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Free From Local Prejudice
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A Depressing Period


by Sylvie Tremblay, Library and Archives Canada

The creation of the quarantine station on Grosse-Île did not have unanimous support. Physicians' opinions were divided on the subject of how cholera was spread and on the care to be given to its victims. Some claimed that the disease could not cross the ocean; others doubted their ability to recognize its symptoms, and accordingly, their ability to limit the magnitude of the epidemic.

In 1832, with the resumption of the navigation season and high levels of immigration, there were fears that the disease would emerge. On June 9, the first cases of cholera were reported in the city of Québec. The quarantine station became rapidly overcrowded, and the administrators of the port of Québec decided to allow ships that were not transporting Irish immigrants to pass through, so that they could arrive directly at Québec.

Doubtless, Canadians associated the disease exclusively with the Irish, rather than recognizing the true causes of the epidemic: overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions on the ships. This decision would have disastrous consequences.

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