Scottish Canadian

Scottish Canadian

Infobox Ethnic group
group = Scottish Canadians

caption = Notable Scottish Canadians: John A. Macdonald, Alexander Mackenzie (prime minister), James Naismith and Sir Alexander Mackenzie (explorer)
poptime = Scottish
4,719,850 Canadians
15.10% of the population of Canada
popplace = Ontario, Western Canada, Atlantic Canada, Quebec
langs = Canadian English, Canadian Gaelic, Canadian French,
rels = Anglican, Baptist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, United
related = Scottish, Métis, Scottish Americans, Ulster Scots, Gaels

Scottish Canadians are people of Scottish descent or heritage living in Canada. As the third-largest ethnic group in Canada and among the first to settle in Canada, Scottish people have made a large impact on Canadian culture since colonial times. According to the 2001 Census of Canada, the number of Canadians claiming full or partial Scottish descent is 4,157,210, or 14.03% of the nation's total population, however this is said to be a major underestimation.

cottish settlement of Canada

Scottish people have a long history in Canada, dating back several centuries. Many towns, rivers and mountains have been named in honour of Scottish explorers and traders—such as Mackenzie Bay and Calgary. Most notably, the Atlantic province of Nova Scotia is Latin for New Scotland.

Scots formed the vanguard of the movement of Europeans across the continent. In more modern times, emigrants from Scotland have played a leading role in the social, political and economic history of Canada, being prominent in banking, labour unions, and politics. [ Simon Fraser University ]

The first documented source of Scots in what would become Canada comes from the Saga of Eric the Red and the Viking expedition of 1010 AD to Vinland (literally, the land of wine), which is now the island of Newfoundland. The Viking prince Thorfinn Karlsefni led an expedition to Vinland and took with him 160 Viking men, three ships, and two Scottish slaves, a man named Haki and a woman named Hekja, who were reputed to be as swift as deer. [ [ BBC - History - Scottish History ] ] . When the longships moored along the coast, they sent the slaves ashore to run along the waterfront to gauge whether it was safe for the rest of the crew to follow. After the Scots survived a day of without being attacked, by either human or animal, the Vikings deemed it safe to spend the night ashore. The expedition was abandoned three years later; the original sagas were passed on in an oral tradition and then written down 250 years later.

An apocryphal voyage in 1398 by a captain named Zichmni, believed to be Henry I Sinclair, Earl of Orkney, who was of joint Norse-Scottish title and family, is also claimed to have reached Atlantic Canada as well as New England.

The first attempts in earnest to entice Scottish settlers to Canada began as early as 1622, when Sir William Alexander obtained permission from King James VI of Scotland (James I of England) to establish a "new Scotland"—the origin of the name Nova Scotia. However, only a small number of Scottish families settled in Canada, prior to the conquest of New France in 1759. Those who did make a home on Canadian soil were Highlanders who sought political and religious asylum following the failed Jacobite uprisings in Scotland in 1715 and 1745.

Most of these Scots settled in what is now the Atlantic coast. A large group of Ulster Scots, many of whom had first settled in New Hampshire, moved to Truro, Nova Scotia in 1761. Their descendants have provided many of the country's leading justices, statesmen, clergymen, businessmen and scholarsFact|date=March 2007. In 1772 a wave of Scots began to arrive in Prince Edward Island, and in 1773 the ship "Hector" brought 200 Scots to Pictou, beginning a new stream of Highland emigration—the town's slogan is "The Birthplace of New Scotland". At the end of the 18th century, Cape Breton Island had become a centre of Scottish settlement, where only Scottish Gaelic was spoken.

Around this time, a handful of English-speaking Scottish Lowlanders joined the Scottish exodus to Canada. Likewise, a number of Scottish United Empire Loyalists who had fled the United States in 1783 arrived in Glengarry (in eastern Ontario) and Nova Scotia. In 1803, Lord Selkirk, who was sympathetic to the plight of the dispossessed crofters, brought 800 colonists to Prince Edward Island. In 1812 he also founded the Red River settlement in what is now Manitoba.

Prince Edward Island (PEI) was also heavily influenced by Scottish settlers. One prominent settler in PEI was John Macdonald of Glenaladale, who conceived the idea of sending Highlanders out to Nova Scotia on a grand scale after Culloden. The name Macdonald still dominates on the island, which received a large influx of Scots during the American Revolution and another Gaelic-speaking group of Highlanders in 1813 from the estates of Lord Selkirk.

New Brunswick also became the home for many Scots. In 1761, a Highland regiment garrisoned Fort Frederick. The surrounding lands surveyed by Captain Bruce in 1762 attracted many Scottish traders when William Davidson of Caithness arrived to settle two years later. Their numbers were swelled by the arrival of thousands of loyalists of Scottish origin both during and after the American Revolution.

