Robert G. Kearns, Chair and Founder of Ireland Park Foundation
Ireland Park Foundation (IPF) is an arts, culture and heritage organization, dedicated to commemorating and celebrating the story of the Irish in Canada. We believe that through these lenses, the people of Canada and Ireland can enrich the mutual understanding of their interconnected identities. IPF promotes artistic connectivity, engages in original academic research, and hosts public art and cultural events to help build a stronger sense of community between Ireland and Canada.
Ireland Park Foundation takes a multidisciplinary approach to celebrating and commemorating the story of the Irish in Canada. Through public parks we commemorate, through theatre and film we relate, through music we inspire, through history we discover and through migrant stories we reveal.
The histories of Ireland and Canada are closely intertwined in so many ways, here are 6 of the most significant:
1. Migration of Irish during the Famine to Toronto and Canada as a whole
During the years of the famine in Ireland, many migrants made their way by boat to various points in eastern Canada, particularly Grosse île, Montreal, Kingston and Toronto. In 1847, the worst year of the famine, 38,586 Irish migrants descended upon the Toronto Harbour. While many migrants moved out of the city in the months and years to come, Toronto has a rich Irish influence, visible in its public figures, architecture and place names. Today, in the Province of Ontario alone, around 16.5% of the population claims Irish ancestry.
2. Irish migration fundamentally changed how Toronto’s healthcare system was run.
Many of the Irish migrants who arrived in Toronto during 1847 were inflicted with typhus, with 1,186 perishing that year alone. A Toronto doctor named Dr. George Robert Grasett was appointed Chief Attending Surgeon of the Emigrant Hospital in June of 1847, where most of the typhus-stricken Irish were treated. Dr. Grasett, along with 11 other medical professionals, gave their lives while tending to the migrants. To this day, Irish Famine migration to Canada is the largest health crises in Canadian history and fundamentally shaped this country’s celebrated public healthcare infrastructure.
3. Canada’s role in Ireland’s Home Rule movement.
While Canada did not have a direct role in Ireland’s Home Rule movement, it was a supporter of it, having received its own ‘Home Rule’ though Confederation in 1867. However, Mr. Edward Blake, one of only three Canadian Liberal Party leaders never to become Prime Minister of Canada, joined the British House of Commons to support Ireland’s Home Rule movement. Blake’s parents emigrated from Ireland before he was born and in 1892, he resigned his position as leader of the Liberal Party and moved to Ireland with his family. He was elected as an Irish Parliamentary Party Member of Parliament in 1892, for South Longford.
4. Ireland announced its departure from the Commonwealth in Canada
In 1948, at a dinner at the Governor General’s residence in Ottawa, Taoiseach John A. Costello allegedly declared that Ireland was leaving the Commonwealth. Popular legend claims the Taoiseach, offended at having been placed across the table from a replica of the cannon, ‘Roaring Meg’, declared Ireland a republic. The reality was that Ireland had for some time been in talks with the British Government regarding the External Relations Act, which Britain passed, and Ireland wished to repeal. During his visit, Costello arranged for a toast to the President of Ireland in exchange for a toast to King George VI. Governor General Lord Alexander reneged on the toast to President of Ireland and, at a press conference the following day, Costello announced that Ireland would repeal the External Relations Act, which led to the declaration of the Republic of Ireland.
5. Dublin and Belfast were major influences for Toronto’s architecture.
Toronto’s built heritage reflects both the multiple waves and constant streams of Irish migrants, particularly in the mid-to-late 19th and early 20thcenturies. Many Irish architects, builders, engineers and cultural leaders came to Canada during these years and helped to shape the city we see today. In the mid-to-late 1800s, Dublin’s Georgian architecture came to define much of the residential neighbourhood architecture, as well as that of major buildings, such as Union Station, Toronto’s main train station. In the 20th century, Toronto was largely influenced by Belfast’s industrial architecture, visible in areas such as the Distillery District and Liberty Village.
6. Canada’s role in securing better IMF bailout terms.
Canada represents Ireland at the IMF and World Bank, and Ireland is the only European country that Canada represents at both. Canada was a strong supporter of Ireland’s bailout terms and former Canadian Finance Minister, the late Honourable Jim Flaherty, was recognized as a strong supporter of the eventual favourable terms given to Ireland. (For the full story see the Sunday Independent’s article)
IPF has embarked on many exciting projects and programs over the past year. In August of 2018, Grasett Park was opened to the public, with its granite installation. We await the final piece of the park—the glass elements—which will be installed in 2020. On March 17th of this year, we signed the lease for 3 Eireann Quay, the former Administrative Office building of the Canada Malting Company, situated between Billy Bishop City Airport and Ireland Park on Toronto’s waterfront. IPF looks forward to converting this space into a permanent arts, culture, and heritage event and presentation space.
