Canada is a very culturally diverse country and Irish culture is a part of that diversity. Many people do not think about what other cultures, such as the Irish, have brought to Canada, but it is important to understand the diversity and culture that was brought. According to a census done in 2006 by Statistics Canada, the Irish were the 4th largest ethnic group with 4,354,000 Canadians who have full or half Irish descent (Statistics Canada, 2006). This statistic shows that in Canada today there is still a big amount of Irish people and they may still carry cultural traditions with them. In this paper I will be analyzing and investigating the question “Has the transference of Irish cultural tradition survived in Canada?” I will be focusing my paper on the following three points.
The first point will look at the religion of the Irish within Canada, focusing on Catholic and Protestant religion. My second point will be discussing the Gaelic language, as well as the Anglo Irish. My third point will discuss Irish music and dancing within Canada. Irish culture and heritage was first brought to Canada when the Irish people immigrated. One of the first key cultural identities the Irish brought was there religion.
Religion Religion among the Irish people within Canada is predominantly Catholic and Protestant. This is because when the Irish immigrated to Canada they were divided into two religious groups, Catholic and Protestant. When the Irish came to Canada a big portion of the early Irish Protestants settled in Upper Canada which was considered to be Ontario. Later on Irish immigrants could be found through a wide range of places in Ontario. They could be found anywhere from Maritimes, Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton, to Kingston.
The division between Roman Catholic and Protestant Irish is considered so foundational to the Irish history in Canada that they are often treated as two ethnic groups. The Irish immigrants, of which the majority were Catholic, settled in Quebec City, and they brought a defined connection with the Roman Catholic church and therefore Catholic population. “This Catholic majority in Quebec City proved to be significant with respect to the subsequent social development for both the Irish Catholic and Irish Protestant communities” (Grace 2003, 55). Since the Catholic Irish community was so prominent, the Protestant community in Quebec felt insecure. The Protestant Irish people were not able to have a strong presence of institutions like the Orange Order because of such a dominant Catholic community in Quebec City. The Orange Order is a protestant fraternal organization brought to Canada and was needed to help the Protestant immigrants settle in Canada. The absence of such institutions like the Orange Order in a dominant Catholic population proved to be one cause of Irish Protestant moving out of Quebec City (Grace 2003, 60). In Donald Akenson’s review on surveys done to see how many different religions Irish people in Canada had, he found a differing data than that of Quebec City.
He found “51 to 59 percent of respondents (depending on the survey) who identified themselves as Irish were Protestant, with about a third being Catholic and the rest being non-Christian or professing no religion” (Carroll 2006, 25). The Irish in Upper Canada who were Protestant found it easy to assimilate into the North American culture by picking up where they left off in Ireland. The Irish Protestants had money and starting re establishing themselves as farmers in Canada.
They found it easy because of all the open farmland they had at their disposal. In contrast, the Catholics in Upper Canada were not able to assimilate to Canadian culture very easily because when they left Ireland they were socially and politically disadvantaged, with little money and skills. One of the Irish Catholics only advantages was being familiar with the English language. When the Protestant and Catholics came to Canada and started joining the culture, it was found that the Protestants stopped caring about their Irish heritage and identity and very quickly assimilated and took on a British civilization identity. Differing, the Irish Catholics stayed true to their heritage and traditions brought from Ireland. Also the Catholics and Protestants brought conflicting views to Canada and with that came conflicting organizations.
The Irish Catholics had the Canadian Catholic church, which also came to be a prominent part of the The St. Patrick’s Society of Montréal. The St. Patricks Society of Montreal was founded as a secular society and became Catholic in 1856. As discussed previously, the Irish protestants brought the Orange Order to preserve their faith and it was very prevalent and powerful within Ontario, Newfoundland and New Brunswick. Although the Orange Order eventually started fading out, declining in members and supporters after episodes of public violence, there was and is still an Irish Protestant Organization around. It is called the Benevolent Irish Society of Newfoundland. In the 19th century it was primarily Protestant, but now it includes both the Irish Catholics and the Protestants in Canada (Leitch and Toner 2016).
