Saint Patrick’s Day: The history of Canada’s Irish community

Mar 17, 2014 | News

By Victoria Quiroz

Celebrations continued Monday, March 17 for St. Patrick’s Day. The holiday, which was made an official Christian feast day in the early seventeenth century, is today widely considered a celebration of Irish culture.

Canada has a long and storied history with the Irish that dates back to 1536 when Irish fisherman from Cork travelled to Newfoundland in the first recorded Irish presence in Canada. As recently as 2006, it was found in a StatCan census that Canadians of full or partial Irish descent make up the 4th largest ethnic group in Canada, or roughly, 14 per cent.

It is estimated that between 1825 to 1970 1.2 million Irish came to Canada, with about half arriving in a twenty year period between 1830 and 1850.

Today, Canada and countries around the world, celebrate their Irish roots.

John Ó Ríordán comes from the city of Cork in Ireland. An IT professional, Ríordán has been living in Toronto for the last three years on a contract with the IT company he works for but will returning to Cork in the upcoming months. Ríordán spoke with Humber News about his experience celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Canada.

“It’s very nice, it makes you feel closer, or accepted, really,” said Ríordán of the celebrations. Ríordán said when he came into work today everyone was wearing green, green food had been brought in to the office and that an Irish flag had been placed in his office.

“It’s very unusual to see my own flag in an office over here,” said Ríordán. “It’s really great, it makes you feel special.”

Ríordán attended the St. Patrick’s Day parade on Sunday, March 16. Organized by the St. Patrick’s Parade Society of Toronto, the parade has been an annual event in Toronto going back as far as 1863. Ríordán said that while the parade draws a lot of Irish people it’s nothing like the ones in Ireland.

In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day festivities tend to span several days. In 2014 the annual Dublin festival began on Friday, March 14 and continued until Monday, March 17. The festival is a huge spectacle in Dublin, featuring music, parades, comedy, food and family events.


Below is a slideshow detailing the history of Canada’s Irish community.

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