Brief Observations on Irish Heritage in Canada



Joey Maher ( first Irishman to win the world handball crown) photo by: infomatique

At first glance, Ireland and Canada don’t seem to have a lot in common. They are on opposite sides of the globe, separated by approximately 5 thousand kilometers, and at times can have largely differing cultures and social conventions. However, it cannot be overlooked that Canada is a child nation, being born from the parents of many European countries including Ireland, and the Irish heritage in Canada is as deep rooted as any other, second only to English (20%), and in heated competition with the Scottish and French(~15%).  But where do all of the Irishmen go in Canada? It is such a vast country after all, and the Irish roots must be prevalent in certain areas.

In actuality, most Irish emigration in Canada takes place in the Provinces of Ontario and British Columbia, where the nation’s largest and most prosperous cities find themselves situated. Toronto has the most pronounced Irish community, due to its large size and sheer numbers of population. Also Vancouver is a popular choice, because of its metropolitan status, and possibly because of its maritime atmosphere and gloomy rain-soaked skies. Here in these cities, the Irish heritage manifests itself into the hundreds of pubs and beer houses peppering the streets, rather than into a small exclusive enclave such as Chinatown. This makes the Irish Heritage unique in a sense that it is welcomed in almost all Canadian cities as a foreign flavor, yet it is present enough to be treated as any of the other cultures setting up shop along Broadway.

Yet the most interesting factor about Irish Heritage around the world is their remarkable ability to recreate and insinuate the creature comforts of their homeland into other communities abroad. It is nearly impossible to walk 30 minutes on the streets of Vancouver without spotting an authentic Irish roots pub, selling meat pies and dark draught beer by the pound to hungry foreigners, eager to assimilate into a decadent culture so much more interesting than their own.  After all, what is the Canadian culture but a muddled mix of a hundred different nations shedding their influence into a sizzling stew of world flavour?

Perhaps one of the most interesting activities to do while roaming the streets of any Canadian city however, is to look at all of the hundreds of Irish establishments located throughout and observe how organically and seamlessly they blend into their surroundings. It is the simplest, yet most resounding representation of the Irish emigration process to see just how easily and indistinguishably the culture has ingrained itself into Canada’s own, and the country has never been so proud to toss another flavour into the pot.


Enda Glacken is a native of Co.Meath who loves writing on all topics relating to Ireland, particularly history and folk tales. When he is not busy running The Celtic Jeweller he can be found hiking in the beautiful mountains of Wicklow or on a football (soccer!) pitch.

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