FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Sept. 29, 2017
QUEEN’S PARK – The Civic Holiday Monday in August is one step closer to becoming Simcoe Day.
Members of the Ontario Legislature gave unanimous support to Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett’s Private Member’s Bill The Simcoe Day Act after Second Reading debate yesterday. The act would proclaim the first Monday in August in each year as Simcoe Day, unless a by-law of a municipality specifies otherwise for the municipality.
“Among Canadian holidays, the August long weekend could be said to lack a distinct identity,” Barrett said during debate in the Legislature. “The May long weekend commemorates Queen Victoria, but in many parts of the province, the day off in August is referred to by the somewhat uninspiring moniker of Civic Holiday.”
Simcoe was the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada. He was instrumental in introducing courts of law, trial by jury, English common law, freehold land tenure, our present system of municipal government and the abolition of the importation of slaves. Simcoe’s Act Against Slavery passed in 1793, ultimately leading to the abolition of slavery in Upper Canada by 1810.
Simcoe also was the founder of Toronto and directed surveying to lay out Yonge Street.
“During my research, I developed quite an appreciation and admiration for John Graves Simcoe, his leadership of the Queen’s Rangers against George Washington’s army and his creation of core institutions that anchor the success of present-day Ontario,” Barrett said.
During debate, more than one speaker pointed out Simcoe spared the life of George Washington by not firing on him while the American general was fleeing after a battle.
After receiving support from all three parties, the bill was referred to the Standing Committee on General Government for review.
All are encouraged to come by MPP Barrett’s booth at the Norfolk County Fair to sign a petition in support of The Simcoe Day Act.
For more information, contact MPP Toby Barrett at 519-428-0446 or [email protected]
ONTARIO LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY
Sept. 28, 2017
Mr. Toby Barrett: There are so many stories of well over two centuries ago that were related this past September 17 at Niagara-on-the-Lake. Several events were held to commemorate the 225th anniversary of the opening of Canada’s first Parliament by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe.
On September 12 this fall, on the 226th anniversary on the appointment of John Graves Simcoe as Lieutenant Governor in 1791, I rose in this House to introduce legislation proclaiming the first Monday of each August as Simcoe Day to recognize his contributions to our province and his role in creating the first formal structures of democracy in our country.
Among Canadian holidays, the August long weekend could be said to lack a distinct identity. The May long weekend commemorates Queen Victoria, but in many parts of the province, the day off in August is referred to by the somewhat uninspiring moniker of Civic Holiday.
John Graves Simcoe founded Toronto. That city recognizes Simcoe by naming the first Monday Simcoe Day.
This private members’ bill, titled Simcoe Day Act, is intended to bring some awareness of what Simcoe had accomplished. Some might interpret this bill as mandating municipalities to adopt or change their local recognition of what they’ve named in the past—for example, Ottawa’s Colonel By Day or Burlington’s Joseph Brant Day—but this legislation does not do that.
The proposed legislation, under my direction and according to legal counsel who drafted the bill, is voluntary. It only proclaims the first Monday in August. I do repeat that those municipalities who already have the first Monday in August recognized will not be affected and those municipalities that wish to opt out down the road can do so, if they so choose.
Just to be sure, I had an opportunity this week to revise the bill to read as such: “The first Monday in August in each year is proclaimed as Simcoe Day, unless a bylaw of a municipality specifies otherwise for the municipality.”
If you have been around Burlington for any length of time, you would be familiar with the name Joseph Brant, a Mohawk military and political leader of the late 1700s. Burlington has the first Monday in August in his honour.
Closely related, Emancipation Day, established in Ontario in 2008, falls on August 1. Many will know that John Graves Simcoe banned the importation of slaves into what is now Ontario back in 1793.
During my research, I developed quite an appreciation or an admiration for John Graves Simcoe, his leadership of the Queen’s Rangers against George Washington’s army and his creation of core institutions that anchor the success of present-day Ontario. He was born February 25, 1752—265 years ago—in England. John Graves Simcoe, although best known as Ontario’s first Lieutenant Governor, was also a member of British Parliament. He was a colonial administrator, an army officer—as I mentioned, commander of the Queen’s Rangers during the Revolutionary War.
At age 24, Simcoe did go to war in America to fight the revolutionaries. His regiment arrived from Britain in June 1775 to take part in the siege of Boston, two days after the Battle of Bunker Hill. Simcoe assumed command of the elite Queen’s Rangers on October 15, 1777, which was largely composed of Loyalists and deserters from George Washington’s army. The Queen’s Rangers were named in tribute to Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III. It was a 400-man elite fighting force, first established in the Seven Years’ War from 1756 to 1763. They trained in woodcraft, scouting and guerrilla warfare.
