My name is Jim Kelly. I am Ireland’s Ambassador to Canada.
I am delighted to welcome the Great Famine Voices Roadshow 2019 to the Irish Residence here in Ottawa to kick-off their Canadian leg this year.
Ireland and Canada have a history, of course, that is inexplicably linked through the Great Famine. When US ports turned away ships carrying Irish Famine victims suffering from disease, or where the ships were overcrowded, it was to Canada that many of those ships came.
The grim legacy of that time can be seen in the almost 20,000 Famine victims who were buried in mass graves here in Canada. In Grosse Isle on the Saint Lawrence River, we have the largest Famine burial site outside of Ireland, with almost six thousand buried there from Famine times.
Many Canadians, of course, greatly risked disease and even death to help the Famine Irish who came to the country. And, in turn, those people, showing incredible resilience, incredible strength and determination, built new lives for themselves in Canada. And in their turn they repaid the Canadians, contributing enormously to the development of modern Canada, the country that we know today.
The legacy of their contribution can be seen in the names of the streets, the cities, and the towns, and in the names of people, indeed, in Canada today.