One of the New Brunswick and Canada's most famous regiments was "The King's First American Regiment" founded in 1776. It was composed mostly of Highlanders, many of whom fought with their traditional kilts to the sound of the pipes. The regiment distinguished itself when it defeated Washington's forces at the Battle of Brandywine. When it disbanded after the War, most of its members settled in New Brunswick. A continual influx of immigrants from Scotland and Ulster meant that by 1843 there were over 30,000 Scots in New Brunswick.

Forced Migration

Between the 18th and 19th centuries a steady flow of emigrants from Scotland arrived in North America. Some sought political and religious asylum following the failed Jacobite uprisings in 1688, 1715 and 1745. Those immigrants who arrived after 1759 were mainly Highland farmers who had been forced off their crofts (rented land) during the Highland and Lowland Clearances to make way for sheep grazing due to the British Agricultural Revolution.

Others came as a result of famine. In 1846, potato crops were blighted by the same fungal disease responsible for the Great Irish Famine, and most Highland crofters were very dependent on potatoes as a source of food. Crofters were expected to work in appalling conditions, and although some landlords worked to lessen the effects of the famine on their tenants, many landlords simply resorted to eviction. In particular, John Gordon of Cluny became the target of criticism in newspapers when many of his crofters were reduced to living on the streets of Inverness. Gordon resorted to hiring a fleet of ships and forcibly transporting his Hebridean crofters to Canada, where they were conveniently abandoned on Canadian authorities. Some more sympathetic landlords supplied a free passage to what was hoped to be a better life.

Crop failures continued into the 1850s and famine relief programmes became semi-permanent operations. During the ten years following 1847, from throughout the Highlands, over 16,000 crofters were shipped overseas to Canada and Australia.

Cultural influence

Nova Scotia

Despite the peninsula's small size, the Scots have influenced the cultural mix of Nova Scotia for centuries and constitute the largest ethnic group in the province, at 29.3% of its population. Nova Scotia is Latin for "New Scotland", and its flag was designed as a combination of the Scottish Saltire and the Royal Standard of Scotland.

Nova Scotia was briefly colonized by Scottish settlers in 1620, though by 1624 the Scottish settlers had been removed by treaty and the area was turned over to the French until the mid-1700s. Settlement was greatly accelerated by the resettlement of Loyalists in Nova Scotia during the period following the end of the American revolutionary war, as well as the Highland Clearances

The Gaelic influences of Scottish immigrants continue to play an important role in defining the cultural life of the province, especially in its music. According to the 2006 census about 900 Nova Scotians are fluent in Gaelic languages (the census does not distinguish between Scottish Gaelic/Canadian Gaelic and Irish Gaelic), and about 6,015 in all of Canada. [Canada 2006 Census. " [] ". Accessed October 1st, 2008.] However, the Nova Scotian Office of Gaelic Affairs estimates there are currently around 2000 speakers in the province and notes the enduring impact of institutions such as the Gaelic College in Cape Breton. [ [ "Oifis Iomairtean na Gaidhlig/Office of Gaelic Affairs] ]

Dalhousie University, the largest university in the Maritime provinces, was founded in 1818 by George Ramsay as the only Gaelic college in Canada. St. Francis Xavier University was also founded by a Scot—Colin Francis MacKinnon, a Roman Catholic bishop.


Scots have long and historic ties with the province of Quebec. When the "Don de Dieu" sailed up the St. Lawrence River during the first wave of colonization of French Canada, it was piloted by a Scot, Abraham Martin. The first British governor of Quebec was also a Scot, James Murray. He received the keys to the city gates from the French commander, Major de Ramezay, who was himself of Scottish descent, as many Scots had been employed by the French since the time of the Auld Alliance.

Large groups of Scots, chiefly from Ross-shire, arrived on the ship "Nephton" in 1802 to settle in Quebec. Many of their descendents have become prominent in the business, financial and religious activities of Montreal. Many early settlers from Tryon County, New York came here, in what was then wilderness. They were joined by many Highlanders during the Revolution, and after the War had ended, by a whole regiment of the "King's Royals."

McGill University, one of Canada's largest universities, was founded in 1821 with revenue from the estate bequeathed by James McGill, a merchant and politician who had emigrated from Glasgow. Its first head was Scotsman John Bethune, a pupil of Strachan (who was prevented from assuming the position only by a delay in its foundation). Another wealthy Scot, Mr. Peter Redpath, was responsible for financing the museum, the library and a University chair.


