Hon. Jane Cordy:
Honourable senators, I am pleased to rise before you today to commemorate and to reflect on the one hundredth anniversary of the Halifax Explosion. On this day in 1917, the SS Imo, a Norwegian relief vessel, collided with the French ship SS Mont-Blanc in Halifax Harbour. The Mont-Blanc became engulfed in flames. The ensuing fire detonated almost 6 million pounds of explosives held in the Mont-Blanc’s cargo.
Over 2,000 people perished that day, 500 of whom were children, and 9,000 more were gravely injured. Halifax Harbour and the surrounding areas were almost completely destroyed. Entire communities lost their businesses, homes and families. One hundred years ago to the day, and the brave people of Nova Scotia are still feeling the repercussions of this disaster.
The devastation was felt as far away as Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton. Historic buildings and cultural symbols, like Dartmouth’s Oland Brewery, were lost. The Nova Scotia Hospital in Dartmouth cared for many of the victims, and as Nova Scotians do, we came together to support one another and those who suffered.
As a Nova Scotian, I am proud and humbled to stand alongside them in remembrance and celebration. We lost so much, but we came back stronger than ever.
During the explosion, a cannon from the Mont-Blanc became detached from the ship and landed in the north end of Dartmouth, almost three kilometres away. The ship’s anchor was propelled four kilometres away and landed on the Northwest Arm in Halifax. Today, each of these sites has become a piece of our shared history, reminding us of the sheer magnitude of the devastation and the sacrifice made by all those who lost, were lost and those who survived.
The Halifax Explosion was devastating, but it also offered Nova Scotians, and indeed all Canadians, a glimmer of hope for our future. The City of Boston also stepped up in our time of need, donating supplies and aid when even we had lost hope. To this day, Nova Scotia offers the City of Boston a Christmas tree as an expression of our deepest and sincerest gratitude. As Senator Mercer mentioned in his statement, this year’s tree came from Inverness County in Cape Breton.
Today, we are presented with opportunity for remembrance and an opportunity to be hopeful for our future. This explosion should serve as a reminder that even in times of grief, we are able to work together and overcome adversity. Nova Scotia has rebuilt and grown because of the strength of its survivors, our neighbours in the Atlantic, in Canada and in Boston. We did so quickly because of the fighting spirit of the Nova Scotian people.
Today, that spirit is alive and well. It embodies our past, is thankful for our present and is hopeful and eager for our future.