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The Celtic people in the province of Quebec
Dominic Haerinck

For many centuries, the province of Quebec has been home to many communities from around the world, communities that enrich the cultural landscape of our province each in their own way. There is one particular group that has for a long time now been a major contributing cultural force in our society : the Celtic people. Their presence impacts many facets of social life, from music to a special day on the calendar, and is not doubt a strong element of our social identity, even if not always rightfully acknowledged. The Celtic people, namely the Scots, the Irish and the Bretons, immigrated to our land in a sporadic fashion over the centuries, but there are some key events in their history ( and thus in ours as well ) that saw a considerable growth of their population on Canadian territory.

            Already under the French Regime, there is some records of Scots – who often went by frenchified names - inhabiting the province of Quebec after having left their Scottish homeland, hoping for a new start and maybe a more prosperous life besides their long-time French allies. (The political relations between the French and the Scots date as far back as the 14th century when they had sprung from concerted efforts of the two nations to resist English overlordship.) Of course, it was under the English Regime that the majority of Scots, fighting in the British army and thus striking a sour blow to the Auld Alliance with the French, came to Quebec. Many received lands in some parts of the province. Later, Scotland underwent many major economical changes. Many Highlands chiefs became owners of their lands in the English fashion, lands that had in the past belonged to the entire clan. Those lands became rich sheep pastures and thousands of Highlanders were forced to leave their homes (the Highland Clearances). Australia and Canada were choice destinations for the displaced, especially the Eastern Townships of Quebec (such as Inverness, Scotstown and Gould), a region that proudly embraces its Scottish heritage to this day.

            Another historical event marked the coming of more Celtic people to Quebec. During the first half of the 19th century, a major food shortage and a typhus outbreak hit Ireland. The number of deceased swelled to over a million with as many people crossing the Atlantic and seeking refuge in other parts of the world. Many thousands sailed to Canada, bringing with them their music, their traditions and their identity.

            Besides the Irish and the Scots, another important member of the great Celtic family contributed to our community : the Bretons. Present among our population since the 16th century, if in smaller proportions than the Scots and the Irish, they came to our shores in two major waves, one at the turn of the 17th century, the other at the beginning of the 20th century. There are close to three thousand Bretons currently living in Quebec.

            The presence of these three distinct, though related, Celtic communities in our society is a major contributing factor to the shaping of our cultural landscape and it is with great pride and joy that Quebec’s Celtic people heritage will be celebrated on September 2nd and 3rd 2006.

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