For the second in our series of ICCC profiles, we catch up with Jackie Gilna, President of the Ireland Canada Chamber of Commerce Ottawa
Describe ICCCOTT and what its all about…
In cooperation with the Irish and Canadian business community, ICCCOTT established in 2010 promotes and supports programs that focus on trade and investment including sports, culture, and education as they relate to economic growth. We provide networking opportunities for members by organizing events with high profile speakers. Additionally, we support the business community representing member’s business views before the Irish and Canadian governments in Dublin and Ottawa.
We are committed to resourcefully connecting people and helping foster relationships to further business opportunities and help deepen economic ties between our two countries.
Please describe one of ICCCOTT’s members
We are fortunate to have one of Canada’s most decorated Irish entrepreneurs and leader in our community, businessman Pat Kelly (Galway), Director Community Affairs ICCCOTT. Pat is a recipient of the inaugural Presidential Distinguished Service Award 2012, and founder of the Gales. His success with the Heart and Crown group, construction group Bradley-Kelly and many other business interests is an example to all that hard work, focus, drive, and ambition drive results.
From the beginning of his journey in Canada Pat helped so many who came to Ottawa with a roof over their head, a job to get them started and introductions to help create their opportunities. He is a true example to all. It is often said the Irish abroad do not support each other in business. Not Pat Kelly, he set the bar and leads by example!
What originally brought you to Ottawa?
I spent many of my adult years in the Netherlands. Before leaving I was involved in the Dutch Oil &Gas, Aviation, Marine and Fire Fighting training sector as Managing Director and sat as Director on the Board of Directors for Merger& Acquisitions.
I thrive on challenge and felt ready for a change. It was a family decision and so we moved from the Netherlands via Ireland (nine months) to Ottawa, my Canadian husband’s hometown where his mother, a west-coaster, still lives.
I had no thoughts other than to take a sabbatical and see what inspired me on the next step of life’s journey. The journey subsequently morphed into two acquisitions ripe for management restructuring and two start ups in the tech sector.
Ottawa is a very safe city with a growing international community, tech hubs, talent and home to the largest employer in the country, the Federal government. We have access to great health care, housing and activities. Yes, the winters get very cold, but the warmth of our great Irish Canadian and local community compensates for the long weeks of boots and tukes!
Why should Irish companies consider Ottawa?
Ottawa has affordable housing costs in comparison to other major Canadian cities. We are a tech hub with over 1.3m people and 1,750 knowledge-based business employing over 68k people. We boast innovative talent, highly competitive business costs, incubator hubs such as Invest Ottawa and L- Spark, and access to the Embassies of the world to establish international opportunities. Not bad for our small Nation’s capital! And did I mention, it’s only 16 km to the ski slopes?
What are your key pieces of advice for Irish companies starting to do business in this city?
As we are in the nation’s capital Ottawa, a few simple rules to follow are: take the time to build relationships. Be punctual, give a firm handshake, maintain eye contact and opportunity will follow.
What’s next for ICCCOTT?
ICCCOTT continue to grow with representatives from predominately three sectors: Legal, Financial Services and Tech. We enjoy and are grateful for the support of the business community, the Embassy and our Chamber colleagues throughout Canada. We are excited and look forward to a unique event happening in this fall, an ICCCOTT initiative which will bring together the first Pan-Canadian Chamber meeting with guests ICBA and other parties in September 2019.
Check out part 1 of our series of Ireland-Canada Chamber profiles with Lar Quigley of the Ireland Canada Chamber of Commerce Vancouver
Describe your company in 60 words or less
Sovy is the one-stop-shop for simplifying business compliance, providing cloud-based regulatory compliance solutions for Micro and Small to Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) around the world. Sovy’s affordable subscription services enable a MSME to get compliant and stay compliant with privacy, conduct and anti-fraud regulations for a fraction of the cost of bringing in high-priced experts.
Why did you decide to set up a base in Ireland?
We chose Ireland as our base of operations in the fall of 2017 because of the great support system for high-tech start-ups and deep professional talent base. Crucially, Ireland also has a wide array of international trading partners, so having a base here can create major opportunities to do business with SME’s in several other countries, including Canada.
What has been the most positive aspect of doing business in Ireland?
Ireland is both people and business friendly, and there is a general positive can-do attitude that makes growing a business quite exciting.
