Mr. Speaker, Toronto has long been a sanctuary city. In 1847, the city had a population of only 20,000 people, but in that same year, across the ocean, Ireland was gripped by famine. The Great Hunger, as it is known, killed millions and sent millions more abroad in search of not just a better life, but in fact of life itself. In just one summer, Toronto more than doubled in size, as 38,000 desperate souls arrived in the city without notice.
On the shores of Lake Ontario, despair was not met by fear but by compassion. Refugees were brought to the city. A public health system sprung to life almost overnight, and even though we had few doctors and nurses, many gave their lives in the service of trying to save these refugees, so that they could live their lives and prosper in Ontario. This extraordinary response is now memorialized along the shores of Lake Ontario by Island Park. This fall, a second park will be opened in Toronto to memorialize the health workers who gave their lives.
This St. Patrick's Day, be sure to raise a glass, but also remember the brave and compassionate response of Toronto to refugees.