Lieutenant Governor of Ontario David C. Onley and City Councillor Michael Thompson commemorated Simcoe Day, a day that honours the first Lieutenant Governor and founder of the Town of York, John Graves Simcoe.
On August 1, 1834, the British Empire introduced the Slavery Abolition Act, which marked the end of slavery in Great Britain, including Canada. This year, Emancipation Day coincided with Simcoe Day, but the first Lieutenant Governor of Ontario had a positive connection with the end of slavery.
The Honourable David C. Onley, 28th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, alongside City Councillor Michael Thompson, commemorated Simcoe Day and provided a brief historical account of Simcoe at Fort York National Historic Site in Toronto.
Simcoe contributed to the establishment of trial by jury, freehold land tenure and courts. Simcoe introduced the initiative to end slavery in Upper Canada before the British Empire did. In the year 1810, there were no slaves in Upper Canada, although the Crown did not abolish slavery until 1834.
As part of ceremonial procedures, a parade and salute was held for the Lieutenant Governor, including a recreation of the War of 1812 by uniformed “King’s Troops” and an artillery and musket tactical demonstration.
Fort York Cannon with uniformed King's troops guarding the others.
“Today, we are celebrating the civic holiday throughout the province of Ontario, but it’s the only holiday with different names in different Ontario cities as each municipality recognizes the accomplishment of a local hero or historic figure,” said the Lieutenant Governor, a former science and technology reporter for CP24.
“Here in Toronto, of course, it is Simcoe Day, named after my ultimate predecessor, the first Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe. In 1793, along with the then Queen’s Rangers, he built a garrison camp right here to protect the newly founded town of York and its harbour.”
Following the Lieutenant Governor’s address, Onley was asked by Museum Site Coordinator, Richard Haynes – sporting a traditional King’s and Queen’s uniform – to “inspect” the uniformed soldiers.
Ontario Lieutenant Governor "inspecting" the King's and Queen's Troops.
War of 1812
Event organizers touched upon the 199th anniversary of the War of 1812 when American forces attempted to invade Canada. Fort York is best known for the violent Battle of York where nearly 140 British and American troops were killed and hundreds more were wounded and captured.
United States forces occupied York for a week and looted homes and destroyed public buildings. The British army retaliated by burning down the U.S. Capitol in Washington, the White House and other public structures.
Fort York served as the city’s first-hand harbour defence between the 1790s and the 1880s. In 1909, the City of Toronto purchased Fort York where they later restored it between 1932 and 1934. It now serves as a historic museum.
Simcoe died in Oct. 26, 1806 at the age of 54. He perished when he arrived in Exeter, England after returning from a long expedition in Portugal where he became quite ill.
Newfoundland & Labrador, Quebec and Yukon are the only provinces and/or territories to not celebrate an August civic holiday.
British flag waving at the Fort York Simcoe Day ceremony.