Simcoe didn’t follow the protocol of the time of strict and rigid maneuvers. The Rangers wore green uniforms for camouflage, depended on speed and surprise, and were known to defeat forces three times their size.
Simcoe and his Rangers fought alongside Benedict Arnold at Richmond and, in the winter of 1779, spared the life of Washington himself by allowing Washington and several others to escape without firing upon them.
Simcoe was wounded several times during battle. He had his horse shot out from under him. He was held a prisoner of war and then was paroled by Benjamin Franklin.
Simcoe took the time from the war to pursue a young lady named Sarah “Sally” Townsend. On February 14, 1779, he sent her a poem in which he extolled her beauty and his love for her. This is the first recorded Valentine’s Day letter in North America.
Following the defeat of the British at Yorktown in 1781, Simcoe spirited the Queen’s Rangers colours to England. Today, they’re on display in the officers’ mess of the Queen’s Rangers here at Fort York in Toronto.
There’s a television production out there on AMC called Turn. So far, the most villainous villain in this series is Captain Simcoe, played by Samuel Roukin. One of AMC’s behind-the-scenes promotional videos features the creator, Craig Silverstein, telling us that there’s something a little wrong with Simcoe. Roukin describes him as basically a sociopath. Speaker, I consider this an egregious example of betrayal of Simcoe through character assassination—oftentimes the silver screen, in portraying war, does require a villain.
Going back to the Revolutionary War: When it wrapped up, Simcoe returned to England, married Elizabeth Posthuma Gwillim and was elected member of Parliament for the borough of St. Mawes in Cornwall. Lady Simcoe left a valuable record of life in Upper Canada through her letters and her diary. She was an accomplished water colourist and a sketch artist. She skillfully chronicled her travels in Upper Canada.
Going back, as we know, on September 12, 1791, Simcoe was appointed Lieutenant Governor of the newly created Upper Canada. With his appointment, he articulated a goal to develop Upper Canada as a model community with aristocratic and conservative principles and to demonstrate the superiority of these ideas in contrast to the republicanism of the United States.
The first session of the first Parliament opened on September 17, 1791, with the presentation of the speech from the throne by Lieutenant Governor Simcoe. The first action of the House of Assembly was to elect unanimously John McDonell as Speaker. McDonell was a veteran of Colonel John Butler’s Rangers and the representative sent from Glengarry. Present-day MPP Jim McDonell has a close connection, and I’m a descendant of John Butler. I carry his middle name.
Just to back up a bit again: The Constitutional Act of June 10, 1791, divided the British colony into two governments: west of the Ottawa River, Upper Canada; the lower reaches of the St. Lawrence became Lower Canada. But we did not see Ontario’s first Parliament meet until a year later, at Newark, now Niagara-on-the-Lake. It sat under the great seal and mace of Upper Canada that were created in 1791.
Those elected to the House of Assembly for the first Parliament were representative of the colony. Most arrived after the American Revolution. They served in the militia, the regular forces and were fiercely loyal to Great Britain and the monarchy. The appointed legislative councillors of Upper Canada, unlike the elected settlers, tended to come from the British Isles and were chosen partly for their success in business or government.
Several important acts were passed: English civil law, trial by jury, the building of a courthouse and a jail in every district, and the introduction of a standard system of weights and measures.
Within days, Ephraim Jones of Grenville had introduced legislation calling for the establishment of trial by jury and the destruction of wolves. Jeremiah French of Stormont wanted better regulation of surveyors, their fees and jurisdiction.
Some things haven’t changed: Taxes were proposed on wine and spirits, and anti-smuggling legislation was introduced.
The new Legislature authorized town meetings, laid the structure for municipal government, and, significantly, a year later, in 1793, Simcoe’s Legislative Council passed An Act to prevent the further introduction of Slaves and to limit the term of contracts for servitude within this Province—the first such legislation in the British Empire. Settlers in the capital were mostly refugees from the American War of Independence, veterans of Butler’s Rangers, and Loyalists with their families. They arrived along with their indentured servants or their slaves.
After 1793, a slave entering Upper Canada would be free, and children born to slaves after 1793 became free at age 25. They were treated equally under the law and the government, their vote was sought in elections, they won lawsuits, their children attended public schools and they were able to buy houses.
