Halifax Explosion—Ninety-ninth AnniversaryPublished on 30 November 2016 Hansard and Statements by Senator Terry Mercer
Hon. Terry M. Mercer:
Honourable senators, December 6, 1917, is a sombre day in Nova Scotia’s history. It was on that day almost 100 years ago that the Halifax Explosion killed thousands of people and wounded many more thousands.
A French cargo ship, the SS Mont-Blanc, was loaded with explosives and collided with the SS Imo, a Norwegian ship in Halifax Harbour. The devastation was brutal. To this day it is still the world’s largest man-made accidental explosion.
On that day, my grandmother, who lived on Cornwallis Street in the north end of Halifax, was at home alone with her two children, my two uncles. She was bathing them in the morning. Usually she left the bathroom door open because she was home alone, but on that day, for some reason, she didn’t. That decision ended up saving her life and the lives of my two uncles. The explosion created such a shock wave that shattered glass was sent hurling all over the city. There were large shards of glass stuck in the closed door. Thankfully they didn’t make it through.
My father, you see, was the next to be born into that family, so I would not be here today if it were not for my grandmother’s decision to close that door that morning.
Honourable senators, while remembering such disasters, we cannot forget the brave sacrifices made by those people who offered their help. Help came from all over Eastern Canada, but it’s the city of Boston I want to speak about today.
Boston sent aid workers and materials to help in the aftermath of the disaster. In 1918, Halifax sent a Christmas tree to the city of Boston to thank them for their help. This tradition was started again in 1971, and since then, a Christmas tree is donated every year by the province of Nova Scotia and is lit on Boston Common in that city.
On November 15, a 47-foot-tall white spruce was cut down from land close to the Waycobah First Nation in Ainslie Glen, Inverness County. Not only was it the first time that the tree was taken from Cape Breton Island, but it is also the first from a nearby Mi’kmaq community.
Tomorrow, December 1, the seventy-fifth annual tree lighting ceremony will take place in Boston. As a proud Haligonian and a proud Nova Scotian, I am pleased that the Nova Scotia government has continued this tradition, a symbol of our gratitude to the city of Boston when Halifax needed it most. Thank you, Boston.