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Canada Post remembers the tragedy of the RMS Empress of Ireland a century ago with two stamps

May 29, 2014

POINTE-AU-PÈRE and RIMOUSKI (Quebec) – Canada Post today issued two stamps to mark the centennial of the sinking of RMS Empress of Ireland on May 29, 1914, in the St. Lawrence River, near Rimouski, Quebec. The tragedy recorded the highest death toll for a peacetime Canadian maritime accident with 1,012 of the 1,477 passengers and crew losing their lives when the Empress collided with a Norwegian collier, the SS Storstad.

The Empress of Ireland was a Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) ocean liner – built for its Canadian Pacific Steamship Company subsidiary – that made 95 successful return voyages between England and Canada from 1906 to 1914. In her eight years sailing the ocean, she shuttled more than 100,000 people across the Atlantic, many of whom had chosen Canada as their new home.

“The Empress played an important role in populating our new and vast nation,” says the Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport and responsible for Canada Post. “By transporting mail and passengers between Europe and Canada, it opened the doors for thousands of immigrants to find a new life in Canada. Remembering the tragedy of the RMS Empress of Ireland also allows us to think back to our history and how transformative these links were at the time.”

“Telling stories such as the tragedy of the RMS Empress of Ireland enables us to better understand the efforts required to build this great country,” says Deepak Chopra, President and CEO, Canada Post. “We want to honour those who lost their lives to this tragedy and recognize those who helped build our country.”

Recognizing the international scope of the Empress of Ireland, Canada Post is issuing domestic and international stamps. The domestic PermanentTM stamp features the ship prominently. The international-denomination stamp was designed from an oil on canvas painting by Greek artist Aristides Balanos, who lived and worked in Montréal for several years. A first for Canada Post, the uncut press sheet respectfully lists the 1,012 lives lost in the tragedy. The names are printed in hidden ink and visible under black light.

In addition to the stamps being on sale at post offices across Canada, the stamps and related collectibles, including the Empress of Ireland 100th Anniversary Collection with a richly detailed 36-page colour book, may be ordered online at canadapost.ca/empress.

About the stamps
The Empress of Ireland domestic Permanent stamp measures 32 mm by 32 mm, and is available in a booklet of 10 stamps and a pane of 16 stamps. The stamp was designed by Isabelle Toussaint, of Isabelle Toussaint Design graphique, and printed using lithography in seven colours by Canadian Bank Note. The Official First Day Cover is cancelled at Pointe-au-Père, Quebec, the town closest to the site of the sinking.

The international-denomination stamp, available as a souvenir sheet, measures 114 mm by 72 mm. It is also available in an uncut press sheet and other collectibles. It was designed by Susan Scott, using the oil on canvas illustration she commissioned from Mr. Balanos, and printed using lithography in six colours by Canadian Bank Note. The Official First Day Cover is cancelled in Rimouski where survivors and victims were initially brought following the tragedy.