The chief Scottish town in Glengarry was Cornwall, located in modern-day Ontario. It was reinforced in 1786 when The McDonald arrived at Quebec from Greenock with 520 new pioneers. Soon immigrants came from all parts of Scotland to make it one of the most important Scots-Canadian communities. The Glengarry clansmen managed to get away from their homelands before the British Government's embargo during the war with Napoleon. Many other retired officials from the Hudson's Bay Company joined the Glengarry Settlements. Another famous Scottish area that came to exert great influence in Ontario was the Perth Settlement, another region of purely Scottish and military origin. Unemployment and suffering following the end of the Napoleonic Wars caused the British government to reverse its former policies and actively encourage emigration. In 1815, three loaded transports set sail from Greenock for Upper Canada: the "Atlas", the "Baptiste Merchant" and the "Borothy". After the War of 1812 ended, many soldiers from the disbanded regiments joined them. In 1816, more arrivals from Ulster helped swell the Scottish element. Many Perth families became prominent in both provincial and national governments.

An educational institution of Scottish origin is Queens University in Kingston "the Aberdeen of Canada," founded largely through the dreams (and hard work) of noted scholar George Munroe Grant. Numerous educational institutions including high schools can be attributed to Scottish influences one being the Sir John A. Macdonald Collegiate Institute is a secondary school located in Scarborough, Ontario. The crest contains a map of Canada and the symbols of the Macdonald clan: a white coronet, a mailed fist, and crossed crosslets. Red, Royal Purple, and White, which predominate in the tartan of Sir John's family clan, Clanranald

British Columbia

Scottish influence has been an important part of the cultural mix in metropolitan Vancouver and British Columbia. The St. Andrew's and Caledonian Society of Vancouver was founded in 1886, the same year as the city. On St. Andrew's Day, 1887, the society held a grand St. Andrew's Ball in McDonough Hall at the southeast corner of Hastings and Columbia and almost half the city's population attended. The city still celebrates Scottish Heritage week which concludes with the BC Highland Games.

Many local place names are of Scottish origin. The district of Dollarton was named for Captain Robert Dollar. West Vancouver's first European settler, John Lawson, planted holly by the side of the "burn" or river flowing across his property; he coined "Hollyburn" as the name for his place. Iona Island was formerly called McMillan Island, after a pioneer Scots settler, Donald McMillan. Part of West Vancouver is named after Dundarave Castle in Scotland. In 1905 at what is now West 41st Avenue in Vancouver, a young Scottish couple named MacKinnon who had recently settled in the district were invited to name the new station. She adapted the name Kerrisdale from her old family home, Kerrydale, in Gairloch, Scotland. Kerrydale means "little seat of the fairies."

Other evidence of the Scottish influence on the development of Greater Vancouver can be found in the names of parks, creeks and other geographical features throughout the metropolitan area, the most notable of which is the Fraser River.


The following statistics are from the 2006 Census of Canada. [ [] .]

Provincial and territorial tartans

Every province and territory has an officially recognized tartan, except for Quebec, whose tartan is unofficial, and Nunavat, which has no tartan. Tartans were first brought to Canada by Scottish settlers, and the first province to officially adopt a tartan was Nova Scotia in 1955. Several of the tartans are registered in the books of the Court of the Lord Lyon, King of Arms of Scotland. [Government of Canada. " [ Symbols of Canada — Tartans] ". Accessed January 13, 2008.]

Notable Scottish-Canadians

The list of Scots who influenced Canada's history is indeed a long one. The explorer Alexander MacKenzie completed the first known transcontinental crossing of America north of Mexico. John Sandfield Macdonald (1812-1872) became prime minister of the province of Canada in 1862 and the first premier of Ontario in 1867. Sir John A. Macdonald (1815-1891), who emigrated in 1820, became the first prime minister of the Dominion of Canada, leading the country through its period of early growth. Under his leadership, the dominion expanded to include Manitoba, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island.

Alexander Mackenzie was the first Liberal Prime Minister of Canada (1873-78). Another Scot, William Lyon Mackenzie, who led the revolt in Upper Canada against the Canadian government in 1858, became a symbol of Canadian radicalism. His rebellion dramatized the need to reform the country's outmoded constitution and led to the 1841 Confederation of Canadian provinces. Another Scot, William McDougall, was known as one of the fathers of the Confederation; Sir Richard McBride (1870-1917) was from 1903-1915 the Premier of British Columbia, where his was the first government under the new system of political parties. McBride was also known for his tireless work on behalf of the extension of the Pacific Great Eastern Railroad, which was to bind British Columbia together the way the CPR had Canada. .

In this century, perhaps the most well-known Canadian politician, particularly revered in Britain for his contribution to the allied cause in World War II, was William Lyon MacKenzie King (1874-1950), who was very proud of his Scots background. King was three time Prime Minister of Canada, doing much to help preserve the unity of the French and English populations in his vast country. The first full time Minister of Labour, King was the leader of the Liberal Party for over 30 years. His last term as Prime Minister was from 1935 to 1948.

