Once Napoleon imposed the Continental Blockade on the British Isles beginning in November 1806, Québec became a pivotal port in the export of timber to England as well as the headquarters of the British military forces stationed in North America.
A cholera pandemic originating in India began to spread as of 1826. Then, beginning in 1831, it struck the British Isles, leaving numerous victims. Fearing that the disease would cross the Atlantic, the authorities looked for ways of protecting the colonies. Ultimately, following the enactment of a bill by Lower Canada's Assembly, a quarantine station was opened on Grosse Île under the auspices of the British army in 1832.
Québec numbered some 27,000 inhabitants in 1831. A quarantine station would enable the city to protect itself from the arrival of diseases by temporarily isolating inbound passengers and by keeping immigrants who were sick or suspected of being sick at some remove from the local population. Accordingly, Grosse Île's western sector was opened in order to receive these immigrants.
Unfortunately, however, these efforts ended in failure. In 1832 alone, close to 4000 people died of cholera in Québec. At more than 50,000 new arrivals, compared to an average of 20,000 in the preceding years, 1832 proved to be a year of massive immigration.
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Printed on : February 25, 2017