How Scotland Laid the First Stones in the Building of Modern Canada

Haunting remains of the Arichonan township, a Scottish village cleared during the Highland Clearances.

Haunting remains of the Arichonan township, a Scottish village cleared during the Highland Clearances (Photo: Jan Holm / Shutterstock) - complimnets of Inews

The UK news site “Inews” have published an article (linked below) by Maddy Searle titled "Canada turns 150: how Scotland paved the way for modern Canada". The article highlights the role played by Scotsman, especially refugees from the horrors of the Highland Clearances, in building modern Canada. The article is in honor of Canada’s 150th anniversary which will be cleberated on July 1, 2017.

Quoting from the article: “Since its birth a century and a half ago, Scotland has played a huge part in Canada’s culture. Scottish Canadians are the third largest ethnic group in the country, and continue to shape Canada today. Finding a new Scotland, Scots were among the first Europeans to settle in Canada, and have had a big impact on Canadian culture since the days of the British Empire. The first recorded Scots in Canada were two Scottish slaves. In 1010, they were taken to Vinland (now called Newfoundland) by a Viking prince."

Continuing from the article: “A Highland regiment was stationed in New Brunswick in 1761, attracting many Scottish traders to the area. The Jacobite uprisings of the 17th and 18th century led to many Scots seeking political asylum in Canada, and Catholic Gaels sought freedom from persecution across the Atlantic. In the 19th century, many Scottish tenant farmers were forced off their land in the Highland and Lowland Clearances, or had to leave due to crop failure and famine. Many of these farmers decided to emigrate to Canada.”

In 1850 the Scots Gaelic community of Nova Scotia is estimated by some to have exceeded 100, 000 Gaelic speakers. Howvever the malign neglect of the Provincial and Canadian governments failed to give Gaelic the same rights and recognition as that afforded English. It was the de facto policy of assimilation which was lethally effective against the Scottish language. For example, Gaelic was never the language of instruction in the Cape Breton school system despite the significant presence of the Gaelic speaking community. The result has been the steady decline of the language. By 1930, just 80 years after the 1850 census showed over 100,000 speakers, the number of Gaelic users in Nova Scotia had fallen to just 30,000.

However, the language is experiencing a renaissance with growing interest among the descendants of Scottish immigrants in the their heritage.  It is estimated that today there are 2000 Gaelic speakers in Nova Scotia and the numbers are growing. In April of this year the Canadian government awarded 671,000 C$ to the Cape Breton Gaelic College (Colaisde na Gàidhlig). The Gaelic College is located on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island in what was once a monoglot Gaelic speaking enclave in North America. Founded in 1938, Colaisde na Gàidhlig has established itself in the forefront of efforts to preserve Gaelic culture and has led in the efforts to revitalize the Scots Gaelic tongue in the Canadian Maritime. Today the Cape Breton Gaelic College is a modern and innovative institution. From its humble beginnings, this unique institution has expanded and gained a reputation for its contribution to the preservation and development of the Scots Gaelic language and culture of Nova Scotia. The only institution of its kind in North America, students of all ages and ability travel here from around the world to study.

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