A LOOK AT WHERE TO SETTLE AS AN IRISH IMMIGRANT IN CANADA TODAY

Aulde Dubliner, Ottawa by Vince Alongl

The Aulde Dubliner by Vince Alongl / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The Irish have been a part of the Canadian story for as long as it’s been playing out.  Both Canada and modern day Ireland were of course once part of the mighty British Empire, which not only led to much of Canada—and especially regions such as Ontario—becoming imbued with a distinctly British flavor, but likewise facilitated immigration by British citizens, including those in Ireland.  Events such as the infamous Potato Famine which struck Ireland and anti-Irish persecution sent millions of Irish emigrating the British Isles for North America, finding new homes in America and Canada.

Irish-Canadians make for some of the most internationally-recognizable representatives of the Great White North, including Ryan Reynolds, Michael J. Fox (whose character of Marty McFly from the Back to the Future films is too memorable not to reference—it is 2015, after all), Red Kelly and Stompin’ Tom Connors (both of whom contributed greatly to The Good Old Hockey Game), and former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.  Today, they are 5 million strong, and stand as 15% of the total population of Canada.  What’s more, the Irish then and now have gone a long way to contributing towards Canada’s proud tradition of religious diversity and tolerance, as, outside of the French catholic powerhouse that is Quebec, Irish Catholicism remains one of the most potent and well-represented forms of the Catholic faith practiced in Canada.

Here’s a look at a few of the regions in which Irish immigration into Canada has and continues to flourish.

 

Alberta and British Columbia

City Number of
Ireland-Born Immigrants
Percentage of
Immigrants in City
Population of
Irish-Descent
Percentage of
Population
Calgary 1,085 0.36% 183,985 15.34%
Edmonton 715 0.35% 118,800 14.93%

In terms of sheer population, these two provinces have the most Irish Canadians, with the population in each topping 539,000 and 618,000, respectively.  What’s more, given BC’s vast shoreline and forest greenery and the oil which has played a large part in Alberta’s economic resurgence, the two regions represent a nice blend between the city and country.

City Number of
Ireland-Born Immigrants
Percentage of
Immigrants in City
Population of
Irish-Descent
Percentage of
Population
Vancouver 930 0.36% 251,695 12.00%
Surrey 410 0.22% Unknown Unknown
Richmond 145 0.13% Unknown Unknown
Saanich 140 0.59% Unknown Unknown
Kelowna 130 0.81% Unknown Unknown
Burnaby 120 0.65% Unknown Unknown
Coquitlam 110 0.21% Unknown Unknown
Abbotsford 80 0.24% Unknown Unknown
Langley 60 0.32% Unknown Unknown

That being said, while they lead the list population-wise, these two provinces “trail” others on this list in other respects.  While both provinces and BC in particular are experiencing an immigration-based boom, much of that immigration comes from the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, and Asia, as opposed to Western Europe or Ireland.  As such, while both provinces have long-standing Irish-Canadian roots, neither currently lead the way in terms of contemporary Irish citizens immigrating.  Even so, given the sheer size of their Irish-Canadian populations, and the fact that the two represent a nice balance between metropolitan and rural Canada, both BC and Alberta are well worth your consideration if you’re looking to immigrate to Canada from Ireland, particularly if you’re looking to join Irish-Canadian family which may already be settled there.

 

The Maritimes: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador

City Number of
Ireland-Born Immigrants
Percentage of
Immigrants in City
Population of
Irish-Descent
Percentage of
Population
Halifax 355 1.14% 90,675 24.5%
St. John's 100 2.22% 33,232 31.3%
Fredericton 45 0.99% Unknown Unknown
Saint John 15 0.49% 23,541 33.6%
Charlottetown Unknown Unknown 18,775 32.5%
Moncton Unknown Unknown Unknown Contains a park called "Irishtown"

New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador all enjoy an Irish-Canadian population which totals more than 21% proportional to the rest of their respective provinces.  Taken together, they represented the largest Irish-Canadian population.

