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Management Plan

Modernism and efficiency

History has perpetuated the memory of this tragic period of the St. Lawrence quarantine. However, it has largely ignored the hidden face of Grosse Île’s past – that is, the long years spent developing efficient, modern methods for handling immigrants and treating contagious diseases.

From the 1850s on, and especially after Confederation in 1867, the Canadian government enacted a wide-ranging immigration and settlement policy that required a reliable, working quarantine service. The memory of the not-so-distant disasters was still fresh, and the lessons of this experience had been fully understood. On Grosse Île itself, the architect of improvements to quarantine operations was Dr. Frederick Montizambert, a bacteriologist who served as the station’s chief medical officer from 1869 to 1899.

Montizambert began by planning the ultimate layout of the island’s facilities in a way ensuring that there would be absolutely no contact between sick immigrants and healthy passengers under observation. As the years passed, the immigration and financial situation changed. Montizambert was able to rebuild the station’s facilities: hospitals, residences for quarantined passengers, workers’ homes and chapels. He ensured that new quarantine regulations were adopted, thus eliminating the loopholes and laxity of ship captains.

Thoroughly versed in the scientific and medical aspects of the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of contagious diseases, Montizambert imposed increasingly strict and efficient health controls on immigration, including: inspection and disinfection of ships, passengers and baggage; vaccination; and diagnosis using laboratory tests. These initiatives came in response to new developments. Immigration was now a worldwide phenomenon. New potential paths of transmission of contagious diseases had multiplied and sea crossings had become shorter with the advent of new steamships.

The proliferation and improved comfort of these steamships prompted the superintendent to modernize the buildings used for receiving and accommodating immigrants on Grosse Île. 5 From the end of the 19th century until World War I, Grosse Île featured three modern hotels, each of which corresponded to one of the three types of passenger fare available on board transatlantic liners. Montizambert successfully met the major challenge of his career – that is, thoroughly revamping the concept of public health in an immigration context, while at the same time offering faster processing and more comfortable surroundings for immigrants.
In 1878, three buildings which had served as hospitals in the eastern sector of the island went up in flames. Chief medical officer Montizambert then persuaded the government to erect a modern spacious hospital for infectious diseases on the same location. Built in 1881, this 100-bed hospital was destroyed by fire in 1968. In 1878, three buildings which had served as hospitals in the eastern sector of the island went up in flames. Chief medical officer Montizambert then persuaded the government to erect a modern spacious hospital for infectious diseases on the same location. Built in 1881, this 100-bed hospital was destroyed by fire in 1968.
D. A. McLaughlin
National Archives of Canada
(hereinafter referred to as NAC) PA-148819

5. Thus, electrification was carried out on Grosse Île in 1902, several years before many other regions of Quebec.


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