“It’s the great, big, broad land ’way up yonder”

Flag of Scottish Canadians

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Scotland’s links with Canada stretch back for centuries.Most of us have family who have emigrated there, settled and now have their own children growing up as Canadians.

Scots went to Canada, sometimes with no choice because they were cleared off the land they had inhabited in Scotland for thousands of years, sometimes opting for the opportunity of a better future and sometimes to seek work. The Hudson Bay Company recruited, at one time, the majority of its workforce from Orkney. This included Dr John Rae (Dr John Rae Continues to Inspire ).The men recruited would leave the hardships in Orkney to earn money, eventually returning home. Some chose to settle in Canada.

Indeed it is suggested that it was back in 1398 that  Henry Sinclair, the first Earl of Orkney , sailed to Nova Scotia and explored its coast.

15% of Canada’s population of 35 million claim a Scots/Irish ancestry and according to the 2011 census 7,195 were Gaelic (Scots,Irish, Welsh Breton) speakers. It was once the third most commonly spoken language and after years of decline it is now in something of a resurgence. There are schools in Canada where Gaelic is a taught subject. Along with the language its history and music is also taught.

British Columbia holds the Comunn Gàidhlig Bhancoubhair  . It  has the Vancouver Gaelic Choir, the Victoria Gaelic Choir and the annual Gaelic festival ‘Mòd Vancouver’.

There are numerous Highland Games held in Canada as well as festivals and other cultural gatherings. In some ways Canadians of Scots descent have more pride in being Scottish than those they left behind.

Bilingual road sign in Canada

The Scottish Government has established an office in Ottawa . In 2016 exports from Scotland to Canada were worth £610million and the new offices will continue to encourage the economic opportunities.

The close ties with Canada are also a boost to Scotland’s tourism industry with 149,000 Canadians choosing it as a holiday destination contributing £130million to the Scottish economy.

On a recent 2 day visit to Canada the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon was invited to open the Toronto Stock Exchange as well as meeting with the Toronto Region Board of Trade.

Educators in Scotland have long studied practice in Canadian schools, in particular Ontario where Assessment is for Learning has improved learning and teaching. This exchange of theory and practice has been reciprocal with interest in how Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence develops.

The cultural links continue as Scotland’s 2019 International Story Telling Festival will have a strong Canadian flavour.  ‘Canada – Scotland: Coast to Coast’ will  include a cultural exchange on indigenous languages.

Donald Smith, Director of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival, said:

“The 2019 Scottish International Storytelling Festival is delighted to headline ‘Canada – Scotland: Coast to Coast’ in its international exchange, thanks to Festival Expo support. Canadian guests will perform in Edinburgh and travel across Scotland, pioneering the importance of storytelling to build inter-cultural bridges and showcasing story, dance and song.”

Festival Expo has received £80,000 funding from the Scottish Government to help toward the events. The Festival runs from Friday 18th of October to Thursday 31st of October.

61,000 Canadians were killed fighting in the First World War and 172,000 were wounded. 619,636 Canadians enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force with some also volunteering to serve  in the British Army, the Royal Navy and the British Flying Services. In the Second World War 1.1 million Canadians served in the Canadian Armed Forces, the Allied Forces and the Merchant Navy.  44,000 lost their lives . During the war Canadian financial assistance to Britain amounted to $3,043,000,000.

It is sickening  to hear UK politicians today claim that Britain stood alone in World War Two.

Canada has some of the finest pipe bands in the world – regimental, police and communities.

It’s the great, big, broad land ’way up yonder,

   It’s the forests where silence has lease;

It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder,

   It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.

(Robert Service,The Spell of the Yukon)

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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4 replies »

  1. I’m “wonderfully impressed” by the comprehensive coverage of both EBC and ETV of the 1st Ministers visit to N. America – oh, silly me forgot SNP BAAAAD!!!

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