The Scots in Canada

On 21 October, Mary Duncan, the Honorary Canadian Consul in Scotland, gave a stimulating and wide-ranging talk on the impact made by Scots on the development of Canada.

According to the Canadian census of 2016, nearly 5 million people, about 14% of the population, claimed to be of Scottish descent. The influence of Scots on Canadian development may well have been exaggerated by some, but there can be little doubt that, if only in terms of the relative size of the two countries, it was wholly disproportionate, particularly in politics, commerce, industry and education. In some aspects, it was huge, for example in the Hudson Bay Company, with its massive Orkadian numbers, who, as the American historian Bernard de Vito wrote, “pulled the wilderness around them like a cloak, and wore its beauty like a crest”. (The impact on local wildlife was of course an altogether different story!)

Mary’s talk highlighted many aspects of Scottish influence by reference to the contributions of major figures such as Alexander MacKenzie (explorer extraordinaire and buried back home at Avoch on the Black Isle), John MacDonald (Canada’s first Prime Minister), James McGil (founder of the great university), and also the extraordinary ‘ordinary’ men and women from Scotland who built a new life and helped to forge a new country.