EDITORIAL: Emerald B.C.

You may be surprised by the number of people who claim Irish heritage in this province

Facing persecution and starvation, they sought a better life for their children.

When they got here they were often treated as second-class citizens, called all sorts of names and excluded from society’s upper crust.

Those already here yelled about their jobs being taken by these immigrants, saying the country should take care of those in need who were already here instead of taking in thousands of newcomers.

Today, their descendants are five million strong, roughly 15 per cent of the population.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Some of the more internationally-recognized Canadians have Irish roots. Michael J. Fox (and by extension, Marty McFly), Stompin’ Tom Connors and Brian Mulroney. We count them among our residents here in Parksville Qualicum Beach — George Millar of the Irish Rovers is one.

Some estimates suggest there are more than 618,000 people of Irish descent living in British Columbia, 250,000 in Vancouver alone (immigroup.com).

The 2006 census revealed that the Irish were the fourth-largest ethnic group in Canada, with 4.4 million Canadians with full or partial Irish descent, 14 per cent of the country’s population. Shockingly, that was a jump of more than 500,000 from the 2001 census. Estimates suggest the number tops five million now, including 650,000 in B.C. (wikipedia.org).

More than 1.2 million Irish immigrants arrived in Canada from 1825 to 1970 and at least half of those came between 1831-1850.

More than a half million people from one country in 19 years. There were no large grocery stores in 1840, no wealth like we enjoy now. Social services were pretty much non-existent, except for those provided by churches.

All of this makes us wonder about the hue and cry we hear from some people in this country about plans to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada. What is really at the root of the opposition to this opening of arms?

We can help these refugees, so we should. We are fortunate to have caring groups of people in Parksville Qualicum Beach who are doing just that.

Unless you are of First Nations descent, you are also an immigrant, perhaps from the Emerald Isle. We’re willing to wager it won’t take 100 years before one of these Syrian refugees, perhaps one who settles in Parksville Qualicum Beach, becomes prime minister.

— Editorial by John Harding