Irish In Quebec Essays

Submitted By LChand21
Words: 1626
Pages: 7

Pre-confederate North America became home to many cultures fleeing religious persecution and political oppression. These immigrants and their descendants have made important contributions to our cultural fabric and prosperity. In particular, Irish settlers, who despite their sufferings and humble beginnings became prominent community, business and political leaders. This blending of Irish and French identities became a major component to the culture that exists today in Quebec. The Being Irish O’Quebec exhibit at the McCord Museum is a portrayal of what they describe as a successful integration of Irish settlers to Quebec. The exhibit takes a rather neutral stance on the religious and political matters that define Irish history, in fact, the exhibit is careful to not elaborate on the difficulties the Irish faced while integrating into French Canadian society. In order to examine the success of Irish integration we must first understand those difficulties, whether they be institutional, public or private, they remain an important piece of Irish history and even more so our own. Therefore, they should be discussed.
The Irish in Quebec today do not constitute a large portion of the population, though many Quebecers have Irish roots. In fact, it is difficult to establish their origins as often times the French had difficulty spelling and pronouncing Gaelic names. Family names underwent many transformations during this time, becoming indistinguishable from French Canadians. This can be linked to two major events during the Irish immigration in the nineteenth century, intermarriage and the devastating deaths at Grosse Isle. In particular, the biographies noted in the Being Irish O’Quebec exhibit portray two common themes, how the Irish settlers and eventually their descendants contributed to the cultural framework within Quebec and how many “had traveled very far from their Irish origins”.1
The exhibit does not focus substantially on the difficulties the Irish faced in integrating their language in a predominantly French culture and as a result, many chose to change their names. Like many others Sister Marie O’Flaherty had to adapt her Irish name to French in order to accommodate the French Canadians inability to pronounce her Irish name. She chose Flertez. Tadhg Cornelius O'Brennan is another example, although the changing of his name was not an individual choice but one that was placed on him over time, as his “new French-speaking compatriots had difficulty spelling his Gaelic name”2 today he is referred to as Tec Aubry. Linguistic differences aside the Irish settlers had much more in common with the French Canadians than any other group who had settled in the area. The Irish and French Canadians shared a common Catholic religion, making them more assimilable, as intermarriage was possible. These intermarriages resulted in children speaking French as their first language over Gaelic. Tadhg Cornelius O'Brennan married a Fille du roi and subsequently had a large family. “Today, thousands of Aubrys can trace their lineage”3 back to this union. The Irish Catholics and the French Canadians were also rural oriented and heavily influenced by the clergy. They had little experience of urban living and neither group had been swept up in the industrial revolution. Much like their French neighbours, the Irish “immigrants and their descendants had to learn how to extract a livelihood from a land that was not as rich or as temperate as the one they had left behind.”4
Further proof that the Irish had traveled far from their origins can be seen in the events that led to Thomas d’Arcy McGee’s assassination. McGee a young, angry Irish nationalist became a supporter of non-violent action and father of confederation upon arriving in Montreal. He was elected to parliament and was instrumental in convincing the Irish settlers to adopt confederation. Once a supporter of Irish independence, he was now advocating confederation, which would have been