The numbers of Irish emigrants arriving to Canada in search of employment has increased sharply in recent months as the Irish recession continues.
To cope with the new flow last week the Irish Government moved to open a new immigrants services center in Toronto, at the Ireland Fund of Canada’s offices.
Executive director of Toronto’s chapter of the Ireland-Canada Chamber of Commerce, Eamonn O’Loughlin explained that Ottawa has more than doubled the number of International Experience visas it grants to Irish applicants, in the last three years,. This year he expects 5,000 to arrive and 60 to 70 percent of these come to Toronto.
The Irish have a tradition of emigrating to Toronto. During the Great Famine, in 1847, emigration to Toronto from Ireland reached a peak. The city center area of Cabbagetown in Toronto got its name because of the Irish growing vegetables in their front yards.
Toronto also already has a strong Irish community which is also a great draw for Irish planning to arrive to the city as well as the promise of employment.
Anthony Arts, who owns the new Planet Traveler hostel in Toronto told the Globe and Mail that every day he has at least ten Irish staying with him. He said “They stay from two to eight weeks. And they all find work… there is still a lot of opportunity here.”
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According to Erika Gates-Gasse, of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, many of the Irish who have been arriving to Toronto have temporary workers visas which means they don’t qualify for the federal settlement programs that permanent immigrants receive. Now these Irish workers will have a staffed center and help finding jobs and housing and advice on visa issues.
Most of those arriving are looking for work in trades. Mark Gillespie, a contractor from Toronto, heard that the hostels were filled with Irish tradesmen looking for work. He put up a “help wanted” sign at the Canadiana Backpackers Inn.
He said “I got a dozen calls the first day. I had to ask the last guy to take down the ad.”
Everyone who responded to the ad was Irish. Gillespie took on Declan Power, a 25-year-old carpenter from Tipperary. Power said “It’s all about Toronto back home. You don’t hear about the rest of the country. Everyone knows someone in Toronto.”
It took Power three days to find work in Toronto. He left his name in McCarthy’s bar, with the owner Maeve McCarthy, on Friday night and on Monday he had work.
She said “That happens a lot... There are work boots all around. The floor gets pretty dirty Fridays after work.”
McCarthy arrived from Ireland 15 years ago. Her pub is now frequented by lots of Irish-Canadians and contractors. She said that once a week a contractor will ask if she knows and Irish tradesmen and she passes along a number.
The Irish in Toronto have a good reputation as well-liked, well-trained and eager to work. Now they’ll have somewhere other than McCarthy’s bar to find work and share information.