That, in the opinion of the House, the government should recognize the important contributions that Irish-Canadians have made to building Canada, and to Canadian society in general, and should mark the importance of educating and reflecting upon Irish heritage and culture for future generations by declaring the month of March as Irish Heritage Month.
He said: Madam Speaker, 2020 has been a year we will all remember. It has been a year that at times brought us together and a year that challenged us as a nation in ways that we never thought possible. It is always great to find a way to come together in the chamber and it is my hope that this motion will be one of those cases, a sentiment that has become more important within the last hour.
Today I ask the House for its support for my motion to recognize the month of March as Irish heritage month. I am grateful that the hon. member for , the hon. member for as well as the hon. member for will speak today. Of course, I would like to thank my colleague from who hails from Newfoundland, which is about as close to Ireland as one can get without actually being there.
To start and to be clear, this is not a motion to celebrate Irish ancestry as we do on March 17. Rather, it is a motion to recognize the many contributions that Canadians of Irish descent have made in building this country into what it is today. It is to ask the Parliament of Canada to say thanks and to recognize how much they have contributed. This is not to say they do not know, but it is to say that while making these many contributions, the Irish community has displayed a level of modesty that I wish to recognize and thank. They carry the pride of knowing how much they have contributed and I want them to know we know it too.
Throughout this speech, I will do my best to make this point by talking about my country, my city, my family and my friends. We are a country of immigrants. One of those immigrant communities is the Irish and it is one from which everyone knows I come. There are so many stories to choose from across the country, but I will speak briefly about my own.
In 1840, three brothers, Patrick, Michael and James, arrived in Canada. They settled in a beautiful place not far from here called Mount St. Patrick in the heart of the Ottawa valley. My father spoke fondly of visiting many times a place called Maloney Mountain. I never made it there with my dad, which I will always regret.
Then three years ago St. Patrick's Parish celebrated its 175th anniversary and I went at the invitation of my friend Rob Jamieson. It was a special occasion. I saw Maloney Mountain and found the resting place of those three brothers. Those brothers were my ancestors and my father was clearly proud of his heritage, because he has three sons who he named Patrick, Michael and the hon. member for Etobicoke Lakeshore.
I am far from alone in having Irish heritage. According to the latest census data, over 4.6 million Canadian residents lay claim to an Irish ethnic connection. This is 14% of our total population, higher even than the proportion of Irish Americans in the U.S. The influence of Irish heritage in Canada and the depth of the Irish's affinity with Ireland is the pre-eminent factor in Ireland’s successful nurturing of its relationship with Canada over decades. Our Irish population almost matches Ireland itself.
A number of high-profile Canadians have been actively involved over the years in the Irish peace process, including General John de Chastelain, former chief of the defence staff, and former police ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Al Hutchinson. Other notable Canadians who contributed to the peace process include Lord Justice Hoyt, Professor Clifford Shearing and Mr. Justice Peter Cory.
Many Canadians of Irish ancestry form part of the Canadian political establishment, too many to name here, but some of them are here. They represent all parties and some have risen to great heights. I think of our former finance minister, the late Jim Flaherty. Two current cabinet members regularly remind me that they have Irish blood flowing through their veins. Former prime ministers Paul Martin, Brian Mulroney and our current come from Irish heritage, a fact I validated on a trip to Dublin just three years ago. Of course, I have to mention one of Canada's founding fathers, D’Arcy Thomas McGee.
Ireland and Canada share the same values. We have a long history of promoting democratic values and human rights. Over the years we have co-operated closely in these areas at the UN and elsewhere, both in challenging times for global democracy and political stability and during times of great peace.
The political friendship between our two countries is strong. Just last week, I had a call in my capacity as chair of the Canada-Ireland Interparliamentary Group with my Irish counterpart. We discussed the ways in which we could safely explore how to strengthen our bond in the COVID environment and after. Our economic relationship is strong because of CETA and our own bilateral economic agreements.
I would like to say a few words on that, because the economic ties are important, just as the cultural and historic bonds that exist between us are strong. CETA is eliminating tariffs. In the first year of its provisional operation, prior to COVID-19, trade between Canada and Ireland increased by one-third.
