November 18, 2015
By Alan Regan
A Reddit post has likened some of the attitudes towards refugees fleeing war and famine today, to the prejudice received by Irish refugees arriving in Canada in the past.
The satirical letter references raids between 1866 and 1871 in Canada by the Fenian Brotherhood, who attempted to capture the country, and then hand it back to Britain in return for Ireland’s independence.
The Fenians launched a series of small, armed raids, but were quickly defeated and the group disbanded.
Published yesterday, the letter is dated as ‘June 1866’ and argues that all Irish newcomers should be viewed with suspicion.
“How can our government allow Irish immigrants to flow into this United Province of Canada while we continue to be terrorized by Fenian religious zealots?
“On every ship coming into Montreal or Halifax, hidden among the malnourished, diseased Irish there are sure to be Fenian terrorists ready to slit your throat at the first opportunity. This needs to stop now.”
The letter is satirically attributed to Rev John Strachan, the first Anglican Bishop of Toronto who was a senior political figure in the 1800s.
It adds: “It is our sacred duty to preserve Canadian values now, before it’s too late. In 150 years your children’s children will look back and know that you did the right thing.”
The popularity of the post has kept it on the front page of Reddit’s Canada discussion forum. It has sparked a wide-ranging conversation, with commenters adding that Irish people form a significant and welcome part of Canada’s society today.
“The fact is, today, the Irish culture is a hard and fast component of ‘Canadian culture’. This is the best argument I’ve seen against some of our neighbour’s unfounded fears about Islam and Muslims. Does anyone today regret Irish cultural influences in Canadian culture?,” one wrote.
Early Irish settlers in Toronto, who fled the famine of the 1840s, faced intolerance, bitter discrimination and widespread anti-Catholic sentiment in their new home.
Impoverished decades gave way to an educated and skilled generation of Irish, who became largely accepted in Toronto by the beginning of the 20th century.
Today, the two countries enjoy a warm friendship and strong bilateral relations, as evidenced by the high number of working holiday visas reciprocated between the nations’ youths relative to other countries.
Newly-elected Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau (pictured above, centre), has announced plans to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada by the end of the year.
A poll published by the Angus Reid Institute, and reported today by the National Post, suggests that 54pc of Canadians either moderately or strongly oppose the plan.
The survey took place three days after last week’s attacks in Paris, however the numbers show little change from a similar poll published at the beginning of November.
The most common concern among respondents is that the six-week timeframe is too narrow to allow for security checks.
You can read the Reddit post in full here.
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November 18, 2015
By Alan Regan
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