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Mark McGowan Mother Bruyère

Exterior shot. Bearded man with greying hair, wearing a dark blue jacket and glasses is, viewed from the waist up, speaking to camera. To his right is a blue historical plaque titled “Élizabeth Bruyère. 1818-1876”, with a paragraph written in French about her below.  In the background can be seen a grey brick wall with high windows.

Mark McGowan from the Department of History at the University of Toronto, and I am here in Lower Town, in Ottawa, on the site of the original convent of the Sœurs de la Charité de l’Ottawa – a branch of the Grey Sisters that came to Ottawa in the 1840s.

But it was on this particular site

Fade in of black and white diagonal illustration of street map, one block with five buildings, including church with steeple, 2 two storey buildings with windows, 1 outbuilding, and on L-shaped three storey building. Caption: “Carney House, Emigrant Hospital, and other Grey Nuns facilities 1846-1849. Archives of the Sisters of Charity Ottawa -P-M1/0005” at bottom of screen.

that Mother Bruyère and the Sisters of Charity here were chiefly responsible for helping Irish Famine immigrants, particularly orphan children, who had arrived in the city in great numbers in June of 1847.

Black and white illustration of nun in habit clasping arms with female child in a dress, three wooden buildings with gabled windows and trees in background fades in. Caption: “Bytown Grey Nun with orphaned child in front of Carney and Emigrant Hospital on Bolton (now Bruyère) street, Archives of the Sisters of Charity Ottawa -P-M1/0004” at bottom of screen.

Many of these Irish Famine migrants would have come from both Montreal, and some up from Kingston, and were left essentially in the care of the Sisters.

Some sixty four orphans were housed in the original building on this site.

Fade in of black and white illustration of front profile of three adjoining two storey buildings, gabled windows on second storey, steeple on left building, with attached outbuilding, and partial view of large church and trees in background. Caption: “Grey Nuns Chapel, Carney House and Emigrant Hospital on Bolton (now Bruyère) street, used in 1847. Archives of the Sisters of Charity Ottawa -P-M1/0008” at bottom of screen.

And later they were dispersed to many of the Catholic women, mostly French-Canadians, who were living in Bytown – then the early name for the city of Ottawa.

But it was out of this charitable work that many of the Irish Famine victims – victims of typhus – and children who had been orphaned were cared for, and then integrated into the local community.

Some who were healthy moved on. But it really is the great legacy

Black and white portrait of middle aged woman wearing a nun’s habit and a large silver cross viewed diagonally in oval frame with gold trim fades in. Caption: “Portrait of Mother Élisabeth Bruyère, founder of the Sisters of Charity (Grey Nuns) of Ottawa” at bottom of screen.

of the religious orders of the Catholic Church – and in this particular case, the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa – that make the Famine story a story of courage by locals assisting in the time of greatest need for new Canadians.

Final image of water with onscreen Ireland Park Foundation logo. Celtic style music playing.