Ireland presents a great opportunity for Canadian business and investment in the coming years, and it is the perfect gateway to the 450 million people in the European Union. The number of jobs provided by Canadian companies in Ireland has grown by 25% since 2018, and the number of new Canadian companies expanding into Ireland has more than doubled since Brexit was passed. Well, we think it has passed.
We have been in Ireland a long time. The first Canadian company in Ireland was Canada Life in 1903. With over a century of Canadian investment in Ireland, other notable Canadian companies in Ireland include Couche-Tard, Brown Thomas, Irving Oil and Air Canada, to name a few.
As far as Ireland in Canada, the value of Ireland’s trade surplus to Canada is over $2.1 billion. Canada is Ireland’s 12th largest trade partner and the fourth largest outside of the EU, and, as of the end of 2018, the stock of Canadian Direct Investment Abroad in Ireland reached almost $15 billion, ranking Ireland as the 10th largest destination for direct investment abroad.
We have a blue skies agreement: currently Aer Lingus, WestJet, Air Canada and Air Transat operate daily flights between the two countries. We have a treaty for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income and capital gains.
Cultural collaborations are endless. In 2021, Ireland and Canada will make a joint application for UNESCO heritage status for the Valentia Island cable station and the cable station in Heart's Content, Newfoundland. These sites mark where the first successful transatlantic cable was laid in 1867, thus revolutionizing global communications.
We have an Ireland-Canada co-production treaty to encourage the co-development of audiovisual content between producers from Canada and Ireland, signed in Ottawa in 2017. I had the honour of being there.
Our roots run deep and go back in time. It is no secret that Canada became a refuge for Irish immigrants from 1830 onward. The immigration started at a time when major cholera and smallpox epidemics were prevalent. Ships flying the flag of disease were forced to dock at the quarantine station on Grosse Île, downriver from Quebec City.
Many Quebeckers were eager to help the Irish in their hour of need. Doctors, nurses and Montreal’s Grey Nuns volunteered to treat sick arrivals, risking their own lives in the process. For many Irish immigrants, it would be their only glimpse of the new land. In 1847, 50 people a day died of typhus.
Many children whose parents died were adopted into French-Canadian families, but their Irish names lived on: Doyle, Murphy, Ryan and Johnson. Their descendants are among the 40% of Quebeckers who claim Irish ancestry.
Another Canadian destination was Toronto. During the summer of 1847, almost 100,000 migrants left Ireland with over 38,000 arriving in Toronto, which had a population of 20,000 at that time. Members should think about that: almost double the population arrived on the shores of Toronto over a period of a few months. Toronto opened its arms to those immigrants.
Dr. George Grasett and his team set up hospitals, or fever sheds as they came to be known, and provided essential medical services. In doing so, Dr. Grasett and many other Canadian nurses, doctors and hospital orderlies lost their own lives when they contracted typhus.
The Ireland Park Foundation remembered the legacy of kindness with Dr. George Grasett Park, which will open in Toronto in 2021. I was proud to be part of advocating for that project. This is in addition to Ireland Park, which was established earlier with the support of the Canadian and Irish governments. Both of these commemorative sites were built by the Irish community, and I want to thank Robert Kearns in particular.
Working-class Irish immigrants soon became the largest ethnic group in almost every city in Canada. It was not always easy. They faced challenges, as all newcomers do. These challenges were racial, religious and economic, but they persevered. It is a testament to their strength and values. There is no shortage of evidence in every province and every town.
They found work building many of our country’s iconic landmarks. Irish immigrants helped to build the Rideau Canal, the Lachine Canal and Saint Patrick’s Basilica in Montreal, as well as the colourful heritage buildings of St. John’s, Newfoundland, just to name a few. Approximately 14,000 Irish citizens moved to Canada each year during the last recession, whether on a temporary or more permanent basis.
Irish-inspired events occur across the country and include the Féile Séamus Creagh music festival in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and the Celtic Colours International Festival in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
The month of March in Toronto is busy to say the least. Most people think that March madness is a basketball tournament. I assure everyone, they are referring to Toronto in March. The month starts with the raising of the Irish flag at Toronto City Hall. The community comes in droves, again not to put on party hats and green sweaters. They are there to remember all those who worked so hard to give them the opportunity they now have.
The Irish person of the year then kicks things off, celebrating a person from the Irish community who has been leader dedicated to the benefit of others. With well over 1,000 people, the Ireland Funds lunch, another event, is the world’s largest Irish luncheon. There are the parades, of course, and those are too many to mention, but I do want to give a shout-out to my friend Shaun Ruddy who has not just kept the Toronto parade alive, but thriving.
