A rite of passage: The Irish student in Canada

Canada has long been a place of adventure and economic opportunity for the Irish who frequently migrant to their shores. Whether it’s for temporary summer work or a more permanent move, the Irish are consistently drawn to the relaxed way of life that places such as Toronto and Vancouver have to offer.

With Vancouver’s warm summer climate and a legal drinking age of 19 it is easy to see why so many make the leap to Canada. The Canadian experience is truly becoming a stepping stone to adulthood as many Irish move away from home for the first time. With so many Irish students and expats already settled in Vancouver a new Irish community is beginning to plant strong roots in the British Isle of Columbia, with many Irish noticing faces from home on public transport and on street corners.

Most cities that welcome youths in their droves will experience a peak in summer months. With Trump having clamped down on the administration of Irish visas in 2016, it is expected that the number of Irish immigrating to Canada will continue to rise. The high cost of living in Vancouver means that only those who have 2,500 Canadian dollars in their bank account before leaving will make their way to Canadian shores. Locating reasonable accommodation that is not overpriced is also a concern for Irish citizens thinking of moving away for the summer. Subsequently, many young Irish resort to living in fraternity houses where overcrowding occurs. Accepting the Irish may come at a cost, symptoms of anti-social behaviour are on the rise according to locals who await the arrival of the Irish each summer.

With an increasing influx of Irish students to Canada over the past few years there has been greater discussion about the attitude of local Canadians towards the Irish who chose Canada as their place of migration. Some question whether Canadians are genuinely happy with the ever increasing number of Irish who wish to gain employment. Concerns have been raised by locals regarding public disorder and general vandalism. There have been reports of some Irish students urinating on dancefloors and absconding from restaurants and rental accommodation without paying their bills. In 2019, those wishing to obtain a visa will now have to fork out an additional 88 dollars which is the equivalent of €77.63 to pay for biometrics. In short, Irish students must now supply their fingerprint for security measures. Whether this has anything to do with the odd Irish student causing disruption remains to be seen. With more and more Irish youth choosing Vancouver to spend their summers perhaps this new procedure is apt as a fundamental security measure. A current UCD student who wished to remain anonymous summarised her experience of her summer in Vancouver by saying “I don’t think the majority of students travelling over to Canada in the summer months go with the aim of wreaking havoc but some really do get carried away.” Despite this, it was noted that this student’s experience with the Canadian people was very positive.

To shed light on the issue of anti-social behaviour Shauna Griffith, who is currently living in Vancouver says that “among the Irish that are here permanently, there is a feeling of dread for summer when Irish students rush to Vancouver in their thousands”. Cathy Murphy, Director of the Irish Canadian Immigration Centre notes that “we have noticed large numbers arriving in Vancouver in late Spring.” With more Irish expected to make their way to Canada in the summer of 2019 it is important that the youth continue to foster positive ties with Vancouver’s Canadian population. Statistics from the government of Canada show that there has been an increase in work permits issued to Irish citizens, with a 28% increase in work permits issued between 2016 and 2017. 2018 showed a further steady improvement of 6% in the first half of the year. This is to continue to rise in 2019 with 10,700 work permits available through the International Experience Canada Programme (IEC). This programme allow those from 18-35 to work in Canada for a maximum of two years. With this in mind, many Irish go back and forth to Canada in the summer months, often spending three months at a time in employment.

Despite this, Vancouver continues to welcome the Irish in their droves as they bring prosperity and vibrancy to Canadian city life. Canada has long been a hub of the Irish expat community with a particular increase in Irish to Vancouver during the Irish economic collapse of 2008. With young people desperate to seize employment over the last few years the Celtic community has grown. Although the cost of living is expensive many young Irish continue to flock to Canada for its economic opportunities which remain sparse at home. With Canada being listed as one of the top safest countries in the world there are more push than pull factors when it comes to driving the Irish abroad.

The Irish are an important part of Canadian culture and this is not to be taken for granted. Each summer Irish citizens go to Canada to experience a different way of life and bring a youthful glow to the city. With the Irish historically being a culture of migrants it is important that we acknowledge the diversity they bring to new cities. With the rise of social media networking has become the latest phenomenon to connect new Irish immigrants with more permanent residents living in Canada. Facebook groups not only direct young Irish citizens towards means of employment-but also offer carpooling services which team Irish people together to cut high travel costs. Overall, it can be said that Irish students are more concerned with sustaining their accommodation and part time job than acting the fool. With the high cost of living, working in Canada is no easy pursuit and requires one to have an considerable amount of savings.

The moral of the story is that anti-social behaviour can happen anywhere. Canadians welcome the Irish who take over the jobs of Canadians who emigrate themselves during the summer. The Irish and Canadians also share similar sense of humour which contributes to the liveliness of Canadian districts. Without the Irish, Canadian summers would truly not be the same. We need to embrace our relationship with Canada and encourage our youth to travel and explore Canadian shores while they can.