The Great Famine and Canada
The Great Hunger had an enormous impact on Canada and left its mark in terms of immigration and defining the character of our country. While profound, though, it appears that the vast majority of Irish people who immigrated to Canada did so before the famine. This meant not only were there Irish people already in Canada to help others from their homeland but that in some cases there was animosity from Irish Protestants alrady here who did not like the intrusion of the starving Irish Catholics. In the city of Saint John, for example, Common Council passed a motion asking the British government to take the immigrants back to Ireland. Thankfully, the New Brusnwick government of the day overuled that decision!
For the famine Irish who arrived in Canada, there were two key entry points, Partridge Island in the harbour of Saint John in New Brunswick and Grosse Isle in Quebec. A smaller island in the Miramichi region of New Brunswick, Middle Island, also played a part in welcoming Irish immigrants to their new country. The story of these Irish immigrants is full of tragedy and triumph.
The impact of immigration of the Irish fleeing the famine on Canada was affected by legislation passed in the United States. Shocked by the numbers flooding Boston, New York and other ports, the United States Congress passed two Passenger Acts. One limited the number of passengers a vessel was permitted to carry. The other increased the price of the cheapest passage to seven pounds, an amount that was well beyound what most poor Irish could afford. Starting in May of 1846, this resulted in increased traffic to Canadian ports. In fact, during one occasion. Grosse Ilse had a line of 40 ships, carrying 15,000 souls, waiting to land there. Of that number, many were sriously ill with fever and some were already dead.
Read A Journal of an Irish man fleeing the famine in 1847.