‘If you can’t be at home, this is an amazing place to be’

With visas and jobs both easily available, Canada is proving popular with the Irish, writes Jennifer Hough

So why has Canada become so popular for Irish emigrants?

Unlike many of the more traditional destinations, there are plenty of job opportunities and visas available. The profile of the country has also risen in recent years, according to executive director of the Irish Canadian Immigration Centre, Cathy Murphy.

“I think the amount of Canadian employers who have recently gone to job fairs and the media coverage has certainly raised the profile, and I think the centre’s opening too has played a part.

“Although it’s still easier to get a visa for Australia, Canada is so much closer to home, you can pop home for Christmas, or for a wedding if you need to.”

For Amy Cannon and her housemate Mark O’Dowd, the move opened doors career wise. Both are from Dundrum, Co Dublin, and live in Toronto.

Mark has just recently landed while Amy is working as product marketing specialist for Kobo Inc.

“We both came here for work in the marketing field,” says Amy, who travelled home to Dublin this year for Christmas.

“I don’t believe I would have been as prosperous with my career in Ireland as I have been in Toronto.

“It is difficult being so far away from home but sometimes you have to do what makes sense. There is a great Irish community here and Toronto is immensely multi-cultural.”

As Mark is new to the city, he went to some Irish friends for a traditional Irish Christmas dinner.

“Christmas is not the same over here as home but you make the most out of it — it seems young Irish communities all over Toronto get together and celebrate,” he said.

They both love Toronto and have a lovely life here — lots of spots activities in the summer — soccer, volleyball, baseball, and snowboarding in the winter.

Ross McElhone, 32, from Castlerea, Co Roscommon, initially travelled to Canada for a year — that was in 2007.

“I came to Canada initially for one year in 2007, as things were still grand at home I had hoped to go back.

“I got working for a quantity surveying firm here in Toronto and they were very good to me. With the downturn at home it made sense to stay. The company sponsored a visa and now I have my PR [permanent resident visa]. The city is lovely and people very friendly.”

This year Ross spent Christmas with his girlfriend Jen and her family. Jen’s grandparents moved to Canada in the 1950s. Her grandfather is from Roscommon and her grandmother is from Salthill, Co Galway.

Aoife O’Mahony, 26, from Turners Cross, Cork, and Jamie Nolan, 28, from Ballincollig just outside Cork City, arrived in Toronto in September.

It took time to settle in to living in such a big city but they have met loads of new friends. They came to Canada for a working holiday, and hope to take time off next summer to travel more of Canada.

Grace Corcoran, 28, a chartered accountant from Galway came to Canada in the summer of 2010 for a change of scene and to experience something new.

“The Canadians are amazing people and make it so easy to settle and I did. The first year I came here I went home for Christmas, I stayed last year and it was sad on Christmas Eve skyping home to see everyone there, but this year I feel as though I am used to it now.

“The Irish out here at Christmas are great we all support each other, there’s a great community. If you can’t be at home, this is a great and amazing place to be.”

Elizabeth O’Sullivan, 26, from Sneem, Co Kerry, and her boyfriend Karl Foley, 26, from Killarney, Co Kerry, arrived in Canada in Aug 2010 to travel and find work.

Elizabeth is working at a Canadian investment firm, ROI Capital, while Karl is as a quantity surveyor with the Altus Group.

“Toronto is a great city, the people are friendly and it was easy to settle in,” said Elizabeth.

“We will both miss home this year but we will spend the holidays Toronto with friends so it should be fun.”

Alex Dunne and Richard Hickey, both 25, and both from Shannon, Co Clare, came to Canada in the summer of 2011 and within a few weeks were both employed.

Richard works in the electrical estimating department of an electrical contracting company and Alex is currently working as an assistant to the chief executive of a large loss adjusting company.

“We’re both enjoying it here — Toronto’s a great city and there’s always something to do,” said Alex.

“There’s also a really great Irish community here that seems to grow by the day.”

Sue Murphy, from Drogheda, Co Louth, and her boyfriend Cormac MacLochlainn from Clonsilla, Dublin, both 29, came to Canada in 2010 after Cormac got an opportunity to move to Toronto with his job.

“We said we would try it our for a year or two and here we are still loving it over two years later,” said Sue.

“Cormac works in corporate banking based downtown in the financial district and I work in administration in the University of Toronto.

“But it is the different lifestyle that is keeping us over here — in the summer there is the patio culture, the festivals, the beaches, etc and in the winter you have the skiing to get you through the harsh weather — we love it.”

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