More than 350 Irish newcomers in Canada attended the seminars across Western Canada last April. The seminars were hosted by the Irish Canadian Immigration Centre (ICAN) for newly-arrived Irish in Canada across five cities: Saskatoon, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Calgary and Vancouver. Given Moving2Canada has strong Irish roots and a large Irish following, they teamed up with ICAN (Cathy Murphy), Canadian Visa Specialists (Chris Willis), and Taxback.com (Ercus Long) to create the “Immigration Dream Team”. It was a frantic five days but lots of fun. Moving2Canada prepared a short blog of our trip to give people an idea of the good times we had meeting and assisting Irish people across Western Canada.
Day 1: Saskatoon
The emerging destination for Irish in Canada. Despite it being early April, Saskatoon was still covered in snow. Norm Wallace, a hugely successful established immigrant, organized for the Saskatoon Club to host the event. Norm has shown great leadership in assisting the growing Irish community. Saskatchewan, having gained lots of exposure in the recent Working Abroad Expo in Dublin, looks to be making significant progress in attracting more Irish workers as the Irish community in Regina and Saskatoon are reporting huge influxes of Irish people. Saskatoon is very popular with young families as it is a small city that offers significant opportunities in mining and construction employment within close reach. It’s much more compact relative to other Canadian cities as everything is within a 15 minute drive. The long cold winters and hot summers will require adjustments, but the newcomers seem content and state it’s a matter of having the right clothing and equipment. Opportunities across Saskatchewan will continue to improve as they seek to develop the significant natural resources in the province. It was exciting to see that they are now setting up a GAA Club for the Irish community.
Special kudos to Les Walsh in Saskatoon. Having left his family behind in Ireland, Les set up his own company in Saskatoon within seven weeks of landing. His positive spirit and can do attitude is inspiration to other Irish newcomers. Keep up the good work, Les!
Day 2: Edmonton
Visiting Edmonton Irish Club is always enjoyable as it’s an extremely close-knit Irish community and a model for other communities across Canada. The Irish Club offers an opportunity for young and old to socialise through community events and they are extremely efficient at helping newcomers get started. Similar to Saskatoon, employment in not a concern for those living in Edmonton as there are plenty of opportunities. Although Edmonton is largely a blue collar town, it’s rapidly increasing population means employment prospects across all sectors are very strong. The most predominant issue we noticed in Edmonton was the desire among temporary residents to educate themselves on how to apply for residency and stay in Canada.
See our Moving to Edmonton link for settlement information on Edmonton.
Day 3: Fort McMurray
First time to set foot in Fort McMurray, and this was the part I was most excited about. No one city in Canada attracts as many mixed viewspoints.
Our sponsors, Aluma Systems, brought us to the Synnacrude oil sands site for a guided tour. It was incredible to see the scale of the mine; almost 6,000 employees, 50 tonne trucks with 13-foot wheels, diggers (“Shovels”) that can lift one tonne of earth in one scoop! The town itself seemed remarkably normal. So why do we always hear otherwise? Here’s my take on it. Vancouver, for all it’s beauty, has a massive problem with drugs and prostitution, but it tends to be overlooked. Why? Vancouver has a pretty well-oiled PR machine. Fort McMurray, on the other hand, is a mining town of 60,000 people. It is so far north that it would not exist except for the presence of the oil sands. The people we met in Fort McMurray are extremely happy there and simply don’t care about spending time busting myths about their home town. If you have a strong work ethic and a desire to progress your career quickly, then taking the time to rectify misinformation is not a concern. I asked the audience whether they were concerned about the image portrayed of their town and they simply laughed. There appear to be more important things on their minds. They all share a common gratitude for having such fantastic career opportunities having seen the plight of the Irish economy.
See our Moving to FortMcMurray link for settlement information on Fort McMurray.
As for the seminar, our hosts Aluma Systems organized a tasty buffet for all the attendees in a conference room at MacDonald Island Park, a $300 million development for the local community that boasts world class facilities for all sports. Transitioning from temporary work permits to residency was the main concern for the attendees.
Day 4: Calgary
At this stage, we’re a little tired of airports. Thankfully, the flights are short. Calgary is lucky to have the Irish Cultural Centre and a strong team of volunteers to help the Irish community. It was particularly exciting to see how some of the newcomers are taking on more responsibility in running the Irish centre. Over 80 people packed into the venue. Calgary tends to attract more of a balance between trades and professionals, with many of the latter taking a little more time to find work in their fields. Moving2Canada stressed the importance of adapting your resume, networking and persistence in assisting these people find work.
See our Moving to Calgary link for settlement information on Calgary.
Day 5: Vancouver
Vancouver remains the #2 location for Irish in Canada. It’s good to be back home, but our flight is delayed and we land in YVR 25 minutes before the seminar is due to start. More than 130 Irish newcomers await our arrival in BCIT. A show of hands shows that over half of these people are still seeking work. Newcomers really need help in Vancouver. The employment market is a lot more competitive and it’s certainly not easy to stay either. These same reasons prompted me to start Moving2Vancouver in March 2011. These people choose Vancouver for a reason and we want to help them be successful here. Vancouver attracts people from all professions. My goal is to motivate people to accept the challenge of surviving here; it’s all about following a formula and priming yourself to get one lucky break. Vancouver is akin to Hollywood — people flock here for its beauty and the great lifestyle, but it’s a rat race to establish yourself. If you don’t have the fight and determination, then there are much better locations for you across Canada.
Five cities in five days. Five very difference places that offer alternatives to immigrants. This was an eye opener for me as it was my first visit to Saskatoon and Fort McMurray. Were there some common themes among the 350 Irish people who are all working to build their new lives in Canada? Yes, the attitude is immensely positive, and this is what really stood out for me. The fear that paralyzes some immigrants prior to their move has completely disappeared and they are here in Canada and ready to make the most of life.
We commend each and every one these newcomers for their courage in taking the bold step to build a new life in Canada. Let us know if we can help in any way as you continue your adventure.
The Moving2Canada Team