Irish religion is still primarily Protestant and Catholic as it was when the Irish immigrated to Canada, but now there is less conflict between the Irish people. LanguageTwo of the main languages the Irish people brought to Canada are the Irish Gaelic language and Anglo Irish language. The Anglo Irish brought their Anglo language to Newfoundland when they first arrived in Canada. According to Sandra Clarke, who wrote the book “The Focus of Canada”, Anglo Irish was most often or mainly spoken by the immigrants who assimilated into Canadian culture because they could speak the native language.In Newfoundland, the immigrants who were Anglo Irish were the Irishmen who were working as transient workers. Clarke said that the William Labov’s model of language acquisition helped children and adolescents to learn the linguistic system of their parents. The model helped the children learn Anglo so that they were able to join the workforce in Canada.
Anglo Irish grew and spread throughout Canada through the workers and descendants of the Irish immigrants. This led to the rise of independent Anglo-Irish in settlements as well as in St. John’s, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, and Halifax (Clarke 1993, 67). The Irish Gaelic language was also brought into Canadian culture when the Irish immigrants arrived. There were two tiers of the Gaelic language after the immigrants became settled into Canada. The first tier was called the Fíor Ghaeltacht and this was when Irish speaking was common and spoken all the time during everyday things. The second tier was called Breac Ghaeltacht and this was where Irish immigrants carried on their native language and did not want to conform to the English language.
Colin Williams says “Fíor means true and breac means speckled” (Williams 1991, 71). The tiers distinguishing between the two Gaelics were removed in 1956, but people today still use and know of the distinction. In Canada through the years, that has been a decline of native Irish speaking or Gaelic Irish language. Children of the Irish were speaking english, as it started to come naturally to them as they learned it in school. The Irish who spoke Gaelic really wanted to keep the Irish culture and heritage alive and do not want to assimilate into Canadian culture (Williams 1991, 76). “James Hardiman, historian and Gaelic scholar, used literary relics to persuade fellow Catholics that a rich, noble civilization existed in the past, a culture that had become nearly forgotten because of British domination” (Quintelli-Neary 2009, 2). Marguerite Quintelli-Neary wrote a review on the Gaelic Irish.
It discussed how the Gaelic Irish felt towards the Anglo Irish. The Gaelic Irish wanted to preserve the survival of their language in Canada. To do that they needed to convince the Anglo-Irish contemporaries that the language’s survival required the Anglo Irish to come to terms with Gaelic culture so that they may be connected to the Catholic heritage. If the high status Anglo-Irish were not going to be convinced and take the lead in recovering and identifying with the Irish past culture and heritage within Canada, then the Gaelic Irish had to go to the next level, the middle class.
The Gaelic Irish had to try and convince the middle class Irish immigrants that they needed to change their ways and help preserve the Gaelic language to keep the traditional heritage alive. Marguerite Quintelli-Neary found that one of the big projects of the Gaelic Irish was to transform Anglo-Irish culture into a national Irish culture (Quintelli-Neary 2009, 3). Today, Ontario is home to the only Gaeltacht, which means Irish language speaking area, outside of Ireland. Music and Dance Part of the Irish culture and heritage is music and dance.
They brought music and dance with them to Canada and it is a way for the Irish to keep some of their culture alive within Canada. The fiddle, which was originated from the Irish traditions, was brought to Canada as a traditional Irish instrument used for cultural music. Today, the fiddle in Canada is usually played with piano accompaniment, and in western Canada the fiddle is accompanied by the guitar (Johanne Devlin 2009, 124). In Ottawa Valley traditional Irish folk music, like old time fiddling, is very prominent in the urban centers of Ottawa-Gatineau. This is where the first immigrants of the Irish ensured the survival of their cultural music. As the years go on, there is a decline or dwindling in the interest and awareness of traditional Irish music (Johanne Devlin 2009, 126). Irish communities in Ottawa host cultural events where the fiddle is played as well as the whistle, bagpipes, and accordion. The accordion was used by most of the Irish immigrants during the second half of the nineteenth century and it was used as a loud instrument for cultural dances.
