ANG 160 Fall 2005
by Sarah Barke
Irish Community in Quebec City
Since its meagre beginnings, Québec has welcomed innumerable settlers
from Europe. Among these immigrants, there were French, British, Scottish
citizens, but there were also an important number of Irish people. Dating as far
back as to the year 1663, there has been proof of Irish immigrants living in Québec,
although many sources state that it dates to even earlier than that. One reason
there were so many Irish immigrants settling in Québec was because of religion.
Depending on their own personal beliefs, they could join either the Roman
Catholic or Protestant communities. Many Quebeckers can trace their genealogical
tree and find an Irish ancestor somewhere down the line which makes Irish
tradition that much more important.
people believe that Irish immigrants came to Canada mainly during the Irish
potato famine crisis of 1845-1849. Some of these immigrants came and stayed in
Canada but then settled in the United States. Unfortunately, more than five
thousand immigrants did not finish the trip and are now buried in Grosse Île,
near Montmagny. Contrary to popular belief, the more significant immigrations
happened roughly two decades earlier. These immigrants were mostly farmers from
Ireland coming to escape the conditions of home and provide better opportunities
for their children. They settled mainly near the St. Lawrence Valley in the
1820s and 1830s.
Among all of the immigrants that came through, the Irish Catholics were
the easiest to conform to the Francophone Catholic culture. Since they shared
the same religion, an Irish person could marry a Francophone person without it
being regarded as disrespectful or wrong, as opposed to mixing the Protestant
religion with the Catholic religion. Unlike their Anglophone and Protestant
counterparts, these groups were more rural and guided by the clergy. Also, both
groups felt hostility towards the controlling force, Britain, which also
cemented the companionship.
Irish presence in Québec has helped it become the city it is today. The
countless Irish pubs, the presence of an Irish school (Saint Patrick’s High
School), an Irish cemetery (Saint Patrick’s Cemetery), an Irish church (Saint
Patrick’s church), and the big anticipation surrounding Saint Patrick’s Day
every year are all very important in keeping the Irish presence alive. The Irish
community recognizes the unique heritage and culture that Ireland has to offer
and tries to incorporate it and represent it accurately into the Québec-Canadian
culture. The Irish community has become more and more important to the people of
Québec City and many want to keep the tradition alive.
historians and genealogists take it upon themselves to relate the history of
Irish immigrants in Québec as a province, and more specifically, Québec City.
Marianna O’Gallagher is among one of these devoted people. She has written
many essays and published numerous books recounting the trials and tribulations
that the Irish have encountered in settling into this new land. Grosse Ile
– Gateway to Canada, Eyewitness – Grosse Ile, and The Shamrock
Trail are her more notable books publish from her own company in Quebec
City, Livres Carraig Books. These books were also translated into French.
Irish have greatly contributed to the Québec culture. Whether someone has Irish
parents, grandparents or Irish ancestors going back a century, there is a
feeling of innate pride that comes with Irish blood.