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The Canada Ireland Foundation participated in the groundbreaking ceremony for Toronto’s upcoming waterfront park, ‘Bathurst Quay Common.’
The Corleck and Ireland Park are the center of this distinctive area designed to celebrate the arts, culture, and heritage, and the Foundation is thrilled to collaborate with the City of Toronto to create a space that all citizens can appreciate.
Robert G. Kearns, our Chair and Founder, spoke alongside Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie and Councillor Ausma Malik to express the significance of the new park and extend gratitude to all who contributed to its development.
See his remarks below:
“Thank you, Councillor Malik and Deputy Mayor McKelvie, for your warm welcome here today and for including Canada Ireland Foundation in today’s wonderful proceedings and ceremonies. We are delighted and honoured to participate.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Over the course of the last 26 years, Canada Ireland Foundation has always enjoyed a great working relationship with the City of Toronto, its Mayors, Deputy Mayors, Councillors, and city staff.
We are forever grateful to Toronto City Council for making the land available on the Southeast corner of this Quay, for Ireland Park in 2000, at Adelaide St. and Widmer St., for Grasett Park in 2009 and now for The Corleck Building beside us, in 2022.
We work very closely with many talented City staff and we want to express our profound gratitude to them today for their advice and guidance as we navigate the considerable complexities of this building rehabilitation project.
We are also grateful to the City for committing the resources necessary for the revitalisation of this part of Toronto’s Waterfront. Todays ground-breaking for Bathurst Quay Common will see this area transformed from what it once was, neglected industrial land, to a beautiful new Waterfront Park. The future for Eireann Quay, oh I mean Bathurst Quay, is very bright and exciting.
Today is such an appropriate day for us to gather here to embark upon the restoration of this waterfront land, as today is National Indigenous Peoples Day.
A day in which we honour and experience the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding achievements and contributions of First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples.
Canada Ireland Foundation set out in 1997 to tell the remarkable story of the contribution to this country by people from the Island of Ireland. We know a lot more today than we did 26 years ago, and we certainly know a lot more about the kindness and hospitality of the Indigenous peoples of this land towards our Irish ancestors in great distress.
On the 6th of June 1847, the steamer The City of Toronto, sailed across this very point of land where we are standing today, and deposited 700 seriously ill and malnourished Irish men, women and children on Dr. Reece’s Wharf.
They were to be followed by a further 37,500 or so others during that Summer of Sorrow of 1847. Toronto’s population at that time was just 20,000. Over 100,000 Irish Famine migrants set out for Canada in 1847. About 20% died at sea or shortly after arrival.
Thanks to the recent research of Professor Mark McGowan, with St. Michaels College in the University of Toronto, we now know that as the Irish came here via Montreal, the Mohawk Nation of Kahnawake immediately responded to their plight bringing food from their lands to the Fever Sheds at Point St. Charles”.
Professor McGowan goes on to say that …” Despite living in poverty themselves, the Mohawks took up a collection for Irish relief in Montreal, raising about $150 or just shy of $5,000 in today’s Canadian dollars. This was an enormous sacrifice for a people that had been marginalized and made sedentary near the great Island that once housed their Council fires.
I highlight this little-known story to you as in the U.S., the Choctaw Nation raised a similar amount of money, $170, for a similar purpose and their gesture is known in the U.S. and worldwide.
Canada Ireland Foundation is committed to recovering these stories and we intend to share them with our Indigenous neighbors and all Canadians and especially the people of Ireland, who are not yet familiar with this magnificent act of kindness.
We have much to honour and celebrate on this Summer Solstice and National Indigenous Peoples Day.
And so, on this of all days, when the warm summer solstice sun, lingers longest in the wide skies of Canada, let us remember those who reached out their hands of kindness to the Irish on the Docks of Toronto, especially the hands of our Indigenous neighbors. We will always remember them and be ever grateful.
On behalf of all Irish Canadians and if I may, the people of Ireland, we thank you.”
Wed. June 21, 2023
9:30 am - 10:30 am EST