Parks Canada

Parks Canada

May 10, 2009 13:30 ET

Government of Ireland Contributes to the Grosse Ile and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site of Canada

GROSSE ILE AND THE IRISH MEMORIAL, QUEBEC--(Marketwire - May 10, 2009) - The Honourable Jim Prentice, Canada's Environment Minister and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, accompanied by His Excellency the Ambassador of Ireland Mr. Declan Kelly and Mr. Eamon O Cuiv, Irish Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, today unveiled the sketch of a new exhibition at the lazaretto of Grosse Ile and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site of Canada. The ceremony took place as part of Famine Month in Ireland and the 100th anniversary of the Celtic Cross celebrations on Grosse Ile. A tree was planted and a plaque unveiled to commemorate the event.

"Canada's history is intimately tied to that of Ireland, and Grosse Ile and the Irish Memorial are very evocative expressions of that bond," said Minister Prentice. "I am very pleased to welcome the Government of Ireland's contribution to this National Historic Site of Canada through a new exhibition at the lazaretto."

Support from the Government of Ireland ($65,000) and Parks Canada ($10,000) will lead to a new exhibition on the Irish presence at Grosse Ile. The display will be presented in the lazaretto, the oldest building on the site, which commemorates above all the 1847 tragedy as experienced at Grosse Ile. The lazaretto is the only remaining hospital building on the island, which was a major part of this quarantine island. This is a unique and highly symbolic building.

Grosse Ile, an island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River, served as a quarantine station for the city of Quebec from 1832 to 1937 and as the main point of entry for immigrants to Canada until the First World War.

The tragic events at Grosse Ile in 1847 stemmed from the Great Irish Famine, one of the pivotal events in the history of Ireland. During that agonizing upheaval, which lasted less than a decade,Ireland's population declined by over 2 million. In 1847, 398 ships were inspected at Grosse Ile and 441 registered in Quebec. Seventy-seven carried over 400 passengers each.

The situation was precarious at Grosse Ile, one of the main entry point. Even though the quarantine station had been enlarged considerably during the season, it was barely equipped to meet the demand and its staff were overworked. Several ships had to anchor off the island while they awaited inspectors and medical personnel. Grosse Ile saw scenes of unspeakable suffering and exceptional dedication. More than 7,000 people are buried there, most of them victims of the typhus epidemic of 1847. The year 2009 marks the 100th anniversary of the erecting of the Celtic Cross on the island in 1909 to commemorate the Irish immigrants who died during the epidemic.

Grosse Ile and the Irish Memorial are part of Parks Canada's network of more than 33 national historic sites and parks in Quebec, offering visitors unique and exceptional heritage experiences.

Also available on the Internet at under the heading Media Room.

Contact Information

  • Office of the Minister of the Environment
    Frederic Baril
    Press Secretary
    Parks Canada - Quebec
    Lise Rochette
    Communications Advisor