“The adoption of the instrument ten-key melodeon/accordion into Irish traditional music coincided with the decline of the pipes and with the spread of set dancing” (Vallely 1999, 3). Today, the accordion remains to be used in ethnic Irish festivals in Canada such as Ceilis sponsored by the Irish community in Ottawa, and at Celtic James, which can be found in pubs around Canada (Johanne Devlin 2009, 126). In these Irish cultural events the instruments used to play Irish music like folks songs also are accompanied by dancing such as step dancing.
Step dancing was integrated into Canadian society by the Irish as it was one of their cultural traditional dances. Kristin Walsh found that Irish step dancing became more and more popular over the years. Irish step dancing turned into Riverdance which was a more upbeat, flashy form of step dancing that was done to celtic music (Walsh 2008, 126-127).
In Canada today step dancing is still very well known, we have three main forms of step dancing that are still thriving. The first form is vernacular Newfoundland step dance, the second is Irish Newfoundland step dance, and the third is traditional Irish step dance. There are children’s step dancing groups in Canada, most found within Newfoundland. Riverdance step dancing has made Irish traditional culture more of a popular culture within Canada. Whereas vernacular step dancing has declined over the years in Canada, but Irish descendants in Newfoundland are putting a lot of effort into trying to preserve it (Walsh 2008, 129-131). Since tourism is huge in Newfoundland they have organized events where step dancing is performed.
Irish culture has been extremely popularized within the arts in Newfoundland and Labrador because of all the tourism (Walsh 2008, 132-134). St Patrick’s day celebrations around Canada helps bring Irish culture back. St Patrick’s day shows the pride of the Irish, and many celebration day parades and events events incorporate Irish folk music as well as Irish step dancing.
Canada uses St. Patrick’s day to keep Irish culture alive and get the children involved so that the traditional culture will survive (Walsh 2008, 137-138). EvaluationTo answer the question “Has the transference of Irish cultural tradition survived in Canada?” using my research findings displayed throughout the paper, I found that Irish cultural traditions have survived in Canada, but are not very prevalent without digging deeper. I found that Irish culture in Canada was more commonplace, but over the years has faded out.
Research showed Irish religion is still very similar today, being primarily Protestant and Catholic religion. Although in Canada today, there is not nearly as much conflict between the two religious groups as in the past. Although, in some cases the Irish Catholics are still having a hard time dealing with the past discrimination they endured by the Protestants. Research done to show the prevalence of Irish language in Canada was connected with research on the Irish religion. Sandra Clarke showed that the majority of the Protestant Irish immigrants had an easier time assimilating because they spoke english and had more ties with the British people.
Research done by Marguerite Quintelli-Neary showed that the traditional Gaelic language in Ireland was brought to Canada and, although it had negative effects for the Catholics, it was a very important part of the Irish culture. It was so important that even today in Canada Irish people are trying to preserve the language. Gaelic language is even being taught in some universities now to try and preserve the culture. Research done by Johanne Devlin and by Kristin Walsh showed corresponding data. They found that Irish music and dance such as folk music and different types of step dancing is still very common in Canada today. Folk music and step dancing are not only done in festivals and used in St. Patrick’s Day celebrations but there are classes around Canada to learn the traditional Irish dance of step dancing.
To finally answer the question, Irish cultural tradition has survived within Canada and to this day is trying to be preserved. Music and dance are primarily the tradition that has really flourished in Canada and still continues to. Conclusion In this paper, I have evaluated the survival of Irish cultural tradition in Canada today. I have done this by looking at what cultural traditions the Irish have within Canada today, and also analyzing how prevalent these cultural traditions are. I found that although the Irish immigrated years ago there is still some of their culture around in Canada today.
Religion between the Catholic and Protestant Irish is still thriving, and although there is still some tension, a lot of the tension has faded over the years. The Anglo Irish people are still very prominent and the Gaelic Irish have been fading. Although, some universities are trying to bring back the Gaelic Irish language to be taught in schools, so Canadian society does not lose the Irish language. “In 2004, March 17 was proclaimed “Irish Heritage Day” by the Ontario Legislature in recognition of the immense Irish contribution to the development of the Province” (“Being Irish Canadian – Celtic Life International” 2017). Even though Irish cultural traditions have diminished and faded away, the government and Irish descendants are trying to bring some of the Irish culture back to make it more prominent again.