May 28, 2017 6:31 pm
Updated: May 28, 2017 6:51 pm

Hundreds gather for annual ‘Walk to the Stone’ to honour past

WATCH ABOVE: Hundreds of Irish Montrealers celebrated their heritage Sunday in their annual walk to the Black Stone – a memorial site for thousands of Irish immigrants who perished more than a 150 years ago. But as Matt Grillo reports, this year’s event was bittersweet.

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For over 150 years, the Walk to the Stone has been taking place in Montreal.

On Sunday, hundreds showed up to walk from St-Gabriel’s Church in Pointe-Saint-Charles to the Black Rock, which is a memorial for the more than 6,000 Irish immigrants who died in Montreal from typhus in the 1800s.

“Without this walk, I think that many of the Irish who died at that time would have just been forgotten,” Fergus Keyes, director for the Montreal Irish Monument Park Foundation, said.

Some in attendance said this year’s walk had significantly more people in attendance.

It comes after news that Hydro-Quebec has acquired land adjacent to the Black Rock.

READ MORE: Montreal’s Irish insist sacred burial ground shouldn’t be developed

Montreal Irish Monument Park Foundation wanted to turn the land into a memorial site for those who had died.

Now the foundation will have to work with Hydro-Quebec and the City of Montreal to find a solution.

“You know we have to be practical,” Keyes said. “If it does come to the Hydro, we have to talk to them and at least try and save what we can.”

Hydro-Quebec said they are willing to try and accommodate the foundation.

“We’re trying to do the best without changing the past, but looking forward what can we do together to make this a success for both,” Marc Boucher,  president Hydro-Quebec TransÉnergie, said.

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Hydro-Quebec will use the land as a substation to help with the new REM light-rail system.

The substation is expected to be built in 2023.

READ MORE: Montreal Irish honour the past with annual ‘Walk to the Stone’

The City of Montreal said there is time to come up with a solution, but something will be done.

“We will make sure that they are well represented because it’s about the Irish people,” Montreal Mayor, Denis Coderre,  said. “As we mentioned it’s an inclusive process and I’m there to make things happen.”

Regardless of what takes place in the future the Irish community will continue to hold the Walk to the Stone.

“Throughout history, people will be able to point to the walk as an example of how the Irish will never give up the importance of that site,” Victor Boyle, Montreal Irish Monument Park Foundation director, said.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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