It remains unclear exactly where the first sitting of this Legislature was held. Cases are made for Navy Hall, Butler’s Barracks, the Masonic Lodge, and a large marquee tent pitched under what is now known as Parliament Oak. Simcoe soon realized that Newark was an unsuitable capital because it was on the border and open to attack. He recommended moving it to a defensible position, and named the location London and renamed the river the Thames. This proposal was rejected, like a lot of his ideas, by Britain. But Simcoe’s second choice, the present site of Toronto, was accepted. The capital was moved there in 1793 and renamed York.
On September 17, 1992—let’s fast-forward—130 MPPs went by bus to the place where our first provincial Parliament convened to commemorate the 200th anniversary. Attended by Bob Rae, Lyn McLeod, Mike Harris and Lieutenant Governor Henry Jackman, they planted a tree and they retired for tea at Navy Hall.
To wrap up, John Graves Simcoe lived his life by the family coat of arms, “Non sibi sed patriae,” which means, “Not for self but for country.” This is the motto of my alma mater, Simcoe district high school, and all of our sports jerseys had that Latin inscription on them. Every kid in that school knows that Latin phrase.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): Further debate.
Mr. Paul Miller: I rise today to speak to Bill 159, the Simcoe Day Act. This act would make the first Monday in August of the year Simcoe Day in Ontario. To talk about this act, I thought I should answer two questions: First, why is it important to celebrate Simcoe Day? Secondly, why is John Graves Simcoe’s legacy worth recognizing?
To answer the first question, “Why is it important to celebrate Simcoe Day?”: To start, I should say that I’m not usually one to use flowery language to describe conservatives; however, I will make an exception for Simcoe. Simcoe had quite an interesting resumé. He was a writer, a British member of Parliament, a soldier and commander, a founder of Toronto and the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, what is today Ontario. His impact on life at the end of the 18th century in Upper Canada makes him a character that is worth learning about.
There was one that stood out in my mind especially. It might be more of a legend than a fact, but I think it’s still worth talking about. During the American Revolution, Simcoe fought in the British army. At the time, the British were fighting the patriots of the 13 colonies. These patriots had wanted the 13 colonies to be independent from Britain. During the Battle of Brandywine, Simcoe commanded the 40th battalion. At the end of the battle, Simcoe stopped his soldiers from firing on three fleeing patriots, and it is said that George Washington was one of those three soldiers. This made me think that, along with Ontario, maybe the United States should be celebrating Simcoe Day. After all, he did end up being the Founding Father, and we helped him escape from the Battle of Brandywine.
There are many stories of Simcoe that made me want to learn more about him. I think the celebration of Simcoe Day can do exactly that: It can inspire young students to learn more. That is why it is important to celebrate Simcoe Day.
To the second question, “Why is Simcoe’s legacy worth recognizing?”: I was also pleased to discover that Simcoe made great contributions to the society of Upper Canada. We wouldn’t be in the Legislature today if it weren’t for Simcoe. He decided to make the new capital of Upper Canada York, or, as we say today, Toronto. He also ordered the creation of Yonge Street for the purpose of settling rural parts of southern Ontario.
But beyond these more well-known facts, I also wanted to draw attention to the most important and progressive feat of them all: Simcoe believed in ending slavery. I actually came across a quote of his, before he was the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada—a long time ago: “The principles of the British Constitution do not admit of that slavery which Christianity condemns…. The moment I assume the government of Upper Canada under no modification will I assent to a law that discriminates by dishonest policy between natives of Africa, America or Europe.” I was inspired to read those words from Simcoe believing in ending slavery—a man far before his time.
But he did more than speak out against it. He worked hard to change Upper Canada’s slavery laws. In Simcoe’s time, the Upper Canadian Legislature was made up of two bodies: the elected Legislative Assembly, and the Legislative Council appointed by Simcoe. Many of those in these two councils were slave owners. This made it difficult to push forward legislation that would abolish slavery. However, Simcoe persevered.
Certain events began to shift the public mindset. This allowed Simcoe to be able to convince both legislative bodies to phase out slavery in Upper Canada. The new law made it so that no new slaves could be brought in from outside of Upper Canada and that children born to slaves after the law was passed would become free at the age of 25. It was a compromise, but an effective one.
Simcoe’s 1793 Act Against Slavery would become the first slavery-abolishing law passed anywhere in the British Empire. Due to this act, Upper Canada would have no slaves remaining by the time the British Empire fully abolished slavery in 1833. Essentially, Simcoe’s position led to the end of slavery in Upper Canada, and it also had larger effects for slaves in the United States. Without Upper Canada’s early end to slavery, Toronto would have never become the destination for many taking the Underground Railroad. Simcoe’s stance likely saved the lives of many, many African Americans.
