Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

Building an Irish community in Canada

Ruairí Spillane set up a website to assist new Irish arrivals settle in Vancouver four years ago. A new website covering the whole of Canada will be launched next month, and they are looking for contributions from Irish people living in other Canadian cities. Can you help?

Wed, Sep 19, 2012, 01:00


Ruairí Spillane set up a website to assist new Irish arrivals settle in Vancouver four years ago. A new site covering the whole of Canada will be launched next month, and they are looking for contributions from Irish people living in other Canadian cities. Can you help?

Vancouver at night

When I moved to Vancouver in 2008, there was a lack of objective information available for new arrivals. More and more people were arriving in the city every month from Ireland, and paying agencies for weak orientation programmes that offered little real insight into their new surroundings. The Irish community in Vancouver was small, and many new arrivals were unaware that one existed.

In the two years that followed, the pattern of emails I received from people looking for advice on moving here, most of whom were strangers, led me to believe there had to be a better way of sharing information rather than one email at a time. The same questions were asked: ‘What is it like to live there?’, ‘Are there many Irish?’, ‘What is job situation like?’, ‘Where is the best place to live?’, ‘Is the nightlife good?’

The Moving to Vancouver Facebook page was born in April 2011. The concept was simple – build an online community where people could share information and their experiences of settling in Vancouver.

Access to information

Seven months on, was launched to address the limitations of displaying information on Facebook. It’s a one-stop shop for those moving to Vancouver, a simple and intuitive website to help them plan and get excited for a key moment in their life.

Suddenly, there was an army of people volunteering their time to pass on information and write articles for the website. A simple concept mushroomed into a comprehensive website of which everyone took ownership and wanted to be part of. My vision had now been realized. I was overwhelmed by the number of people who came forward to offer their own time to expand the concept. Ian McAteer, a fellow Irishman who shared a passion for community involvement and helping newcomers, joined in April this year.

Finding suitable accommodation

Being comfortable in your new country is crucial to your happiness. Craigslist (the most common accommodation website), can be a minefield for fraud and misleading information. Apartments and houses are typically unfurnished in Vancouver, and signing a one-year lease is the norm. Those who have just arrived have no idea where they will be working or what neighborhood they would like to be part of. Welcome to Canada – the stress begins as you’re caught in limbo between the hostel and deciding where to live.

We set up an Accommodation Board to help people find like-minded people with whom to share a house or apartment. Moving2Vancouver International House was launched in March, providing furnished rooms in a motivated environment so that newcomers could get out of the hostel faster. Having longer-term accommodation allows them to focus on their new life in Canada without having to pay for furniture or commit to a lease in the first few months. Accommodation problem solved.

Finding employment

Moving2Vancouver provides extensive resume writing tips, job-hunting tips and employment resources, but finding employment remained a substantial problem for many people. Recruitment agencies in North America are very focused on their clients (i.e. the companies who pay their bills) and tend to forget that their candidates (e.g. newcomers) have just arrived in a new country and need some support. Networking is the key to finding a job in a Canada. You need to get out there, meet people in your industry and continue to build new connections so that everyone knows you are looking for a job. Over 50 per cent of new positions never get posted, so applying online is not very effective.

To address this we put together a series of articles on each profession to help them plan and prepare for their move and contact us to allow them build contacts across each industry before they arrive. Employment problem solved.

Why stop here? What about the rest of Canada?

We’re working on a new website – – which will encompass Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurrary in Alberta, and Toronto, as these cities are experiencing a massive increase in Irish newcomers. Moving2Vancouver is getting over 7,500 visitors per month now, and lots of the content is applicable to other Canadian cities.

Moving2Vancouver expanded as a recruitment agency when some Western Canadian employers asked for assistance in finding skilled trades and construction professionals. Jobs across various industries are listed in the Jobs Board on the website. This step allowed Moving2Vancouver to further the objective of helping newcomers find employment, while also paying the bills. Some large constructions companies came forward and also some local construction companies, all with a common desire to have more Irish workers. Moving2Vancouver will be in Dublin for the Working Abroad Expo on October 6th and 7th to find Irish workers who are keen to build a new life in Canada. Whether you have a work permit (i.e. an IEC visa) or not, there are employers that are keen to provide opportunities to Irish workers as they appreciate the strong work ethic and effortless social skills we possess.

Linking Irish communities

It was clear from this year’s Western Canadian GAA Championships hosted in Vancouver that the Irish population is growing at a huge rate. Teams from Edmonton, Red Deer, Fort McMurray and Calgary all attended with a huge number of new immigrants to Canada. Canada is intent on absorbing as many Irish workers as possible to help its booming economy, so there is a fantastic opportunity to build a link between the various Irish communities throughout the region.

Get involved in the project

To date, the Moving2Vancouver project has helped gather the Irish community in Vancouver and we’re keen to do the same for other communities across Canada. Please get in touch with us at if you would like to get involved in any way. You don’t need to be a writer, just have a willingness to share information. We’re keen to involve people with a good local knowledge of their adopted community, those with links to Irish groups and societies or those who can offer contacts to assist newcomers find employment. will be launched in early October at the Working Abroad Expo in Dublin. Be sure to stop by and say hello!

Slán agus beannacht,

Ruairí Spillane & Ian McAteer