Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
March 2005

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia



Cholera, a virulent disease of supposedly Asiatic origin, which was epidemic throughout Europe in 1831, and which made its first appearance in Canada early in 1832 on board immigration ships from England and Ireland. In the spring of that year a quarantine station was established, as a preventive measure, at Grosse Isle, in the lower St. Lawrence river, about 30 miles below Quebec. In spite of this, however, the epidemic invaded every city that received any of the 51,700 immigrants from England and Ireland in 1832. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick alone escaped the ravages of the disease. This first outbreak lasted from June until September and claimed, it is estimated, 6,000 lives, a death rate of more than 60 per cent. The second epidemic broke out with equal violence in the summer of 1834. Political capital was made of the matter, enemies of Lord Aylmer, then governor of Canada, charging that it was in the interests of the merchants that the government refused to stop the infected vessels below Quebec in order to check more effectually the progress of the disease. Not until 1849 did cholera appear again. The number of immigrants in that year was 38,000, being 11,000 more than in the previous year. The rate of mortality was again about 60 per cent. of those infected. In 1851 there was another epidemic, which was largely confined, however, to the city of Quebec ; and the following year the disease made its appearance on a steamer landing from Liverpool, but no cases occurred in the city itself. The third serious epidemic broke out in 1854, during which, according to a conservative estimate, which is considered to be far short of reality, the total deaths numbered 3,846. Statistics show that during these several years, cholera claimed 8,373 lives in the city of Quebec alone. In 1866 and 1871 two ships landed at Halifax with cases of cholera on board, but with the exception of two fatalities in the second instance the disease was not carried to shore.

Source  : W. Stewart WALLACE, ed., The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. II, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 411p., p. 55.


© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College