In 1847, more than 38,000 Irish refugees arrived in Toronto, remaking the town and establishing a connection between the city and Ireland that remains strong. By next year, three public projects will celebrate that relationship, and Toronto’s humanitarian response to that first wave of migrants.
First, a stretch of Toronto’s waterfront at Ireland Park is open again to the public. A new public promenade has opened at the park, which opened in 2007 with a memorial to victims of the Irish Famine. Next door, a former port building is becoming a new home for the Canada Ireland Foundation. Dubbed the Corleck Building, this structure will reopen in the summer of 2022 as a cultural centre. And a few minutes away, a new public park will honour a Torontonian who gave his life while helping Irish migrants. Dr. George Robert Grasett of Toronto’s Emigrant Hospital oversaw the treatment of famine victims in the summer of 1847. Many of the Irish were sick with typhus, a disease that was contagious and almost always fatal. But Dr. Grasett helped care for those suffering, but within weeks he himself had died. This sacrifice, and the sacrifices made by other doctors, nurses and orderlies, will be memorialized by a new park on Adelaide Street. Grasett Park will open in July.
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