Canadians of Welsh descent
1.4% of the Canadian Population
|Regions with significant populations|
|Ontario, Western Canada, Atlantic Canada|
|Welsh, Canadian English|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Welsh, Welsh Americans, Welsh Argentines|
The first Welshman to arrive in Canada is believed to have been Sir Thomas Button, who led an expedition to find the Northwest Passage in 1612.citation needed Other early Welsh in Canada came after the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763 and following the aftermath of the American Revolution (1775–1783).citation needed Welsh mapmaker David Thompson was one of the great explorers of the North West Company in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and is often called "Canada's Greatest Geographer." He covered 130,000 kilometres on foot and surveyed most of the Canada-United States border in the early days of exploration.
One of the first efforts to encourage Welsh emigration to Canada began in 1812, when Welsh native John Mathews endeavoured to bring his family to Canada. Mathews left home at a young age and went on to become a successful businessman in the United States. When he returned to Wales, he found his family living in poverty and became convinced they should emigrate to Canada. In 1817 his family settled in the township of Southwald, near what is now London, Ontario. By 1812 he had brought over more relatives who built homes on the 100-acre (0.40 km2) lots granted to them by Colonel Thomas Talbot. The colony attracted 385 Welsh settlers by 1850 and retained its predominantly Welsh character until the late 1870s.
Early Welsh immigration to Canada was also spurred on by the Cariboo Gold Rush in British Columbia in 1858. The development of underground mining provided employment for many Welsh coal miners who decided to remain in the area.
In 1902, Welsh immigrants arrived from Patagonia, which had been incorporated into Argentina in 1881. Compulsory military service and a series of floods that ruined Welsh farmers' crops led to some emigrants resettling in Bangor, Saskatchewan, where they once again took up farming. A community of Welsh farmers was also established at Wood River near Ponoka, Alberta.
Many Welsh people came to Alberta at the start of the 20th century. Most came from the mining and industrial regions of Wales to work in the coal mines around Edmonton,citation needed where they soon became active in the trade union movement.citation needed David Milwyn Duggan, a Welshman, was the mayor of Edmonton from 1921 to 1923.
Today, the Welsh community in Alberta is served by three main organizations: The Calgary Welsh Society, St. David's Welsh Society of Edmonton and the Ponoka Welsh Society. These associations function primarily as social clubs, featuring lectures, films and dinner meetings on a regular basis.citation needed The St. David's Welsh Society of Edmonton is a regular participant in the city's Heritage Days event, and in 2005 the group will celebrate its centennial anniversary.citation needed Welsh people are famous worldwide for music and song, and choirs are often a part of Welsh community associations. This stems from the bardic tradition in Wales. The St. David's Welsh Male Voice Choir of Edmonton has existed for over 100 years and performs several times throughout the year.citation needed
Welsh festivals in Canada today include Eisteddfodau, and Gymanfa Ganu. The Welsh in Canada celebrate St. David's Day, the celebrations include storytelling and singing; banquets are also held in Lethbridge, Ponoka, Calgary, Red Deer, Edmonton, Regina and Fort McMurray.
A newsletter serves the Welsh communities in Calgary and Lethbridge, while in Edmonton the St. David's Society issues a bulletin twice a year informing its members about upcoming events. Some Welsh Canadians subscribe to Ninnau, the Welsh national newspaper published in New York.
Welsh-Canadians have been active in the country's cultural life, supplying Canada with some of its more lively characters including novelist Robertson Davies, Powys Thomas, co-founder of the national theatre school, and Robert Harris, painter of the Fathers of Confederation.
In Alberta, it is easy to find Welsh language seminars in-person and online and attempts to teach the Welsh language are being made across the country.