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Management Plan

Communication challenges

The messages of national historic significance related to the site’s commemorative intent are both far-reaching and complex. The period to be commemorated – whose activities span more than a century – saw widely varying phenomena that are still the subject of numerous debates. Presenting messages of national historic significance on Grosse Île thus entails addressing a number of challenges.

Periodization, a necessary task

There were enormous differences between the immigration and quarantine operations of 1832 and those of 1937. In terms of presenting messages of national historic significance, this situation brings into play the concept of “periodization.” In contrast to the great epidemics and hazardous navigation characterizing the first waves of immigration in the 19th century, the era of medical discoveries and the rise of steamship navigation stand out for having completely transformed immigration in later years. Furthermore, the ethnic concentration of English, Scottish, Welsh and above all Irish immigrants was gradually supplanted by a diversity of populations which, beginning at that time, originated from all over the European continent and which attained unparalleled levels just prior to the outbreak of World War I.

Finally, the early facilities at the quarantine station, which were makeshift and reflected the limited knowledge of the field at that time, were followed by a rationally planned system of facilities for processing immigrants not only on Grosse Île but also at the port of Québec, Lévis (Tibbets Cove) and Pointe-au-Père. The history of the quarantine was thus affected in various ways by the history of immigration worldwide and specifically by trends and developments in Québec City.

Immigration as a human experience

Messages of national historic significance at Grosse Île must also highlight the human experience of the immigrants. Whatever the period referred to, immigration has always entailed a passage from the familiar to the unknown. This process awakened a whole range of emotions caused by separation from the family and the attempt to find one’s place in the new society of promise.

Limited representative value of on-site cultural resources

Because the quarantine station evolved over many years, interpretation necessarily encompasses many different buildings and works (over a thousand are listed) that have evolved significantly during a century of immigrantrelated activities. The value of these resources in terms of conveying the past creates a certain dilemma. As time passed, infrastructure on the island grew but were also rationalized. Grosse Île welcomed fewer immigrants, giving way to new facilities, especially in the port of Québec. This creates an additional challenge as the facilities still standing on the island, most of which date from the final period of occupation, provide little evidence of the station’s foremost period of activity, namely the era of the great epidemics in the mid-19th century.

Despite an impressive number of cultural resources, including some 30 heritage buildings, this national historic site has few other resources with which to illustrate certain major aspects of immigration (causes of immigration, transportation of immigrants, socio-professional profile and ethnic composition, etc.), which embody a major portion of the island’s commemorative intent.

Historiography and the causes of immigration

The history of immigration includes various aspects, such as the causes of immigration, that continue to be interpreted in different ways by historians. These topics will therefore be discussed and presented in such a way as to reflect the whole range of historiographic material – in particular, from within the perspective of Canadian history.

The Grosse Île station and the port of Québec

Although, strictly speaking, Grosse Île was never a point of entry for immigrants to Canada, it must be regarded as part of the immigrant processing services connected with the port of Québec. Above all, it was the cornerstone of a system of facilities established in Québec City, Lévis or further down the St. Lawrence.

This will also be the context in which the various messages of national historic significance will be presented at Grosse Île. The challenge will consist in presenting a reality that in fact is more strongly associated with the port of Québec. The profile of immigrant statistics is one example of this. 9

9. Current knowledge now affords visitors with an overall profile of arrivals at the port of Québec, but only partial statistics are available in the case of Grosse Île.

Commemorative integrity of the site

Commemorative intent
Resources symbolizing or representing the national significance of Grosse Île
Grosse Île and its cultural landscapes
On-site cultural resources
Movable cultural resources
Messages of national historic significance
Messages for the Canadian public
Messages for visitors to the site
Communication challenges
Other heritage values of the site
Precontact dimension of Grosse Île
Earliest settlers and agricultural use of the island before the quarantine station period
The Canadian Forces (1942-1945, 1951-1956)
Agriculture Canada (research and training station, animal quarantine)
International, national and regional links
Outstanding natural surroundings