According to census information, more than 15% of the nation’s population claims Irish-origin, but there’s no need to be green with envy if you aren’t from the Emerald Isles.
Here are 38 major urban centres across 10 provinces and two territories in Canada where you can kiss the Irish!
In Alberta, the luck of the Irish can be found just about everywhere. Medicine Hat and Lethbridge claim the highest percentage of Irish (15.29% and 14.42%, respectively), although Calgary and Edmonton aren’t too far behind (14.16% and 14.08%, respectively). Better still, Calgary’s first millionaire, Patrick Burns, was an Irish-Canadian.
There are five urban areas in B.C. that boast more than 10% of their population from Irish-descendants. Victoria has the most, with almost 20% of its population hailing from the Emerald Isles, while Kelowna (at 17.51%), Chilliwack (16.85%), Abbotsford (12.77%) come in before Vancouver, with 11.18% of the population claiming Irish origin.
While Calgary claims him, Patrick Burns had a hand in developing and expanding the Irish presence in Winnipeg. Burns initially set up his cattle business just outside Winnipeg, while another prominent Irish businessman, Nicholas Bawlf, built a grain empire and helped create the Winnipeg Grain and Produce Exchange.
There’s a strong Eire influence in this province which is divided up between three cities: Saint Johns (29.84%), Fredericton (26.02%) and Moncton (18.27%). This results in a province with a very Irish feel. Aside from St. Patrick’s Day festivities, Miramichi hosts a large Irish Festival in July that highlights Irish music, dance, culture, stories and food.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Many Irish immigrating to Canada settled in this province. While they brought their culture and language, they also brought their troubles and many religious fights were fought in the streets of St. John’s. These days, however, the battles are limited to who can sing the loudest or get the best seat at the Basilica of St. John The Baptist, a National Historic Landmark in Canada.
The Irish have been part of this province since Roger Casey first arrived in the 1660s and married an Acadian. More than a million Irish passed through Pier 21, Canada’s version of Ellis Island, between 1928 and 1971. Now the province, whose name means New Scotland, is steeped in Celtic history and tradition.
For many Irish immigrants, the sub-zero temperatures were an unwelcome greeting to Yellowknife, but the promise of work was not. At first, the Gold Rush attracted Irish immigrants but it was mining work that kept the Irish in place. Still, the Irish are a minority in this territory with Aboriginal people constituting more than 50% of the population.
Seven cities boast significant Irish populations. After Peterborough (31.76%), there’s Kingston (27.55%), Barrie (23.45%), North Bay (22.86%), Sarnia (22.71%), Oshawa (21.94%), Sault Ste. Marie (21.35%), Ottawa (18.48%) and Toronto (9.18%). As a result, Toronto puts on one of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day parades in Canada, Ottawa starts the festivities a week before and there are Irish-themed activities throughout the province all through March.
The Irish never number more than 6% in any Quebec city (Montreal has 5.84%, Sherbrooke has 5.66%, Quebec City has 4.92% and Trois Riviere has 3.76%), but that doesn’t stop La Belle Province from celebrating their Irish heritage. Montreal has one of the oldest (and biggest) St. Patrick’s Day parades in North America, while various cities and associations spend a week celebrating the Emerald Isles.
The Irish are well represented in this province. In Regina (15.39%) head over to Ceilidh Surprise, for all things Celtic — can anyone say Tayto Cheese & Onion chips? — or take in a Gaelic football match by watching the Regina Gaels. In Saskatoon, where 14.75% of the population is Irish, there are celebrations around St. Patrick’s Day, as well as an Irish Folk Fest, held every August.
While Aboriginal culture, snow and swans (there is an annual migration of the swans that marks the end of winter) play prominently in the festivals in this territory, the Irish (and those that love the Irish) love to raise a glass or two at one of the local watering holes, particularly at Shenanigans Irish Pub & Grill.