The Irish Canadian Immigration Centre welcomes all new arrivals to this day and is named after the late, and truly great, Eamonn O’Loghlin. The Toronto Irish Players theatre group also makes sure that the Irish culture is preserved and shared with the rest of our community.
The folk music of Canada owes a great debt to musicians of Irish descent, particularly in Newfoundland, Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. In fact, most Canadian folk songs take their inspiration from centuries-old Irish tunes and follow Irish verse patterns. Alan Doyle, of Great Big Sea fame, is just one example of a Canadian musician who can claim Irish roots. Stompin’ Tom Connors, Denny Doherty of The Mamas and the Papas, Leahy and the Next Generation Leahy all came from families of Irish descent.
Radio programs keep the spirit alive and help maintain the strong link between our two great nations. In Toronto, Ken Tracey and Mark O’Brien nurse us through Saturday mornings and Hugo Straney raises our spirits early on Sunday.
St. Patrick’s Day is a statutory holiday in Newfoundland and Labrador, but this day commemorating Irish contributions is held throughout Canada every year. Canada is home to many celebrations on March 17, one of the most prominent being Montreal’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, the oldest of its kind in North America.
The point is that Irish heritage month is not about green beer, funny hats or shamrocks. It is about honouring the close bond between our two countries that is deep in our past. It is about celebrating a bright future between our two countries. I simply do not have enough time today to cover it all, but there will be a second reading.
There are several people I need to thank for getting me here today and helping me along the way with my own Irish awakening. Recently, and locally, I would like to thank our Irish ambassadors. Ray Bassett welcomed me upon my election in 2015. Jim Kelly stewarded me through the past four years. Together, we created the annual Irish Night on Parliament Hill. This never would have happened without his guidance and support. Today, we are grateful to welcome ambassador Eamonn McKee. These men arrive here as ambassadors to Canada and leave here as great friends to our country and to many who live here. Of course, then there is Ethna Heffernan, the grande dame of the Irish community of Toronto.
I have mentioned my own family who, like me, are proud of their Irish heritage, like my brothers, along with Kaitlyn, Brogan, Keira and Teigan, who are my nieces and nephew. Last and not least are my in-laws. I want to mention Eddie, my father-in-law. He is the epitome of all things Irish. He is kind. He is generous. He is funny. He is modest and he is proud of his Irish heritage. He is also a source of wisdom. He always reminds me that if someone does not know where they are going, any road will take them there. There are people who are players in our community and there are people who are spectators. I can assure members that Eddie Brett is a player, not a spectator.
Every Irish dad wants their Irish offspring to find an Irish partner. Well, Dad, I did that and she is the best. Deirdre Brett is more than that. She is my friend and my anchor. I am lost without her.
It is clear to me that this country would not be what it is today without the great contribution from our Irish community, both past and present. In true Canadian fashion, they love the country where they were born and they love the country in which they chose to build a new life. I stand here today in this chamber to say thanks as a profoundly grateful person of Irish heritage.
Again, I ask this House and all its members to support this motion, and as an expression of that gratitude, to declare the month of March from this point forward as Irish heritage month in Canada.
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House today to speak in support of the recognition of the month of March as Irish heritage month in this country.
I first want to thank the member for for bringing this important motion forward. The two of us have worked together for a long time on the Canada-Ireland Interparliamentary Group and I know this is an area that is very important to him, as well as many Canadians from coast to coast.
Irish Canadians, as we all know, have much to be proud of. In truth, they did a lot of the heavy lifting in putting this massive country together and building it into the great country it is today. Some Irish Canadians can trace their roots all the way back to the 17th century, when many Irish arrived in what was then New France. Some French Canadian and Acadian surnames are evolutions of Irish names that evolved due to the French influence.
Irish immigration to this country continued throughout the 18th century as well, as New France and Newfoundland continued to grow as colonies. However, the main wave of Irish immigration came in the 19th century, which saw hundreds of thousands of Irish immigrants arrive on the shores of what is now Canada, many of them settling in the Maritimes and spreading throughout inland Canada. These immigrants would be crucial to the growth of major port cities like Halifax and Saint John. They were a large part of the labour force in this country that constructed the Rideau and Lachine canals.
