Dec 17, 2009

Death or Canada

Death or Canada is a documentary film depicting the migration of an Irish family fleeing the famine from the west of Ireland during the summer of 1847. It chronicles their departure, voyage, arrival at Grosse Ile, Quebec and finally their arrival in the city of Toronto.  At this time Toronto had a population of around 20,000 and that summer close to 40,000 Irish immigrants arrived at it's shores. Many of them were sick and destitute and the city was completely overwhelmed and unprepared to care for and process this many people. The film recreates the journey and the struggles the city of Toronto had in dealing with the situation. For me it was both touching and difficult to watch. My Irish ancestors made the same journey one year earlier in 1846. The film was partly inspired by the creation of Ireland Park in Toronto which I wrote about earlier.

It is a co-production of Ballinran Productions of Canada and Tile Films of Ireland. It was written by Craig Thompson. It has aired on RTE One, Ireland, History Television, UK and The History Channel, Canada. If you get a chance to see it, it is an informative, moving, and heartbreaking film that you won't soon forget.

One of the main contributors on the film, Mark McGowan has written a book titled Death or Canada: The Irish Famine Migration to Toronto, 1847. He says the title came from research in Limerick where he read newspaper accounts where the locals were likening the famine situation to the Cromwellian era. During Cromwell it was "Hell or Connaught". During the famine it was "Death or Canada".

Official Death or Canada Website
Full Wikipedia Article.

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