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Deadman’s Island and Melville Island Recognized for their National Historic Significance

by ahnationtalk on May 30, 2016559 Views

Sites offer rare glimpse into system of war prisons in Canada

May 30, 2016    Halifax, Nova Scotia   Parks Canada Agency

Today, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and Parks Canada unveiled a plaque commemorating the importance of Deadman’s Island and Melville Island as a place of national historic significance. The islands’ role as both a prison and a medical facility for prisoners of war provides a rare glimpse into the history of war prisons in Canada.

Held at Deadman’s Island in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the event took place as part of Memorial Day commemorations hosted annually on Deadman’s Island by the United States Consulate General in Halifax. Members of the American and Canadian forces, politicians and community members, gathered to honour soldiers, sailors and airmen who died serving their respective countries.

As the only known site in North America established to house prisoners of war during the early period of the Napoleonic wars and throughout the War of 1812, Deadman’s Island and Melville Island represent a significant piece of Canadian history. Melville Island also played a role in early immigration to Canada as a quarantine centre, and served as a British military prison.

As we near the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017, the Government invites all Canadians to experience and learn more about our environment and our history. Canada’s national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas enable Canadians to experience their heritage in a special way and will play a big part in the celebration of Canada 150.


“Our government is committed to connecting Canadians to the significant events that contributed to our country’s rich and varied history. This site not only tells the story of Nova Scotia’s role in wartime prisons, but also played an important role in our country’s rich history of early immigration.”

Andy Fillmore

Member of Parliament for Halifax

“For many years, the Halifax Regional Municipality has worked together with community members to preserve Deadman’s and Melville Islands. We are so pleased to have our request for national historic site status granted, commemorating the importance of both islands in Canadian history.”

Councillor Linda Mosher

Halifax Regional Municipality and proponent of HSMBC designation at Melville and Deadman’s Islands

Quick facts

  • Both Melville Island and Deadman’s Island recall Nova Scotia’s role in a system of prisons established by the British Admiralty and offer a rare glimpse into the conditions that prisoners of war endured in the colonial period.
  • Though no known cemeteries are located on Deadman’s Island, the location is aptly named as the likely burial group for approximately 400 prisoners of war who succumbed to wartime injury or disease.
  • Parks Canada manages a nation-wide network of 168 national historic sites, 46 national parks and four national marine conservation areas that make up the rich tapestry of Canada’s cultural heritage and which offers visitors the opportunity for real and inspiring discoveries. Canada’s national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas belong to all Canadians. They represent the very best that Canada has to offer and tell the stories of who we are, including the history, cultures and contributions of Indigenous Peoples.
  • Created in 1919, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada advises the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change regarding the national historic significance of places, people and events that have marked Canada’s history.

Related products

Backgrounder: Deadman’s Island and Melville Island

Additional links

Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada

Parks Canada

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Media contacts

Sheila Aucoin
Partnering Engagement and Communications Officer
Mainland Nova Scotia Field Unit
Parks Canada
Tel.: 902-426-1553

Media Relations
Parks Canada Agency


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