Simcoe was taking the progressive path here. He took action a good 30 years before Britain officially ended slavery and a good 60 years before the United States ended slavery. Simcoe should be seen as someone who took the right position before it was agreed upon. In my mind, there is no better reason to celebrate Simcoe than to recognize this important feat.
To conclude, John Graves Simcoe is an interesting character in Ontario history who accomplished many good things. He deserves to be remembered. What better way to remember him than for our province to make the first Monday in August Simcoe Day? I encourage all of you to support Bill 159.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): Further debate?
Hon. Reza Moridi: It’s a pleasure to stand in this House and to speak to the member’s motion. Our government is always committed to honouring the historic figures of our province of Ontario. I would like to thank the member from Haldimand–Norfolk for bringing forward this bill.
As legislators, I think we can all agree that the legacy of Lord Simcoe has important meaning in this chamber. The historic contributions he made remind us all of the exemplary work that early leaders did to found this great province and this great country of ours. When we step into this House, we have to recognize the monumental contributions made by those who have come before us, and today, we are recognizing Lord Simcoe.
John Graves Simcoe was born in Britain and first came to North America with his father, who was a part of the British military expedition in Quebec in 1759. After his father’s death, Simcoe returned to Britain to be educated. Upon completing his education, he decided to pursue a military career. He returned to North America because of the American Revolutionary War in 1775 as part of the British forces. In October 1777, he took command of the Queen’s Rangers with the rank of major. During this time, he achieved great personal success and a reputation as a tactical theorist.
Finally, he was forced to retreat back to England, but not before becoming a lieutenant colonel. After briefly serving in the British Parliament, he was commissioned on the 12th of September, 1791, to become the first Lieutenant Governor of what was known as Upper Canada.
He first made Newark, which is now known as Niagara-on-the-Lake, the capital of Upper Canada. However, he anticipated the risk of further hostilities between Britain and the United States. Simcoe determined that Newark was a strategically poor choice for a provincial capital, so he moved the provincial capital from Niagara-on-the-Lake, which was known at that time as Newark, to the city of York, which is today known as Toronto—one of the greatest cities on this planet, Madam Speaker.
In the first-ever legislative session, Simcoe managed to pass a bill establishing British civil law, trial by jury, the use of British Winchester standards of measure, and a provision for jails and courthouses in the province of Ontario, or, in those days, Upper Canada.
Most notably, Simcoe passed an act against slavery on July 9, 1793, something that should rightly be celebrated and commemorated. This act not only ended the sale of slaves by Canadians to Americans; it also liberated slaves entering Upper Canada from the US.
Lord Simcoe stood in opposition to the sentiment of the day. He was also incredibly courageous, as he risked retribution not only from Americans but from his own colleagues at the Ontario Legislative Assembly who owned slaves in those days. However, after this legislation was enacted, he took pride in not only his distinction, but all of Upper Canada as well. “Under no modification will I assent to a law that discriminates by dishonest policy between natives of Africa, America or Europe,” John Simcoe said. In fact, this legislation came 40 years before the Slavery Abolition Act which would outlaw slavery in most of the British Empire.
We are proud to see, Madam Speaker, that we were on the right side of history and that Canada and Ontario have contributed to the tradition of being progressive and to celebrate its diversity.
The town of Simcoe, of course, is named after him, as is Simcoe county. Schools and streets throughout our province of Ontario are named after him, in all corners of the province. He has a statue right outside at Queen’s Park.
It is clear that he had a lasting impact on Ontarians and should rightfully be considered an historic figure. We can learn from him and honour him. That is why I am so pleased, as well as my government and members of the Legislature from the Liberal Party, in supporting this bill.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): Further debate?
Mrs. Julia Munro: I’m pleased to be able to rise today and support my colleague from Haldimand–Norfolk and his private member’s Bill 159, An Act to proclaim Simcoe Day. I am, however, going to use the time available to me to give a slightly different approach to this measure today, and that is to talk, as well, about the life of Elizabeth Posthuma Simcoe, because I think that, as we all know, behind every successful man—but also particularly in the situation that she found herself in in the late part of that century.
While my colleague has a town in his community called Simcoe, I have a region, a lake and several towns with Simcoe connections, so to say that I was keen to speak on this bill would in fact be an understatement.
