Easter Sunday 2020 and as they say, there’s nothing new under the sun.
And so it is with pandemics. Cholera broke out in Europe in the early 1830s. Irish immigrants coming to Canada brought the contagion with them. To manage the crisis, the Canadian government was forced to rapidly set up a quarantine station on Grosse Isle in the St. Lawrence river, Canada’s immigration choke point, about 40 kms upstream from Quebec City.
All arriving passengers were forced to take showers, be physically examined and have their clothes and possessions steamed. Those suspected of having the disease were required to spend weeks on the island where they either recovered or died. Thousands who had chanced the rigors of a North Atlantic crossing in the dream of starting of a new life in the New World, sadly did not make it off the island.
Today Grosse Isle has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site and remains a destination of Irish pilgrimage.
Second class passengers quarantined on Grosse Isle had to do their own washing in this multiple unit laundry that was way ahead of its time in both design and function. Of course passengers staying in the First Class hotel had their clothes and linen laundry washed for them! After all, wealth doth have its privilege!!
It’s sad to realize that millions of present day Canadians have no knowledge of the above scene which would have been intimately familiar to their brave ancestors to whose tenacious resilience and everlasting legacy they owe so much.
This memorial is to the brave Canadian doctors who died in the service of their country and the arriving immigrants. The grave markers that can be seen in the distance are not for individuals but for mass interments.
A visit to Grosse Isle is a flashback to a bygone era when we took foreign arrivals seriously. Let’s hope for a resurrection of normalcy in our near future.
With sincere best wishes for all.
Happy Easter! Stay safe!! Stay healthy!!!