Tomorrow, Canadians will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at parades and festivities across the country. Amidst all the celebrations, St. Patrick’s Day is an opportunity to honour and celebrate the enormous contributions made by those of Irish descent to our country.
The Irish were among the first to arrive in Canada at the end of the fifteenth century and they helped build the very foundations of our country.
Among the many notable Irish Canadians who have had a tremendous influence on Canadian history is Thomas D’Arcy McGee, one of the Fathers of Confederation. Considered one of the most brilliant orators ever to sit in Canada’s Parliament, his passionate arguments fired the imagination of the colonies from the Atlantic to the Pacific and helped ensure the success of Confederation.
Two of the first Canadian professional hockey stars were Frank and Lester Patrick, brothers of Irish descent. The brothers starred at McGill University in the first decade of the twentieth century, and went on to co-found the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, which was later renamed the Western Canada Hockey League.
In addition to each winning the Stanley Cup, Frank with the Vancouver Millionaires and Lester with the Montreal Wanderers and New York Rangers, both were successful coaches and managers, and pioneers in promoting women’s hockey. The brothers are credited with introducing the blue line and the penalty shot, and were both inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Tim Horton, who played for many years for the Toronto Maple Leafs and then founded Canada’s most iconic coffee franchise, was also of Irish descent.
Timothy Eaton, another Irish Canadian, founded a little dry goods store at the corner of Yonge and Queen Streets in downtown Toronto in 1869. That store eventually became the foundation of a retail empire reaching across Canada.
These are just a few of the many Irish Canadians who have helped shape our great country. It is estimated that more than four million Canadians have some Irish ancestry.
As Minister for Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, I want to wish all Canadians a happy St. Patrick’s Day.
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