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend the 225th anniversary of the opening of Canada’s first Parliament by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe. It was a special opportunity to celebrate our democratic history. John Graves Simcoe played a key role in creating the first formal structures of democracy for our country, and while our capital has moved and town names have changed, his influence is present to this day.
But we cannot recognize the contribution of John Graves Simcoe without raising and recognizing the many contributions of Mrs. Simcoe. Elizabeth Posthuma Gwillim was born in the village of Whitchurch in England. Her middle name was a nod to her father, who died just before her birth. Unfortunately, her mother died shortly after her birth. People in my community may find that Gwillim and Whitchurch sound familiar, and I will touch on that shortly.
She went on to marry John Graves Simcoe and had four daughters and one son. That son, Francis, is for whom Castle Frank is named.
Elizabeth painted beautiful watercolours, hundreds of which are carefully preserved by Archives Ontario. These watercolours give us a glimpse of the untouched beauty and early beginnings of Quebec, Niagara, Georgina, York—now Toronto—Kingston, Gananoque and the Magdalen Islands. But more than showing us what they looked like, she left us a diary.
First published in 1934, her diary provides a valuable and colourful illustration of life in the early days in colonial Canada. Her writing style is clear and, while perhaps not exactly how we would write today, it is easy to understand. In May 1792 or 1793, Elizabeth suffered a mosquito bite while in the Niagara area:
“I suffered exquisite pain all the day from a mosquito bite, which the extreme heat increased, and at night my sleeve was obliged to be cut open. I did not see any rattlesnakes, though many ladies are afraid to go to the Table Rock, as it is said there are many of these snakes near it. There are crayfish in small pools of water. Mr. McDonnell said that pounded crayfish applied to the wound was a cure for the bite of rattlesnakes.”
That August, Mr. and Mrs. Simcoe dined with Major and Mrs. Smith, where Elizabeth made some interesting observations about tame raccoons:
“Mrs. Smith has two tame racoons. These resemble a fox, are exceedingly fat animals with bushy tails. When they eat they use their forefeet, as monkeys do. I also saw a flying squirrel, which I did not admire. Its tail was like a rat’s, and the eyes very large. I thought the ground squirrel much prettier. The black squirrel is large and quite black. It is as good to eat as a young rabbit.”
Her observations formed quite a book, with observations of day-to-day life and, of course, the political goings-on. But it is the smaller details about daily life that captured my attention. Elizabeth was an heiress who came from a well-regarded family with deep ties to the nobility throughout the ages, and remember, her father died before she was born and her mother died a few days after she was born.
She was raised as a wealthy heiress who came from a well-regarded family, with deep ties to the nobility. As a child, she was a gifted painter and linguist, speaking English, French, German and Spanish. You can only imagine the opulence that she grew up in, surrounded by governesses and the like, and here she is as an adult, living life in a tent on the frontier, far from the comforts of home. She was more than simply the wife; she was John Simcoe’s partner in their adventure to Canada. We were so lucky to have her paintings and diary to reference when we study and consider life in her time.
She chose the name Scarborough for an area east of York that bears both her husband’s name and hers. The town of Whitchurch, which is today known as Whitchurch-Stouffville, was in my previous riding of Durham–York when I represented that. Gwillimbury is named for her maiden name, Gwillim, and thus North, East and West Gwillimbury are lasting symbols of her impact in the community. In 2007, a statue of Elizabeth was erected in the town of Bradford-West Gwillimbury to commemorate the 150th anniversary. If you are interested in visiting, she can be found in front of the post office in the town of Bradford.
There’s much more that we can say about her, but she certainly made a tremendous contribution to life in Upper Canada.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): Further debate.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Thank you for allowing me to rise and speak to this bill today. I want to commend the member from Haldimand–Norfolk for bringing this bill forward. I know that he is a great admirer of our history, and I’m happy to support his efforts here.
I think it is certainly correct that both John Graves Simcoe and his wife, Lady Simcoe, are both early residents worth remembering and that our future generations should learn about. So much that we recognize about our province came from Simcoe’s first Parliament and was given to future generation through the incredible writings of his wife, things like the creation of municipalities, the implementation of trial by jury and, of course, his landmark bill to abolish the importation of slaves into Canada.
By establishing a day in memory of John Graves Simcoe, we can continue to teach our future generations the stories of who we are and where we came from, a story of lives that intertwine between settlers like Governor Simcoe and the First Nations of the land he came to. It’s a story that would talk about the structures he created to ensure our democracy is alive and vibrant today, but that would also tell of some of his policies which perhaps did not benefit all Canadians or that some may disagree with. Only with true stories and full stories of these figures can we properly commemorate those who built our wonderful province.