Today, the Canadian Irish community is one of the largest ethnic groups in Canada and has spread itself across the country. According to the most recent census, Irish is the fourth largest ethnic group in the country, with more than 4.5 million Canadians claiming to be of either full or partial Irish lineage. No matter what province we find ourselves in, we can be sure there is a thriving and proud Irish community there.
As the member of Parliament for , I know it is always a treat to visit the Irish pavilion at the annual Saskatoon Folkfest, which is put on every year by the Saskatoon Association for the Promotion of Irish Culture. The pride the Irish presenters have in their heritage and the celebrations of that heritage are certainly infectious and truly represent the vibrant Irish Canadian community in our city of Saskatoon.
In truth, there are few communities who were as important to building Canada into the country we have today as the Irish. We need look no further than our history in this chamber to set the rule, such as Thomas D'Arcy McGee, one of the most well-known fathers of Confederation and a very close adviser and friend to our first prime minister of this country, Sir John A. Macdonald. Others include Sir John Thompson, our fourth prime minister; Louis St. Laurent, our 12th; Brian Mulroney, our 18th; and Paul Martin, our 21st; not to mention dozens of cabinet ministers and members of Parliament like the great Jim Flaherty. Jim always wore a green tie and I wear one today in his honour. Of course, I cannot forget our current , who will be the next member of Irish descent in the House of Commons to be our prime minister.
I would be remiss if I did not take time to specifically mention Nellie McClung, one of the Famous Five who launched the person's case and is perhaps the woman of Irish descent who has had the greatest impact on Canada and women's rights in this country. McClung and the others of the Famous Five, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Emily Murphy, Louise McKinney and Irene Parlby, fought for women's rights all the way to the British Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, the highest court for Canada at the time, and succeeded.
Indeed, without these important Canadian leaders, we would not be the country we are today, but political leadership is not by any means the only way to make important contributions to Canada. Our country has a rich history of Canadians of Irish lineage leaving a lasting and profound impact on this country.
We can look at groups that have been mentioned, like the Great Big Sea, the band famous for songs like When I'm Up and Ordinary Day, and the Juno-award winning Irish Descendants. They are prime examples of great Canadian artists of Irish descent.
I left out a very notable exception there, because it is a perfect segue into the next topic that I would like to talk about: Stompin' Tom Connors, the legendary Canadian singer-songwriter of Irish descent, famous for his songs about our beautiful country, like Sudbury Saturday and Bud the Spud.
His incredible work and contributions to Canadian culture earned him the Order of Canada in 1996, the Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award from the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards, honorary doctorates from a number of Canadian universities, multiple Juno Awards and many other honours. He was truly one of the greatest artists in our history.
That brings me to my next point. Amongst all of his achievements and his incredible work, Stompin' Tom may very well be best known for a song that is played worldwide. For my money, as a former sportscaster, this, without question, was the greatest sports anthem in the world: The Hockey Song. The Good Old Hockey Game, as Stompin' Tom would call it, is full of Canadian and heritage descent. I have it right here. It is our last day sitting in the House of Commons, and I am going to save this—
An hon. member: Sing it.
Mr. Kevin Waugh: I could sing it, and everybody knows our feet are stomping all the way.
Hello out there, we're on the air, it's 'Hockey Night' tonight.
Tension grows, the whistle blows, and the puck goes down the ice
The goalie jumps, and the players bump, and the fans all go insane
Someone roars, "Bobby Scores!", at the good ol' Hockey Game
OH! The good ol' Hockey game, is the best game you can name
And the best game you can name, is the good ol' Hockey game.
Going further, the NHL legends who have performed on ice in this country, like Lester Patrick, Owen Nolan, King Clancy, Brendan Shanahan, Terry O'Reilly, and of course, Don Cherry, are all of Irish descent. Who could forget the big guy, Pat Quinn, beloved across the NHL as the “Big Irishman”? He received the Order of Canada in 2012 for his contributions to Canada.
There are some historians who point to the origin of the Irish game known as the big hurling. What could be more important to building our country than that?
With all the talk of artists and athletes, let us not forget the legends of the Canadian stage, screen and comedy who have made such a huge impact in the Irish ancestry. I think of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Mary Walsh, the actress behind Marg Delahunty. I think of Martin Short and Catherine O'Hara of SCTV fame, who have gone on to major careers in Hollywood and received many awards for their fantastic work.