What has been your single greatest challenge to date (of operating in Ireland), and how have you approached overcoming it?
The landscape is complex in terms of where to set up operations, and weigh the different areas, talent pools, partnerships and the like. We have been working with Enterprise Ireland (EI), the Local Enterprise Office in Meath County and trade groups to make informed choices. EI has also been invaluable when it comes to learning about Ireland’s key trading partners and opportunities to scale Sovy by working with companies internationally.
What key piece of advice would you give to a Canadian company thinking of setting up in Ireland?
Take the time to meet the government and public-private partnerships that are set up to help your business become established and known and avail yourself of the many supports those organisations offer. Key organisations that you will want to connect with include Enterprise Ireland, the IDA, and groups like the Ireland Canada Business Association.
Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton, recently spent a number of days in Canada as part of the Government’s 2019 St Patrick’s Day Programme.
The agenda was a mix of culture, business and politics, taking in visits to significant historical sites like Ireland Park, and meetings with political figures like Omar Alghabra, MP and Environment and Climate Change Minister, Catherine McKenna. The Minister also switched on the green lights at Niagara Falls for St Patrick’s Day.
Minister Bruton sat down with the ICBA on his return and spoke in detail about the visit in a ten-minute interview which you can listen to below.
We’ve also pulled out some of the highlights which you will find below in lightly-transcribed excerpts.
Meeting Omar Alghabra MP, Parliamentary Secretary to Canada’s Minister of International Trade Diversification
Canada is faced with a very similar challenge as Ireland post-Brexit. We see our largest neighbour possibly putting significant trade barriers in our way. Canada has suddenly realised also that it's 75 percent dependent on the US market and that it's not a market that is quite as guaranteed as it was. So, it was very interesting to exchange thoughts on what Canada is doing with its trade commission to support Canadian businesses internationalizing.
We had meetings with a number of Irish companies there, the common thread was Data Analytics and Financial Technologies and they had developed very good opportunities in Canada solving key problems for Canadian companies. So, it was very interesting to see that on both sides you’re seeing the evolution of new ideas, innovative companies spreading their wings by trading in one another’s markets. At a time when a lot of people talk about protectionism, it’s really exciting to see companies carving out a niche and diversifying and benefiting, and mutual gain - a win-win situation.
Encouraging further Canadian investment in Ireland
There's been a huge expansion in recent years of Canadian investment in Ireland, and it's something that we want to encourage. I attended a business breakfast where very high on the agenda was the changing relationship as a result of Britain exiting the European Union and Ireland being the last common law English-speaking country which is a member of the European Union, and there's no doubt that people in Canada will be looking at Ireland in a fresh light in that respect. So, we have forty very important IDA investors already who have invested in Ireland and we would like to see others follow.
Meeting with Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna – carbon taxes and rebates
It was very interesting to get an insight into what Canada is doing [in the area of Carbon taxes] - they have been pioneers of the idea that we should have a carbon tax with the money refunded. They are proposing that ninety percent of the revenue raised would be returned in a dividend and ten percent would be used for climate action. So, it is very much the idea that the purpose of a carbon tax isn't to raise funds but rather to encourage people to switch the way they behave in their own home and move away from high-carbon ways of living.
They've run into some difficulties because Canada has very independent-minded provinces, and so the relationship between a federal initiative and implementation in the provinces can be fraught. So, there is some pushback in some provinces against these measures and that is a very significant challenge that it is being worked through. I’m not going to comment on domestic politics in Canada, but it does show that anything in this area is a challenge because you're trying to encourage people to change the way they're used to living. And in significant states with either a significant shift in the political climate are indeed very strong interests in oil or the like, that poses greater problems.
They also are looking at this concept of transition and how they would manage, and have been managing, particular sectors that are very badly affected by transition. So, for example, they have committed in some provinces to get out of coal altogether and that obviously has had an impact on some traditional coal mining and coal-dependent areas. So, it was again interesting to see what they're doing in that area.
What can Ireland learn about implementing or increasing carbon taxes from the Canadian model?
I think the dividend idea is one that is very attractive. The idea that it's clear to the public that when you're raising a tax it isn't a question of trying to raise revenue or putting barriers in the way of people, it's trying to change behaviour for the long term. So, if you receive a cheque in the post, as they are proposing, then that makes it easier for people to accept that this is a good measure.
I think always the problem in relation to climate is people, at a certain part of their brain, accept that it's a good thing, but to make it possible for them to move on from that, to switch to an electric vehicle or to insulate their home or to change to a heat pump, these things are harder steps and so it is important that you get momentum and get citizens engaged. And I think changing the way the tax is perceived is a really important part of that.