As many of you know, John Graves Simcoe’s life intersected with the history of a town in my riding called Niagara-on-the-Lake. During his time, it was called Newark, and at that time, it was the capital of Upper Canada.
There’s a reason I know this history and a reason why I can stand so proudly in this House today and recite the history to you: It’s because of the residents of my community. The residents of Niagara-on-the-Lake strive to keep their history not only in memory but alive and vibrant. The amount of time and dedication they give back to our community to ensure our future generations know about our past is truly incredible.
I can think of no better example of that than the 225th anniversary of the first sitting of the Legislature that took place in Niagara-on-the-Lake on September 17. For over nine months, dedicated residents from the town came together to work tirelessly so we could celebrate the first sitting of this Legislature in 1792. It’s why we should all be honoured to be here every day that people send us here upon being elected. We are not entirely certain of the exact location of that gathering, although Navy Hall, the Commons and the area known as Parliament Oak are likely suspects. But we do know that what the original representatives did set in motion were our democratic traditions that carry on to this day.
The committee worked long hours and lobbied MPPs from every party in this House to come to Niagara-on-the-Lake and be part of that celebration. Madam Speaker, I’m proud to say it worked. It was a day where party affiliation didn’t matter. It was a day where we put aside our disagreements and came together to support the residents, and to learn a little bit of our history. I’m proud to say that my friend from Haldimand–Norfolk was not only there for that, but he actually came bearing arms—and you know what I’m talking about. The LG came. The Speaker of the House came. To all the members in this House who came: From the bottom of my heart, I want to say thank you.
But my biggest thank you goes to members from my community. I want to thank Dr. Richard Merritt, Patti Knipe, Dr. Wes Turner and Terry Bolton. Those four played an instrumental role in getting our Niagara Gazette off the ground, which was the historic paper we circulated to the guests and to the whole town. It was absolutely beautiful and truly unique.
I want to thank Barbara Worthy, who is the playwright who wrote our plays for the Canada 150 events. I know the members who came absolutely loved the one we saw. It was incredible. Actually, one guy had a moustache.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Well, he did.
I want to thank Bill Cowie, Rick Malone, Claire Cameron, and so many other volunteers on the 225 committee.
I also want to thank Peter Martin and Scott Finley from Fort George, who were there. They did an incredible job.
I also want to thank Lord Mayor Pat Darte—Lord Mayor Pat Darte; doesn’t that sound kind of official?—and his council for ensuring that these residents have the ability and the supports they needed to make this incredible event happen.
Perhaps most of all, I want to thank Cheryl Morris. Without her around-the-clock work, none of these events would have been possible or come together as perfectly as they did.
Again, thank you to everyone who helped to plan these events and everyone who came.
Madam Speaker, I can’t say enough. I’m absolutely honoured and blessed to represent the constituents that I do. I know that my riding was actually already celebrating Simcoe Day every year down at Mackenzie Printery in Queenston. It’s a day when people come from all over Niagara to learn a little bit about their forefathers and foremothers of this country.
I want to close: It’s where we come to learn about where we come from and where we are going as a community, as province and as a people. I believe this bill will take a step to bring that experience to the entire province.
As the member supported me when my community organized to commemorate our history, I stand with him and his community as they try to do the same.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): Further debate.
Mr. Arthur Potts: I am absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to speak to the member from Haldimand–Norfolk’s Bill 159, An Act to proclaim Simcoe Day.
I’m particularly pleased because, as I sit in my constituency office at my grandfather’s—Major General Arthur Potts’s—desk, and I look across to the wall I face, there is a portrait of Mr. Simcoe, the Lieutenant Governor of the province of Ontario, and next to him is a portrait of Tecumseh—two great heroes, two great historical figures in the province of Ontario, who actually helped give us the security that we now have against the American invaders of that time. I’m delighted because I am a supporter and I will support the bill.
I was particularly pleased with the line of debate that the member from York–Simcoe was going down on, because I too wanted to talk about Lady Simcoe and what an extraordinary figure she was. All these great paintings, these historical representations we have of our indigenous, First Nations people of Ontario, come from so many of her watercolours at the time. We have many here in the Legislature. They’re fantastic. I kind of thought where she was going was maybe to propose an amendment to make it Lady Simcoe Day. We don’t have enough women who are being recognized on official days like that, and I thought that would have been a very interesting way to go. We could honour John Graves Simcoe with Lady Simcoe having this day of honour. That’s not the case, but what we have before us is this opportunity.