From there, however, each of these three provinces have their own unique history with regards to Irish immigration.  Many of those Irish immigrants who came to Canada to escape the Potato Famine came to New Brunswick and the community is still thriving there today.  The Miramichi and Saint John River regions today rival Maine and the greater Boston/New England area as one of the largest and most prominent Irish communities on the continent.  As such, while New Brunswick’s Irish-Canadian population is focused on the future, it likewise ever has an eye fixed on that past, with a monument to their Irish community located on Middle Island. 

In nearby Nova Scotia, meanwhile, roughly one in four citizens can claim at least some degree of Irish descent, making for yet another active and actively-growing Irish-Canadian community.  While Nova Scotia is—justifiably—often seen as one of the great bastions of Scottish immigrants in North America, it plays host to a growing Irish-Canadian community as well. 

Newfoundland’s St. Johns is yet another city with a growing Irish-Canadian population, and while the city of Avalon may trace the roots of its name back to the legendary resting place of King Arthur, in actuality, it is one of the great centers of Irish-Canadian activity in Atlantic Canada today.  Finally, there is an unofficial “Flag of Newfoundland”—colloquially referred to as the “Pink, White and Green”—and with the rose-pink substituted for the orange, it otherwise bears a strong and likely intentional resemblance to the national flag of Ireland.

 

Prince Edward Island

What is it about islands making for miniature states and provinces?  The United States has Rhode Island, the smallest of the original Thirteen Colonies and still the tiniest state in the Union, the Canadian equivalent to which is clearly Prince Edward Island, its smallest province by far.  Even so, Prince Edward Island looms large in at least one respect—it has the highest percentage of Irish-Canadian citizens amongst it ancestry, with the number approaching 30%.  Granted, that only amounts to 37,000 or so, but that population concentration can make a big difference for those looking to immigrate to Canada from Ireland without feeling like too much of a minority.  As nearly 30% of the population, Irish-Canadians are one of the biggest groups on the small island, meaning that Irish immigrants might not have to worry all that much about being marginalized.  In an interesting twist of fate, Prince Edward Island likewise produces 25% of Canada’s total potato production, and its rural nature and high Irish immigrant population may well have something to do with that.  While the Protestant/Catholic situation might still be tricky, the sheer relative size and proportional percentage of Irish-Canadians to the rest of the population means that Irish Catholics can immigrate to Prince Edward’s with relative cultural ease.

 

Quebec

St. Patty's Day Parade by https://www.flickr.com/photos/jpmpinmontreal/

St. Patty's Day Parade, Montreal by jpmpinmontreal / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

While it seems almost cliché to mention Quebec in relation to a Catholic community, it’s nevertheless true—while only 5.5% of the population is Irish, in terms of actual people, the number is still one of the highest in Canada, with more than 400,000 Irish-Canadian citizens calling Quebec home.  What’s more, as Quebec has maintained its reputation as being both Catholic and, if not actively anti-English, still distinctly “other” than the far more Anglicized Ontario, it continues to be a pull for Irish immigrants today for both reasons.    

City Number of
Ireland-Born Immigrants
Percentage of
Immigrants in City
Population of
Irish-Descent
Percentage of
Population
Montreal 395 0.07% 216,410 6%
Gatineau 85 0.30% 2,400 1%
Longueuil 70 0.21% 14,115 6.2%
Laval 0 0 15,555 4.3%
Sherbrooke 0 0 8,530 5.9%
Saguenay 0 0 2,316 1.6%
Quebec City 0 0 Unknown Unknown

Of course, no discussion of Ireland or Irish immigrant communities is quite complete without touching on the subject of religion.  While the subject of Protestantism versus Catholicism in Ireland is a long, bloody and complicated one, to say the least, suffice it to say that if you’re Northern Irish or a Protestant Irish citizen, Alberta and British Columbia may be better options, while New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Quebec may be more attractive to Irish Catholics.

Add to that the fact that the economy in Quebec is starting to rise once more, and you have yet another great potential immigration destination if you’re looking to try your luck as an Irish immigrant in Canada.


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