A History of Canada and the Irish in Canada in 250 Words

The establishment of Canada was shaped by beaver hunting (felt for the global hat industry; leading to exploration westward),  relations with the Indigenous, climate, the fact that its river systems run east-west where in the US they run north-south, the co-existence of French and English settlers, the withdrawal of France and rule by Britain, tensions between large Protestant and Catholic populations, lumber extraction, mass European immigration, relations with the US, participation in WW I and WW II, and the fossil fuel industry. Politically and constitutionally Canada was shaped primarily by events in and awareness of developments in Britain, Ireland and the United States (notably horrified reaction to the civil war and the Fenian threat of invasion).

Most Irish immigrants arrived before the Famine, two-thirds of them were Protestant and the Orange Order became the dominant social and political association in English-speaking Canada up to the 1970s.  Irish settlement patterns are deep and precede Great Famine immigration which was tragic and short-lived, with most refugees heading to the US. The Irish in Canada were determined to become good Canadian citizens, while cherishing their Irish identity.  They have made an enormous and largely unregistered contribution to the development of Canada.  Canada was the future that Ireland never had, due to the abolition of the Irish parliament in 1800, the failure to restore it in the subsequent 120 years, and the paradigm-shifting Easter Rising.  Ireland and Canada today embrace the diversity and rights of their historical identities and of their contemporary societies.


Eamonn McKee

Ambassador of Ireland

Ottawa, 9 January



Filed under Uncategorized

3 responses to “A History of Canada and the Irish in Canada in 250 Words

  1. LEAHY Vincent

    Hello Eamonn,
    We met very briefly at the Celtic Studies reception in St. Mike’s, Toronto on St. Patrick’s Day. (I wore a navy-blue blazer and a tie with stylized Celtic letters)

    I’m 78, a retired FCA, born in Cork, living in Burlington ON, with an avid interest in Irish history and heritage, and in your blog postings ……. and would look forward to dialoging with you on these topics going forward.
    For a good long while my pastime has been a rather solitary one and I’m searching for a virtual ‘club’ or perhaps initiating such a club if none exists where like-minded persons could share their knowledge and experiences.

    Another pastime of mine is my decade-long membership In Friendship Force International.
    https://www.friendshipforce.org/who-we-are/ (Headquartered in Atlanta)

    I’m a member of the FFI Toronto and FF Lake Simcoe clubs, and I am researching a way to ‘bring’ FFI to Ireland, where I believe it should thrive.

    Friendship Force has two clubs in Ottawa – Anglophone and Francophone.
    A visit to the website of FF Ottawa – the biggest club in the FF ‘system’ – might be worth a bit of your after-hours time. https://www.friendshipforceottawa.ca

    If the concept of bringing the FF concept to Ireland interests you I would be pleased to discuss it with you.
    Currently I’m busy, organizing an FF ‘Journey’ by my club to home-stay with members of two FF clubs in NSW, Australia in November.

    Looking forward to hearing from you when convenient.

    Thank you,

    Vincent Leahy
    905-484-8093 Cell
    1044 Botanical Dr. Burlington, ON L7T 1V1

    • Hi Vincent, I’m very bad at curating my own site as you can see, hence my delay replying. FF sounds very positive but my workload at the moment is heavy, though exciting, so I don’t have the bandwidth for this project. Regards, Eamonn

  2. Nora Pat Marshall

    Written with the precision of a surgeon’s knife!! Wonderful.

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