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Our History

The New Brunswick Celtic Affairs Committee, Inc. (NBCAC) is a volunteer-run, non-profit heritage organization, incorporated in New Brunswick in 2017. 

Originally formed in 2010 by representatives of three Celtic associations – the Irish Canadian Cultural Association of New Brunswick, the New Brunswick Scottish Cultural Association, and the Central New Brunswick Welsh Society, to address common concerns, the Committee provides a central focus to explore options for safeguarding and enhancing the Celtic culture of a significant portion of our provincial population. 

In November of 2012, as a result of several meetings and months of research into the handling of Celtic matters in other Atlantic provinces, initial discussion points were communicated to the Government of New Brunswick through a document entitled Report and Recommendations to the Government of New Brunswick - Subject: New Brunswick’s Celtic Identity. 

This report spoke generally to concerns about the erosion of the Celtic culture in New Brunswick and more specifically to the lack of acknowledgement of the Celtic people as one of the province’s major founding ethnic groups.  Also, of great concern was the level of ignorance of the Celtic culture that had led to the practice in New Brunswick cultural policies of lumping the Celtic people into the category of “the various components found in Anglophone culture” as defining in the 2007 New Brunswick Cultural Policy.  It was felt that this designation completely disregarded the distinct histories and cultures of Celts who came to New Brunswick and was misleading due to the fact that Celtic New Brunswickers are found in both our Anglophone and Francophone population but are neither English or French.  The first designation speaks to language, the second to culture and ethnicity, and the Celtic settlers were unique and separate from the French and English.

In addition to appealing to the provincial government to address the above concerns, it was suggested that, in so doing, and with a more coordinated focus, it would be possible to exploit the links Celts cultivate with the countries of their origins for the cultural and economic benefit of New Brunswick.

In response to continued lobbying by the Celtic Affairs Committee, the following important Government decisions were made:   the new Cultural Policy for the Province, published in 2014, identified the Celtic peoples as a founding group in New Brunswick and, in 2016, the provincial government appointed a Minister Responsible for Celtic Affairs and has been working with the NB Celtic Affairs Committee since then.

A Brief History of Celtic New Brunswick

In the 2016 Census, New Brunswickers were asked to indicate the ethnic or cultural origins of their ancestors.  39.9 percent replied that they were of Celtic origin.

Although a small number of Celtic people arrived in our province as early as the late 1600s, to harvest the plentiful fishing stocks and take advantage of large tracts of harvestable lumber, more permanent settlers came by the mid 1700s and continued to arrive in large numbers well into the 19th century.  Celtic people continue to migrate to New Brunswick right up to the present day, but at a slower pace.

In the early days, many Celtic immigrants spoke their traditional languages – Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Welsh.  Many would have also spoken English or French.  As time passed, educational policy highly favoured English as the school language, so that by the early 1900s the census shows only small numbers of Celts still speaking their native languages.  They had become predominantly anglophone and, in some cases, francophone.

This led to a tendency to lump Celts in ‘English’, though that was only their workaday language, not their culture.

From the 1700s to the present day, Irish, Scots and Welsh have continued to identify themselves by their origins and their culture, not by their language.  They have kept societies, dance, fiddling and piping alive through the years.  As travel became more affordable, they frequently travel to the ‘Old Country’ and welcome visitors who want to know what happened to ancestors who came to New Brunswick those many years ago. 

In recent years, occasions to foster business and cultural relationships between New Brunswick and the ancestral countries of our Celtic people have resulted in economic development opportunities, educational and cultural exchanges, and a growing awareness of just how Celtic New Brunswick really is.