Management Plan

Canadian immigration in Québec City during the years of the Grosse Île quarantine station

Evocation of the Quarantine Strait during the summer of 1847 Evocation of the Quarantine Strait during the summer of 1847
Illustration by Bernard Duchesne
Parks Canada, 1996
  • Colonial emigration (1832-1860)
  • Transition era (1861-1880)
  • Gradual consolidation (1881-1900)
  • Expanding immigration brought to an abrupt halt (1901-1920)
  • Major upheavals (1921-1940)

The human quarantine station was opened on Grosse Île in 1832. Barely 15 years earlier, the influx of immigration from Great Britain to Canada had started to increase dramatically. British emigration to the shores of the St. Lawrence began after 1815, in the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars. The agrarian and industrial revolution, unemployment, socio-economic problems and overpopulation were the main reasons why English, Irish and Scottish emigrants decided to head for Canada.

With the 105-year history of the Grosse Île quarantine station (1832-1937) serving as backdrop, Canadian immigration in Quebec can be divided into five periods.
Colonial emigration (1832-1860)

Immigration to our shores during this period stands out for three features. First, to use the terms indicative of the perspective of that time, Canada came to the assistance of “British emigration” in the form of policies, subsidies and initiatives which had originated in London. Not until the early 1860s was an organization set up to recruit “immigrants”. From 1832 to 1860, Québec City, the country’s main port of entry, landed nearly 30 000 immigrants annually; most of them came from Great Britain and Ireland.

This period was also characterized by strong Irish immigration, which accounted for more than half of the new arrivals in Canada. Beginning in the 1820s, many Irish had left their homeland because of poverty in the countryside, the demands of landlords and repeated food shortages. The Great Famine of 1845 to 1849, which resulted from the failure of the potato crop, triggered the tragic migrations of 1847.

Finally, this wave of immigration did not merely coincide with the emergence of major epidemics in North America, it also carried them. Immigrants from Great Britain and Ireland spread cholera in 1832 (approximately 6000 victims in Québec City and Montreal), in 1834 and again in 1854. The typhus epidemic that killed thousands of victims in 1847 came from the same source: 100 000 emigrants, most of them Irish people fleeing the Great Famine, carried this contagious disease to Canada with them aboard the overcrowded and infected decks of slow-moving and unsanitary sailing ships.


Introduction

Origin and context of the project
Management plan
Quarantine and public health
1847, year of tragedy
Canadian immigration in Québec City during the years of the Grosse Île quarantine station