How the Irish government is helping Canadian multinationals to grow
What Ireland did after the crash was rebuild our economy based on enterprise, innovation, and exporting, and that was founded on a very competitive base. And while, yes, as we approach fuller employment there are some pressure points, we currently have the highest productivity growth in Europe, and we're seeing companies do really well competing in the export markets.
The Government is acutely conscious of the need to improve our skill base. We are already the country with the highest third level participation, the highest number of graduates in STEM subjects, we have a very good regime for people who want to take workers in either from the rest of Europe or indeed from further afield to meet a particular skills shortage. So, we have equipped our economy to be sensitive to the needs of international investors both on the skills front and on the tax front, and we are very competitive in many ways.
We have just published a €120bn infrastructural plan where we're planning to roll out the infrastructures that will sustain the progress we're making, and we've identified key areas where there is tightness - housing being a major one, transport of course, and other social areas like health and education. So, I think we have a very strong strategy to continue to be an internationally competitive country, the government is acutely conscious of the needs of multinationals who are trading partners for us and we want to encourage that growth.
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For the first in our series of ICCC profiles, we’re joined by Lar Quigley, President of the Ireland-Canada Chamber of Commerce Vancouver (ICCCVan).
Describe ICCCVan’s genesis and mission
The founding members recognised there was limited support and networking opportunities for the growing Irish community here in the city and sought to address this by establishing a formal chamber.
The Ireland-Canada Chamber of Commerce Vancouver (ICCCVan) was subsequently incorporated in late 2017. Initially we had three board members and have since expanded to ten with an all island approach and mandated gender balance.
We support our members by providing them opportunities to hear from senior leaders in the community as well as participate through networking events, roundtables and educational sessions.
ICCCVan maintains close links with our sister chapters across Canada, as well as the Irish Embassy in Ottawa.
Tell us a bit about your membership
We have so many amazing members here at the Chamber, but some interesting entrepreneurial ones have come from Bia Foods (Siobhan Young) and Donnellan’s (William Donnellan) whom both spotted opportunities to better serve the Irish community and have grown impressively in the food and hospitality sectors over the years.
From a general overview, our member’s industry breakdown is reflective of the economy here in the province with remainder mostly composing of professional services.
• 30% Technology
• 25% Natural Resources
• 15% Construction/Engineering
Can you point to an example of a member that started out very small and has grown successfully in Vancouver?
Moving2Canada.com is a great example. Since launching in 2012 by Ruairi Spillane, the website has been a one-stop shop for free impartial information and resources to make the transition to Canada enjoyable and simple for prospective immigrants and the recently arrived.
They offer job postings, a ‘getting started’ guide’ and articles covering every step of the journey. Their social forums service thousands of community members.
Ruairi’s accomplishments were recognized on a broader scaler recently when he took home the Immigrant Entrepreneur at the Small BC Business Awards here in Vancouver. Ruairi recently launched Moving2Ireland.com with the idea of bringing the same concept to help both new immigrants to Ireland and returning emigrants.
What brought you to Vancouver?
I had made the decision to leave Ireland when I saw some of the early signs of the recession in 2008 and on a whim applied for a Canadian working holiday visa.
I had visited Ontario/Quebec on a vacation in 2006 so that had planted some seeds and gave me a sense of what to expect from a cultural perspective.
Toronto was my original focus as it’s the country’s financial hub and I had a background in treasury banking from Dublin. It was my mother who randomly recommended Vancouver, she had been here at a conference in the 80s and so I opted to start here – ten years later I’m living two blocks from where I started.
What advice would you give to an Irish company starting to do business in Vancouver?
Vancouverites value relationships and the city has a village like feel to it with a compact downtown core. The work style, whilst focused, is more laid back than you’ll find in Dublin and this is driven by having such easy access to the mountains and beaches in the city.
Why Vancouver? Top three things that make this city so great.
Vancouver is Canada’s fasted growing and most diverse metropolitan economy. There are significant opportunities for growth and development in the region. British Columbia has a long history of pioneering technological innovation and has a world class creative and digital media sector.
From a top three perspective:
1. Most liveable and healthiest city in North American.
2. Number 5 on KPMG’s most tax competitive world cities
3. Canada’s number one start-up ecosystem
Anything else you would like to add?
We’re excited to build on our launch momentum to host an upcoming ministerial visit (Ciaran Canon) for the St Patrick’s week festivities.
A special note of thanks to our friends at the Embassy in Ottawa and the new Consulate team here in Vancouver for all their invaluable support.