There are many more names I could get into here today, many areas that I could sit and talk about, however, as I run out of time I am confident that the names and some of the examples I have talked about in today's speech will hit home with many in this country.
Irish Canadian communities of this country can be proud of what they have accomplished in 152 years of this country.
As it is our last speech on this side of the House, I want to wish you, Madam Speaker, and your family a merry Christmas. I want to wish every member in the House of Commons a merry Christmas, a happy new year and a joyous holiday season. It has been particularly tough on every Canadian and this place in particular since March 13 when we left and found out about COVID-19.
On behalf of the Conservative Party of Canada, I want to wish Canadians, coast to coast to coast, merry Christmas, happy new year, keep the faith and we cannot wait for 2021.
Madam Speaker, I thought we were not allowed to sing in the House. In that case, I will make you dance. Just kidding.
Today we are debating a motion placed on the Order Paper last January by our hon. colleague from . This motion would designate March as Irish heritage month. Here is the text of the motion:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should recognize the important contributions that Irish-Canadians have made to building Canada, and to Canadian society in general, and should mark the importance of educating and reflecting upon Irish heritage and culture for future generations by declaring the month of March as Irish Heritage Month.
The Bloc Québécois is fully in favour of this wonderful motion, and we support it because it will allow us to highlight the fundamental contribution of the Irish to Quebec society since their arrival in New France.
I remind members that in the 2006 census, more than 400,000 Quebeckers reported being of Irish heritage, and some experts have even claimed that 40% of Quebeckers have Irish blood. That is not nothing. Plus, Quebec has had five premiers with Irish ancestry: Edmund James Flynn, from 1896 to 1897; Daniel Johnson Sr. and his two sons, Pierre Marc Johnson and Daniel Johnson; and Jean Charest.
The first waves of Irish immigrants rolled into Quebec's capital in the early 19th century. In 1833, religious affiliation was almost exclusively tied to language, so the Irish set up their own English-language religious institution. St. Patrick's Church in Old Quebec was different from the churches attended by the British Anglicans and Protestants.
More Irish immigrants arrived in 1840. Many of them died of disease, sadly, or continued on to other cities, such as Montreal and New York. By 1871, Quebec City already had a population of 12,000, and over 20% of those inhabitants were Irish.
Today, their descendants primarily live in the beautiful upper town neighbourhood of Montcalm, in the area bordered by Avenue de Salaberry, Rue de Maisonneuve, Avenue de la Tour and Grande Allée, centring on St Patrick's School, an English-language school. This neighbourhood is the heart of the community, and it is also where the famous parade starts every year.
The City of Montreal's flag bears a green shamrock, the national symbol of Ireland, in recognition of all that the Irish have contributed to the city. The shamrock is joined by a fleur-de-lys, representing the French; a Lancaster rose, representing the English and the Welsh; a thistle, representing the Scottish; and a white pine, representing the first nations.
Irish immigrants quite literally built Quebec. In the 19th century, they dug canals, worked on railroads and built the Victoria Bridge in Montreal, which was inaugurated in 1859. This architectural masterpiece spans the St. Lawrence from Pointe-Saint-Charles to the opposite shore. At the entrance to the bridge on the Montreal side is the Montreal Irish Monument, which commemorates the deaths of 6,000 Irish immigrants, most of whom died of typhus. As a matter of fact, last year, archeologists working in the area for the construction of Montreal's Réseau express métropolitain unearthed some remarkable discoveries.
Since we are talking about the contributions of Irish Canadians, I would also like to remind members of the Montreal Shamrocks, an Irish hockey club that was around from 1886 to 1924 and that won the Stanley Cup twice, in 1899 and in 1900. That happened about 10 years before the Montreal Canadiens hockey team was formed.
We owe the wonderful architecture of Montreal's Notre-Dame Basilica to Irish architect James O'Donnell, who is actually buried in the cathedral's crypt. He gave five years of his life to the building of that cathedral.
A number of quintessentially Quebec surnames that sound French are actually of Irish origin. Take, for example, the last name Dion. It actually comes from the Irish name Dillon. The same is true of the Sylvains, the O'Sullivans, the Bourques, the Duquettes and the Barrettes.
