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From the year 1845 to 1849, Ireland experienced a catastrophe that had never been witnessed before. During that time, most of Ireland's population was dependent on potato as their main dish. Unfortunately, during the summer of 1845, potato blight struck the crop in their farms resulting in a shortage to their annual supplies (Alexopoulos, 1996). Things worsened as the British government did very little to help contain the situation, and in next six months famine became eminent. By 1846, the situation had gone out of hand and many people lost their lives due to hunger and disease. This made people to be migrated to other countries, especially to the British colonies and America. A good number of them were migrated to Canada which was a British colony by then. This caused a lot of problems to the Canadian population because most of the immigrants arriving were sickly. In addition, they were a large number and most of them were suffering from cholera. This was something new to the Canadian medical staff that was very much overwhelmed by the large numbers of sick people. This situation permitted for the spread of cholera and typhus to the rest of the Canadian society and caused havoc among them (Kinealy, 1994). This paper seeks to analyze the negative effects of the historic Irish potato famine on the Canadian society. Even though many people believe that the Irish potato famine was a natural calamity, in actual fact, it was a product of social causes and therefore far from being a natural calamity. Many Irish people believe that it was a direct consequence of the British colonial policies, since many Anglo-Irish estates continued to export livestock and grains during the worst years of the famine.
The first negative effect of the Irish potato famine was that it made the Canadian medical professionals to become overwhelmed in the treatment of immigrants. On the arrival of these immigrants to Canada, they were first detained in an island in Saint Lawrence River for check-ups before they could proceed to the rest of the country. The island was small and could not accommodate the large numbers of the immigrants who were arriving by ship. Some of them had to be taken straight to the mainland without passing through the island. More than one hundred thousand Irish immigrants sailed to Quebec. This caused restraint to the Canadian personnel of different professions who were not at all prepared for this overwhelming tragedy since they were not well equipped and had to work round the clock. The medical authorities by then did not have a clear understanding of what cholera was, how to prevent it from spreading and the way to treat it (Cormac, 2002). The medics were clearly overwhelmed due to the fact that they had little information on cholera. The deadly disease affected nearly everyone in the society.
Secondly, death was rampant in the Canadian society due to this calamity. Most of the Canadians lost their lives during this time. Woodham-Smith (1964) asserts that the immigrants who were transported straight to Quebec were not inspected and so they infected the community living around them with the deadly disease. It is also important to note that the medics inspected the immigrants by looking at their tongues and eyes. This was clearly not the best way to determine who was sick and who was not. Some of those who were cleared to be healthy were sick because the symptoms had not yet started showing. As such, they ended up infecting other people who were around them. This deadly disease became more rampant because it killed even the professionals: seamen, doctors and nurses, nuns and priests. All of them were caught in this mess. This situation escalated the number of deaths.
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Thirdly, many orphans were left behind due to the famine. According to Donnelly (2005), the famine also changed the structure of the Canadian population. As many parents died, they left behind orphans who had nowhere to go. Most of them lacked basic needs like food and shelter. They were very devastated, sick and could be seen sleeping on the streets. The churches and orphan homes were outweighed and ran out of options on how best to help these orphans and the adult sick. A certain priest termed it as a tragedy after seeing a boy sitting down as a result of exhaustion and passed away right there. The government at the time had to budget for medical care, food and funeral expenses besides other issues such as unemployment and stigmatization.
In conclusion, it is important to know that Canada was a British colony during that time, but it did not have a voice on managing its affairs and so it had to accept all the immigrants who were coming in. Due to a lack of information on this deadly disease, they thought that they had contained it and allowed the sick immigrants to live with the rest of the Canadians. This affected both the natives and the immigrants. It is believed that one in every five Irish immigrants lost their life after getting infected. This statistic excludes those who died in the high seas and could not make it to the shores; not forgetting those who had already died in Ireland (Kinealy, 1994). To sum up, many Irish people died from this tragedy and hence, it will remain to be history that will never be forgotten. Some of the effects of the tragedy are still felt up to now. It did also create awareness on potato blight and people turned their attention on preventing something of the sort to ever happen again.
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