The overpopulated cities and countryside of Britain gave Canada many new immigrants. A large population of poor farmers from Ireland and Scotland were attracted by the possibility to own land in Canada, but only a few could afford to travel in above-deck cabins on well-conditioned ships. Thus, most farmers traveled in steerage (the area below decks on a ship, used to store cargo) in filthy, overpopulated cargo vessels.
Cargo ship owners came to realize that they could make great profit if they transformed their ships to carry passengers when they were traveling without cargo. Steerage holds contained bunks, but no washrooms. Diseases spread rampantly due to the poor food quality, bad hygiene, and crowded conditions. Small pox, cholera, and other diseases killed thousands of immigrants on the ship. Once these immigration ships arrived in North America, the entire ship would be quarantined. In 1832, almost half of all the immigrants who survived the trip to the colonies were horribly ill.