From 1849 to 1980, more than 32 Irish judges sat on the Quebec Superior Court. From 1867 to 1973, 44 Irish Canadian MPs were elected in various ridings across Quebec. From 1867, the year of Confederation, to 1978, no less than 57 Irish Canadians were members of the Quebec National Assembly. Another important contribution made by our Irish friends was the creation of the Laurentian Bank, formerly the Savings Bank, which came about through the efforts of French and Irish Canadians. The boards of directors were made up of Morins, Lafontaines, Papineaus and Cartiers on one hand and Ings, Drummonds, Curans, O'Briens and Wolfmans on the other.
Let's not forget Montreal's famous St. Patrick's Day parade, an annual event dating back to 1824. It is one of the oldest parades of its kind in the country. The first St. Patrick's Day was celebrated in Montreal in 1759 by Irish soldiers from the Montreal garrison, and that was three years before the first edition of New York's famous parade. Montreal's St. Patrick's Day parade draws crowds of 250,000 to 750,000 people every year. National Geographic even ranked it among the 10 most impressive parades in the world.
In conclusion, Quebec loves the Irish and Ireland. Both are proud nations, which may explain our sense of kinship. Perhaps one day, we too, like the Irish, will experience the joys of independence. We hope that day will come soon.
Merry Christmas to all!
Madam Speaker, I am quite pleased to join the debate today and speak in support of the motion to establish March as Irish heritage month, in recognition of the contribution of the Irish to Canada.
Celebrating Irish contributions is not something new to people here in Winnipeg. For many years, we have had, during our Folklorama festival, not one but two Irish pavilions in order to be able to experience and celebrate all facets of Irish culture here in Canada. Up to four million Canadians claim some form of Irish ancestry.
I have to say that it is not just anglophones in Canada who have been influenced by the Irish and have ties to Ireland. The Irish also played an important role in the development of Quebec. I thank the member for for sharing several details about Quebec's Irish heritage.
Of course, many Canadians will have heard of figures like Thomas D'Arcy McGee, who helped forge a compromise between Catholics and Protestants and cleared a path for the creation of Canada, earning him a place in history as one of the fathers of Confederation. Canadians will also have heard of Timothy Eaton, who created a retail empire that served people right across the country. The Eaton's building was a very important landmark in Winnipeg until the turn of this past century when it was demolished to make way for what became Bell MTS Place, the arena that brought the Jets back to Winnipeg.
One contribution I have not heard spoken of yet today, which I think is really important, is the contribution of the Irish to Canada's labour activism. They brought a real class consciousness to working people in Canada and were active in the Winnipeg General Strike. Bob White, a former president of the Canadian Labour Congress who did a lot for Canada's labour movement, hailed from Ireland. In fact, he was born in Northern Ireland.
I am particularly pleased to speak to this motion because of my own Irish heritage and connection. In 2023, it will be 100 years since my Irish great-grandparents followed the path of so many of their compatriots and set sail for Canada, in this case from Belfast. The years just previous to their departure for Canada had been tumultuous and had led, without going into detail, to the partition of Ireland into what we know as the independent Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, with the latter continuing to be part of the United Kingdom. My great-grandparents sought refuge from the ongoing sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland in the peace and stability of Canada. Initially employed by the CNR in Transcona, my great-grandfather eventually found his way into a vocation often associated with the Irish and retired many years later as chief of police for Transcona.
I note this personal history not just as an interesting family narrative, but because 100 years after my grandparents were married in December 1920, the world's attention has been once again turned toward the future of Northern Ireland as a result of Brexit, shorthand for the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union. It is not like this would be the first time the world's attention has been turned toward Northern Ireland since the 1920s. Indeed, for the last three decades or so of the 20th century, what was often referred to as “the Troubles” claimed many lives and damaged many others.
The Troubles came to an end at the turn of the century as a result of the peace process that depended for its success, in part, on the practical elimination of the once heavily guarded and heavily symbolic border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. For the last 20 years, the ordinary people of both the north and the south have been able to relate to all of Ireland and go back and forth as they please without reminders at a border of the recent violent past or the ongoing debate about their future.
Brexit, by threatening a hard border between the north and south, puts the recent peace at risk by creating conditions and appearances that could potentially be exploited by those who would return to a nastier political time. Therefore, as we celebrate Canada's Irish heritage with the eventual passing of this motion, I hope we urge all parties to the negotiations surrounding British withdrawal from the EU to act in such a way that no one ever again feels the need to leave Northern Ireland because of sectarian tensions.
