta Psi became the first fraternity in Canada when its chapter at the University of Toronto was chartered on March 27, 1879. Zeta Psi’s Grand Chapter met in 1877 and it was agreed that the fraternity should venture into Canada. The Xi Chapter at the University of Michigan was given the task of founding a chapter at the University of Toronto. It was a challenging task given what travel and communications were like in the 1870s, but the Michigan Zeta Psi’s were successful. The chapter designation, Theta Xi, honored the efforts of the Michigan chapter by incorporating the “Xi” into its name.
The chapter remained the sole fraternity on the University of Toronto campus until the 1890s when they were joined by Kappa Alpha Society, Alpha Delta Phi, Phi Kappa Sigma, Delta Kappa Epsilon, Delta Upsilon, and Delta Chi.
The first National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) women’s organization at the University of Toronto was Kappa Alpha Theta. According to Theta’s 1956 history, We Who Wear Kites, “A letter from M.R Robertson of the University of Toronto explained that ‘one of the Zetas’ had given the seven girls of a local group ‘information about society matters and also your address.’ After favorable action by the Convention in 1887, Anna Louis Benham of Iota (Cornell University) was sent to Toronto to initiate the seven.”
The Sigma Chapter was chartered in 1887 giving Theta the distinction of being the first women’s fraternity in Canada. The faculty had a strong feeling against the Greek-letter organizations and the seven women who were initiated kept their membership a secret. By 1899, the chapter became dormant. In 1905, Sigma Chapter was revived. It was was soon followed by Alpha Phi in 1906 and Pi Beta Phi in 1908.
In 1883, McGill University’s fraternity system came to life when Zeta Psi chartered a second Canadian chapter. Again, as in the case of the University of Toronto, Zeta Psi was the only sole fraternity there in the 1880s. In the 1890s, it was joined by Alpha Phi Delta, Delta Upsilon, and Kappa Alpha Society. In 1922, Delta Phi Epsilon became the first NPC group to establish a chapter at McGill.
Today, there have been more than 150 chapters of North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) men’s fraternities and more than 75 NPC organization chapters at Canadian institutions. About three-quarters of those chapters are currently active. There are also many local fraternities and sororities.
(Today’s post is dedicated to my Pi Phi friend, Oriana Bertucci, an initiate of the Pi Phi chapter at the University of Guelph. She has served Pi Phi in many capacities and is currently on Pi Phi’s NPC delegation. She is a true Pi Phi angel!)
© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2014. All Rights Reserved.