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Updated 02/13/2015

 


The Canadian Irish

Irish have a long and rich history in Canada dating back centuries. The first recorded Irish presence in the area of present day Canada dates from 1536, when Irish fishermen from Cork travelled to Newfoundland.    After the permanent settlement in Newfoundland by Irish in early 19th century, overwhelmingly from Waterford, increased immigration of the Irish elsewhere in Canada began in the decades following the War of 1812.

1.2 million Irish immigrants arrived, 1825 to 1970, at least half of those in the period from 18311850. By 1867, they were the second largest ethnic group (after the French), and comprised 24% of Canada's population. The 1931 national census counted 1,230,000 Canadians of Irish descent, half of whom lived in Ontario. About one-third were Catholic in 1931 and two-thirds Protestants.  Besides Upper Canada (Ontario), the Maritime colonies of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, especially Saint John, were popular destinations.

During this time, Canada was the destination of the most destitute Irish Catholics cleared from land estates and leaving the crowded docks of Liverpool, numbering in the hundreds of thousands. However, most Catholic Irish after 1850 usually headed to the United States, due to better economic prosperity and less British association of the British Empire. They also went to England, Australia or New Zealand.