I note, with some happiness, that just before I came to the House today, I was in a meeting of the international trade committee, where a motion was passed recognizing Canada's important contribution to the conclusion and implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. It calls on the government to ensure that, as we navigate a new trading relationship with the United Kingdom, we do that in a way that affirms and supports the Good Friday Agreement. I note also, with pleasure, that a similar motion was passed at the foreign affairs committee late last week.
I am glad to see there is an ongoing commitment by parliamentarians to the ongoing peace in Ireland. I think one of the best ways we can celebrate that heritage is to continue to play whatever positive role we can in ensuring that peace is long and prosperous on the other side of the pond.
I am thankful for the opportunity to share those remarks.
Madam Speaker, I rise today to address Motion No. 18, sponsored by the member for , which seeks to have the House recognize March of every year as Irish heritage month.
Over the course of our history, we have seen the many ways of Irish immigration to Canada. Some have put forth a theory that Irish explorers came to Canada before the Norse. I have to say this is a bit of a stretch because half my ancestry is Irish, and the other half is from the Vikings.
Even though the historical records show that Irish immigrants came to Canada as early as the 16th century, I want members to know that the Irish fishermen first came to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. As a matter of fact, Canada is home to the only Irish-language place name outside of Europe. When fishermen from southern Ireland arrived in Newfoundland in the 17th century, they called it Talamh an Éisc, or land of the fish, and this name still survives today.
Seeing as Newfoundland is my home, let me tell members a little more about this. I am sure members did not know that over 20% of our population today is of Irish descent. We have more in common with our friends in Ireland than one might think, but when we look at the map we are the first place west when they depart from Ireland. Between 1770 and 1780, more than 100 ships and thousands of people left Irish ports for the lucrative fishery off Newfoundland and Labrador. These migrations were some of the most substantial movements of Irish peoples across the Atlantic in the 18th century.
Over the years, they created a distinct subculture in Newfoundland and Labrador, and their descendants carried on many of the traditions. In certain places around the province, Irish culture is still richly evident. Between people, culture and, yes, even the landscape, I have five reasons why Newfoundland and Labrador has often been dubbed the most Irish place outside of Ireland.
The scenery and the landscape in my province are often compared to that of Ireland. The towering cliffs, rugged coastline and rich greenery make it easy to see why the Irish felt at home when they first arrived here in the 1700s. It can be hard to distinguish between the two at times.
Do members know what to scrob means, or what a sleeveen is? There are more varieties of English spoken in Newfoundland and Labrador than anywhere else in the world. Our dialects date back four centuries, and most of the accents are flavoured by southern Ireland. Some Irish settlers only spoke Irish Gaelic, and while it disappeared from the island early in the 20th century, it left a number of traces that are still found today.
There are a number of places in my province where the Irish connections run deep. Located in the southeastern part of the Avalon Peninsula, the Irish Loop is the heart of Irish culture and heritage in Newfoundland and Labrador. Tilting, a small community nestled on Fogo Island, was the home to the first Irish settler, Thomas Burke, who arrived in 1752. To this day, the town of Tilting is adorned with Irish flags by groups of people who are proud to display their heritage. Tilting is both a national historic site and a provincial heritage district, and for very good reason.
With scenery and landscape so similar to the Emerald Isle, it is easy to see why so many compare Newfoundland and Labrador to Ireland. However, it is really the people of the province where the true connection lies. Beyond the lilts and the accents and the songs and the jigs, there is a sense of camaraderie and pride akin to a place where people leave their doors unlocked all the time, as we still do today, and we stop to have a chat with everyone we see. They are real, genuine people, friendly and welcoming, which is all the more powerfully felt because of the historical undercurrent of hardship and self-reliance.
Also in Newfoundland and Labrador, St. Patrick's Day is a public holiday. Across the islands, pubs and houses and sheds are filled early with people celebrating over hearty breakfasts, which then lead to an evening of green beer, as my colleague mentioned, and plenty of Irish song and dance.