I was also pleased to see in the member’s bill an exemption for municipalities that have a bylaw on the books that name it something differently, because I grew up in the city of Toronto, where the bylaw says that it is Simcoe Day. So I grew up experiencing Simcoe Day on a regular basis. That’s what we called the Civic Holiday; it was Simcoe Day. I think that started in 1969, and it was a few years later that a motion in front of AMO to have Simcoe Day applied to all municipalities across the province of Ontario failed. But in Toronto, it continues.
What’s important about that is that AMO was recognizing that many, many municipalities took the Civic Holiday and made it their own. That’s why it’s important in the bill here that we have this exemption for municipalities, and I appreciate the foresight of the member putting that forward.
You think about those other days that municipalities have taken—Colonel By Day in Ottawa, for instance. They named expressways after him. It’s extraordinary—Colonel By Day. In Hamilton, it’s George Hamilton Day. In Burlington, it’s Joseph Brant Day; Founders Day in Brantford; McLaughlin Day in Ottawa—I think he was a president of General Motors Canada at one point; Alexander Mackenzie Day in Sarnia; James Cockburn Day in Cobourg; Peter Robinson Day in Peterborough; and John Galt Day in Guelph.
We have a rich history in municipalities. The fact that we have that exemption is one of those recognitions as a provincial Legislature—we recognize the richness of our municipalities and we give them that kind of flexibility.
What I also wanted to address at this point is, as I said earlier, I stare at two portraits: Simcoe and Tecumseh, two great heroes. And I ask the question: whether we should be naming another day and having another monument to a European white male.
In the days of reconciliation, of all the things we’ve come to believe that we need to do to respect our indigenous First Nations in the province of Ontario, what if it were actually called Tecumseh Day, in recognition of the work that Tecumseh did—side by side with Simcoe—to defend us against the Americans? Now, Tecumseh wasn’t born in Canada, but then neither was Simcoe. He was a Brit. Tecumseh was born in the United States of America, where he made his history before joining forces and then coming up here and defeating the Americans on Canadian soil.
It wouldn’t be fair in the spirit of reconciliation if we didn’t recognize some of Simcoe’s failings with respect to his treatment of indigenous people in the province of Ontario. He was a great believer in agriculture—a great believer in the concept of giving people land to make them loyal to the place that he was governing. So Simcoe gave large tracts of land to various people in the province—
Hon. Jeff Leal: Leave me a minute.
Mr. Arthur Potts: I’ve only got a minute?
Hon. Jeff Leal: Leave me a minute.
Mr. Arthur Potts: I didn’t know—are you speaking? I had no idea you were speaking. No one told me. Okay.
Ms. Sylvia Jones: You just burned a minute.
Mr. Arthur Potts: I’ve burned a minute just talking about it.
Simcoe was not providing respect to the indigenous people because he was giving away this land, which wasn’t his to give.
On that note, Speaker, I’ll leave a minute for the Minister of Agriculture to talk about agriculture.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): Further debate?
Mr. Jim McDonell: I’m honoured today to stand and talk for my residents of Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry and to speak to Bill 159, An Act to proclaim Simcoe Day, brought forward by my colleague from Haldimand–Norfolk, a student of history, particularly the history of Ontario.
Our country has much to be proud of and is often cited as the number one country in the world to live. Let’s just think about that for a second: We’re living where most people in the world would like to live. This did not happen by accident. It’s the result of generations of hard-working men and women who came together to develop the Canada that we see today.
John Graves Simcoe was one of those who truly left a mark on this country. He left the relative comfort of England to travel to a hostile land across the ocean, leaving friends and family behind, to fight for his country—an example followed by many generations of Canadians up till today.
His leadership qualities led him to quickly rise through the ranks to command the Queen’s Rangers. After the American Revolution, he moved back to England and was elected as a member of Parliament.
His accomplishments were acknowledged and he was appointed Lieutenant Governor of the newly created Upper Canada on September 12, 1791. He quickly set about to create a region that was a model community and one that became the basis of this great country of ours.
Under an act of British Parliament he saw that elections were held in August 1792 to elect a 16-member House of the Assembly. As Lieutenant Governor, John Simcoe called the assembly together for the first meeting of the new Legislature on Monday, September 17, 1792.
