Ciamar a tha thu? (Kimmer a ha oo?) How are you (informal)
Most of the information in this bit is pretty well a lift from Wikipeda’s “Canadian Gaelic”.
Prior to finding this summary article, I had done a reasonable amount of other reading on Highlander settlement in Canada. Wikipedia’s words summarize what I’ve learned better than I could. The numbers in [ ] are theirs.
In 1773 a ship named “The Hector” landed in Pictou, Nova Scotia, with 169 settlers mostly originating from the Isle of Skye.
In 1784 the last barrier to Scottish settlement – a law restricting land-ownership on Cape Breton Island – was repealed, and soon both PEI and Nova Scotia were predominantly Gaelic-speaking.
It is estimated more than 50,000 Gaelic settlers immigrated to Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island between 1815 and 1870.
With the end of the American War of Independence, immigrants newly arrived from Scotland would soon be joined by Loyalist emigrants escaping persecution from American Partisans. Many of these were of Gaelic speaking highland stock.
These settlers arrived on a mass scale at the arable lands of British North America, with large numbers settling in Glengarry County in present-day Ontario, and in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.
In 1812, Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk obtained 300,000 square kilometres (120,000 sq mi) to build a colony at the forks of the Red River. With the help of his employee and friend, Archibald McDonald, Selkirk sent over 70 Scottish settlers, many of whom spoke only Gaelic, and had them establish a small farming colony there.
Status in Nineteenth Century.
By 1850, Gaelic was the third most-common mother tongue in British North America after English and French,
In PEI, Cape Breton and Glengarry there were large areas of Gaelic monolingualism, and communities of Gaelic-speakers had established themselves in northeastern Nova Scotia (around Pictou and Antigonish); in Glengarry, Stormont, Grey, and Bruce Counties in Ontario; in the Codroy Valley of Newfoundland; in Winnipeg, Manitoba; and Eastern Quebec.
At the time of Confederation in 1867 the most common mother tongue among the Fathers of Confederation was Gaelic.
In 1890, Thomas Robert McInnes, an independent Senator tabled a bill entitled “An Act to Provide for the Use of Gaelic in Official Proceedings.”. The bill was defeated 42–7.
There was widespread disregard by government on Gaelic issues,
Reasons for decline
Despite the long history of Gaels and their language and culture in Canada, the Gaelic speaking population started to decline after 1850. This drop was a result of prejudice (both from outside, and from within the Gaelic community itself), aggressive dissuasion in school and government, and the perceived prestige of English.
Gaelic has faced widespread prejudice in Great Britain for generations, and those feelings were easily transposed to British North America.
That Gaelic had not received official status in its homeland made it easier for Canadian legislators to disregard the concerns of domestic speakers. Legislators questioned why “privileges should be asked for Highland Scotchmen in [the Canadian Parliament] that are not asked for in their own country?”.
Politicians who themselves spoke the language held opinions that would today be considered misinformed; Lunenburg Senator Henry A. N. Kaulbach, in response to Thomas Robert McInnes’s Gaelic bill, described the language as only “well suited to poetry and fairy tales.” The belief that certain languages had inherent strengths and weaknesses was typical in the 19th century, but has been rejected by modern linguistics.
With the outbreak of World War II the Canadian government attempted to prevent the use of Gaelic on public telecommunications systems. The government believed Gaelic was used by subversives affiliated with Ireland, a neutral country perceived to be tolerant of the Nazis. In Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton where the Gaelic language was strongest, it was actively discouraged in schools with corporal punishment. Children were beaten with the maide-crochaidh (en: hanging stick) if caught speaking Gaelic.
Alec “from the sixth” McDonald (a dairy farmer) spoke only Gaelic at home. He learned English because Gaelic was forbidden when he attended school. He the last “fluent” Gaelic-speaker in Ontario, descended from the original settlers of Glengarry County, died in 2001.
A couple of years ago, I wrote CBC suggesting a Gaelic/Celtic themed channel on their web radio. I actually got an answer saying basically that it wasn’t going to happen. They have classical rock, jazz, hip hop, world, country but no Celtic. Seems to be a continuation of the purposeful degradation of the Gaelic culture
Living here in Glengarry and being partway into the culture is somewhat diminished by the loss of its language. And it seems very few care.