Along the bonny banks of the Ottawa River, government officials from both Scotland and Canada gathered Monday during our sesquicentennial anniversary to celebrate 150 years of friendship between our two close-knit countries.
The reception was held at the British high commissioner’s official residence, Earnscliffe, also known as the one-time home of Canada’s Glasgow-born first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald.
Deputy British High Commissioner Thomas Barry formally welcomed guests and remind everyone of the “vibrant, deep and enduring” ties that Canada has with the United Kingdom, starting with our shared Queen.
Scottish immigrants are credited with significantly contributing to the fabric of Canadian society and identity. More than five million people in the Great White North -- roughly the same population living in Scotland -- claim to be of Scottish heritage.
The reception featured Scotland’s economy secretary, Keith Brown, who is visiting several North American cities to showcase Scotland as one of the best places in the world to live, visit, study and do business.
Canada is one of Scotland’s top inward investors, with approximately 3,600 people in Scotland employed by Canadian-owned businesses. It also currently exports £470 million-worth of products to Canada.
Scotland excels in food and drink (such as whisky and craft beer), financial services and wealth management, oil and gas along with renewable energy research and development, tourism, and education (five Scottish universities are among the world’s top 200). It also has a talent for computer gaming; Grand Theft Auto was created in Dundee.
“There are areas where I think there is great potential for Canada and Scotland to work more closely together,” said Brown. “It’s been driven home to me today how comfortable both Scotland and the UK is with Canada. It is a comfortable relationship based on shared values.
“I think we have to make it a bit less comfortable by challenging each other to see what we can do to get more out of that relationship.”
Brown unveiled a gift, created by young apprentice stone masons, depicting the famous ship Hector that brought the first migration of Scottish settlers to Nova Scotia in 1773. It was received by Charlottetown MP Sean Casey, parliamentary secretary to Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly. “I’m as Scottish as Paddy’s pig,” joked the politician, referring to his Irish heritage. However, Prince Edward Island was heavily influenced by Scottish Gaelic settlers and, today, almost 50 per cent of its islanders has Scottish roots.
Also present from Prince Edward Island were Senators Mike Duffy and Diane Griffin. In the kilt-wearing crowd was Scottish-born Liberal MP Mike Levitt, from Toronto's York Centre riding.
Attendees also included members of the Scottish Society of Ottawa, including its chair, George Brown, and executive director, Andrew Caddell. Among the events the society organizes in order to promote awareness and appreciation of Scottish culture are its Great Canadian Kilt Skate and its Ottawa Hogmanay on New Year’s Eve.
The society is looking to grow the Hogmanay celebration into the second-largest in the world, after Edinburgh, of course.