Established as one of the major ethnic components of the Canadian population during the period 1815-1870, Scots dominated in many areas other than education and politics. Economic affairs also took their interest, and they largely controlled the trade in furs, timber, banking and railroad management. Almost one-quarter of Canada's industrial leaders in the 1920s had been born in Scotland, and another quarter had Scottish-born fathers.

It is important to remember that the Scots had a long tradition of struggle to maintain a separate identity in the face of a simultaneous pressure to integrate into a foreign society. Thus over the years, they had gained considerable experience in the ambivalence of being both accommodating and distinctive. Substantial numbers of Scots continued to immigrant to Canada after 1870. The early 20th century saw a great boom in the numbers leaving Scotland for Canada. As one of many ethnic groups in Canada, the Scots have managed to retain their separate identity.

For over 200 years, they have entered the country in a constant flow. Their presence has been powerful enough to influence most strongly the dominant Anglo-Canadian culture; their numbers alone do not reflect their enormous influence on Canadian politics, education, religion and business. Never intimidated by the majority, the long, long history of their struggles in the homeland made the Scots an indomitable and formidable race in the new lands.

List of notable Scottish Canadians

* Hugh Allan (1810-1882), financier and shipping magnate
* Montagu H. Allan (1860-1951), banker, ship owner, sportsman
* Richard B. Angus, banker and philanthropist
* Gordon Campbell, Premier of British Columbia
* Kim Campbell, first female Prime Minister of Canada
* Wilf Carter, Nova Scotia born country musician
* Neve Campbell, actress (Scottish father)
* John William Dawson (1820-1899), scientist, educator
* Richard Dobie (1731-1805), fur trader, businessman
* William Davidson, pioneer settler in New Brunswick
* Sir James Douglas, chief factor of the HBC's Columbia District (1843-1858) and Governor of the colonies of the Colony of Vancouver Island (1851-64) and the Colony of British Columbia (1858-62)
* Tommy Douglas, Premier of Saskatchewan and first leader of the New Democratic Party
* Shirley Douglas, actress (daughter of Tommy)
* William Dow (1800-1868), brewer and businessman
* George Alexander Drummond (1829-1910), entrepreneur
* Hugh Graham (1848-1938), newspaper publisher
* Alexander Keith, brewer (Alexander Keith's)
* Grace Annie Lockhart, first woman in the British empire to graduate from university (May 25, 1875)
* Iain Hume, Canadian international football (soccer) player
* Sir John A. Macdonald, first Prime Minister of Canada
* Rodney MacDonald, Premier of Nova Scotia
* Scott MacDonald, Underground freedom fighter (unknown to general public)
* William Christopher Macdonald, tobacco producer and philanthropist
* Peter MacKay, Minister of Foreign Affairs
* Robert Mackay (1840-1916), businessman, statesman
* Alexander MacKenzie, explorer of the Canadian Northwest
* Alexander Mackenzie, second Prime Minister of Canada
* William Lyon Mackenzie, journalist and rebel
* William Lyon Mackenzie King, longest serving Prime Minister of Canada
* Eric McCormack award-winning Canadian actor, television producer and writer. Best known for his role as Will Truman in the American comedy Will & Grace.
* Alistair MacLeod, (1936- ), writer, recipient of the Order of Canada
* Agnes Macphail, first woman to sit in the Canadian House of Commons
* Todd McFarlane, entrepreneur
* James McGill (1744-1813), fur trader, merchant
* Peter McGill (1789-1860), businessman, politician
* William McGillivray (1764-1825), fur trader
* Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada
* Duncan McIntyre (1834-1894), businessman
* Norman McLaren, film animation pioneer
* Bobby McMahon, football analyst for Fox Soccer Channel.
* Simon McTavish (1750-1804), fur trader, saw mill and flour mill operator
* Colin Mochrie, actor and comedian
* Henry Morgan (1819-1893), built the first department store in Canada
* James Naismith, inventor of basketball
* Alexander Walker Ogilvie (1829-1902), miller, statesman
* John Ogilvy (1769-1819), merchant
* Roddy Piper, WWE Wrestler
* John Redpath (1796-1869), contractor, industrialist
* Peter Redpath (1821-1894), businessman
* Callum Keith Rennie, actor
* George Simpson (1787-1860), executive, fur trader
* Donald Alexander Smith, 1st Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal
* George Stephen, 1st Baron Mount Stephen
* Daniel Sutherland (1756-1832), businessman
* Donald Sutherland, actor
* Kiefer Sutherland, actor
* John G. Williams, Member of Parliament
* James Cockburn, First Speaker of the House in Canada(Conservative Party)

ee also

*Scottish placenames in Canada
*Scottish people
*Scottish American
*Scots-Irish Canadian
*Celtic music in Canada

External links

* [ Documentation of the first Scots to set foot in Canada.]


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