Global Greening, an initiative by Tourism Ireland, sees a host of major landmarks and iconic sites across the world turn green on St. Patrick's Day. The greenings are emblematic of the relationships that Ireland has built with countries around the world in the spirit of friendship, respect and partnership, so it is fitting that we will see many buildings aglow with green lights on March 17, and many of them will be in Newfoundland and Labrador.
That is enough on my province of Newfoundland and Labrador. We know that records from New France include many Irish names and it has been estimated that perhaps as much as five per cent of the population of New France was Irish.
The period starting from 1819 onward to the last quarter of the century is when the beginning of the intensive immigration from Ireland started. During that period, the majority of the thousands of immigrants who were arriving each year in Canada was from Ireland.
These large groups of Irish immigrants continued to pour into Canada until well after Confederation when their numbers began to decline to a much smaller, but still steady flow.
A sizeable group of immigrants arrived between 1823 and 1825, creating a 2,000-strong settlement in Peterborough, Ontario, named after Peter Robinson who commissioned the 12 ships that carried them to Canada.
In 1871, the Canadian census provides a snapshot of the numbers of Irish in Canada in the late 19th century. It shows that in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia over 846,000 persons were of Irish origin. I have to remind members that Newfoundland and Labrador had not joined Confederation then, hence why our numbers are not included.
There is a popular misconception, though, that immigration from Ireland to Canada only began with the Irish potato famine, also called the great hunger, that began in 1845. The potato was the main form of sustenance in most Irish households and the catastrophic failure of the potato crop over successive years resulted in farmers being unable to produce sufficient food for their families' needs. The devastating disease rotted the potatoes in the ground, rendering their entire crops inedible and destroying that primary food source for millions of people. The potato crops would not recover until after 1852.
Those who could, left Ireland. They did so through dangerous and overcrowded ships. The crowded, unsanitary conditions to which people lived on the ships crossing the Atlantic created the uncontrolled spread of disease, such as cholera and typhus, as was alluded to earlier. Thousands ended their journey across the Atlantic in a watery grave or in the graves in Grosse Isle, Quebec or in Partridge Island off St. John, New Brunswick, where the immigrants were quarantined upon their arrival.
Through there is a partial record of those who died at sea, the complete record will never be known. Thousands of those who made it to Grosse Isle but later died had their resting place marked with a striking Celtic cross erected to their memory. On Partridge Island, a Celtic cross also stands as a memorial to the Irish immigrants who died there.
The history of the Irish in Canada is not just of the disaster of the potato famine, but also a story of economic and social success. The Irish recognized the opportunities that their new homeland offered. In the early years of their arrival, the Irish naturally gravitated toward the ports, the cities and areas of high employment in the eastern provinces as well in Quebec and Ontario.
However, as their prosperity increased, many would venture even further west. An early cluster of Irish ranchers was recorded around Fort Macleod in the 1870s and 1880s. By 1916, Alberta had over 6,500 Irish immigrants and another 51,000 who could trace their ancestry back to Ireland. That was according to the federal census at that time.
In that same period, Winnipeg had a population of over 19,000 people of Irish heritage. Out of the almost 59,000 people living in British Columbia in 1881, over 3,000 listed their ethnicity as Irish in the Canadian census.
According to David A. Wilson, who authored The Irish in Canada, the Irish quickly adapted to Canadian life and by 1871, the percentage of Irish who were merchants, manufacturers and professionals, white-collared workers and artisans was virtually identical to that of the population at large.
While it would be naive to think that there were not struggles during the early decades after their arrival, like many immigrant communities that came after them, the Irish endured and pushed forward to become an important part of the foundation of Canadian society.
Our history books are filled with the names of many people of Irish descent in every occupation one can imagine, but especially in the music world. Perhaps one of the best-known Irish names and a person who significantly influenced our history is Thomas D'Arcy McGee, an early visionary of Confederation, who my colleagues before have mentioned.
Born in Ireland, he arrived in 1857 and was elected the next year to the legislative assembly of the Province of Canada. He was a key player of Charlottetown and the Quebec City conferences that laid the groundwork for Confederation in 1867. He was known for his advocacy for minority rights and his opposition to extremism. Some of the goals that McGee aspired to for our country have become government policies, most notably, our emphasis on immigration as a means to build and strengthen Canada.
The establishment of an Irish heritage month would provide Canadians of all backgrounds the opportunity to learn, appreciate and celebrate the many contributions that Canadians of Irish heritage have made to Canada and—