Under his agenda, he ensured that several important acts were passed by the first Parliament, including the establishment of English civil law and trial by jury, the abolition of slavery, the division of the province into 17 counties and districts and the building of a courthouse and jail in each one of them; and the introduction of a standard system of weights and measures.
Speaker, defence of our young country was top of mind for the Lieutenant Governor. Upper Canada was a harsh environment, sparsely populated by our First Nations and by newly settled pioneers who barely had time to establish their farms to provide food and homes to provide shelter. The land was harsh, with mountains, swamps and forests, and the climate was severe. And our neighbour to the south had almost a 200-year head start and were clearly a threat. As the leader of this new Upper Canada, he had to work with peoples of different ethnic backgrounds, faiths and origins—many who had fought against each other not too long before that. He brought these peoples together, putting their differences aside for a common good: the building and the defence of a new home, a new country. He quickly forged this rough, young nation into a force to be reckoned with and, as history would show, one ready to withstand invasion from what many assumed would be far superior armed forces. He identified that the capital, in what is today’s Niagara-on-the-Lake, was open to attack and he was instrumental in moving it to York, known today as the city of Toronto.
Speaker, we have much to be thankful for today, and we must remember the courageous men and women of yesterday who can stand side by side and take credit for the building of this great country and for the mark it has left on our modern world.
John Graves Simcoe was one of those great Canadians. We can safely say that he lived his life by the inscription on the family coat of arms: “Not for self, but for country.”
To paraphrase former Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper, our country was built on the backs of giants, and John Simcoe was truly a giant of our history.
We have much to be thankful for and many people to remember.
I support this bill by the member from Haldimand–Norfolk to mark the first Monday in August as Simcoe Day.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): Further debate?
Hon. Jeff Leal: For me to make a major speech in 58 seconds is somewhat challenging, but I just want to get on the record that this is a really neat initiative by the member from Haldimand–Norfolk.
What we’ve had for so many years in the province of Ontario—we had this kind of bland day for the holiday, the first Monday in August, the Civic Holiday. When I would talk to people on George Street in Peterborough, if you said “Civic Holiday,” their eyes would glaze over. Then we went to Simcoe Day. By having it as Simcoe Day, people started to do research on what Lord Simcoe was all about. So by making it uniform across the province of Ontario—I salute the member for bringing it forward today.
More importantly, in many ways, when Simcoe passed the act against slavery—
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): Thank you. Further debate?
Mr. Sam Oosterhoff: I also have very little time to speak to this, but I did want to get on the record that I was fascinated by the contributions to the debate on this legislation today, as brought forward by the member for Haldimand–Norfolk, who is absolutely an astute student of history.
It’s very important, especially for young people, to learn more about those who have come before us, those who have put in place the institutions and those who set the framework, the groundwork for what Ontario is today. I think John Graves Simcoe is one of those heroes of history we should be proud to celebrate in this House and across our province.
I look forward to supporting the legislation in a vote in a few minutes so that we can respect municipalities but still allow for this great figure to be celebrated in Canadian history.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): I will return to the member from Haldimand–Norfolk to wrap up.
Mr. Toby Barrett: So much has been written and spoken about, and we’ve realized today so much that we don’t—things that I didn’t know.
The member from Hamilton East–Stoney Creek makes a compelling case: If Simcoe’s men had killed George Washington, that would have changed the course of North American history and perhaps world history.
The Minister of Research, Innovation and Science was reinforcing the fact that the government of Ontario always honours its historical figures of this stature.
My seatmate described various place names in her riding, including her riding name, York–Simcoe, and gave us a good description of the writings of Lady Simcoe. I know she described the raccoon as “Canadian monkey.”
The member for Niagara Falls has the good fortune to represent the people that appreciate that history, and on that day, they obviously allowed open-carry. I was able to walk around all day with a family Brown Bess tower musket with a bayonet and was not challenged by anyone.
The member opposite spoke well and, again, represents another riding with the influence of Simcoe: Beaches–East York, the name he gave to the original Toronto, and then it went back to “Toronto.”
The member for Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry—his ancestry precedes him. I’ll leave this House with a question: How many McDonells have been elected here in the last 225 years?
The Minister of Agriculture—I would like to know where he was going with part two, but he made the case for replacing the bland word “Civic” with the word “Simcoe.”
Of course, the member for Niagara Falls—or, I’m sorry—
Interjection: Niagara West–Glanbrook.
Mr. Toby Barrett: —Niagara West–Glanbrook. Again, you are in Simcoe country down that way and are carrying on that heritage.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): The time allocated for private members’ public business has expired.