Toronto Purchase (Treaty 13)

The Toronto Purchase of 1805 (also known as Treaty 13) was negotiated in an attempt to clarify and confirm the terms of the Johnson-Butler Purchase of 1787-88. Ultimately, it failed to do this and additional negotiations were required. These later discussions resulted in the Williams Treaties of 1923 and a compensatory settlement between the Government of Canada and the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation in 2010. (See also Upper Canada Land Surrenders.)

Historical Context

The American Revolution (1775-83) forced residents of the Thirteen Colonies who remained loyal to the British Crown to flee to other countries. Many of these Loyalists came to the British North America colonies of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Quebec. This influx led to the creation of the separate colonies of New Brunswick (from Nova Scotia in 1784) and Ontario (from Quebec in 1791). At the time, the names given to Quebec and Ontario were Lower and Upper Canada, respectively.

Government authorities made arrangements with various First Nations for new settlers to move onto the lands that had been set aside for the Indigenous peoples by the Royal Proclamation of 1763. Essentially, all land west of Quebec was reserved as so-called “Indian” land, unless ceded by treaty or other agreements. (See also Indigenous Territory.)

By 1805, the British had negotiated treaties for large tracts of land set aside for Indigenous peoples west of Quebec. Most of this newly-acquired territory was along the north shores of the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. The Johnson-Butler Purchase of 1787-88 included the site of present-day Toronto, known as York at the time. Unfortunately, the territory included in this acquisition was poorly defined and lacked adequate documentation.


The exact terms of the Johnson-Butler Purchase took on new importance when Upper Canada became a separate province in 1791. Discussions among government officials and between officials and Indigenous representatives took place for several years in an attempt to resolve this issue, but nothing was decided. In particular, there was concern about the Crown’s ownership of the land at the growing town of York, which had been selected as the capital of Upper Canada.

In 1799, Peter Hunter became lieutenant governor of Upper Canada. He was so worried about the white settlers’ ownership of the land at York that he directed a new deed be acquired from the Mississaugas. In response, William Claus, the Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs, met formally with the Mississaugas at the Credit River on 31 July 1805.


The Mississaugas agreed that Sir John Johnson had purchased the land in 1787, with the understanding that the land at the mouth of Etobicoke River was reserved for the Mississaugas’ use as a fishery. While the Mississaugas had already been paid, they hoped the British would provide them with some gifts.

The next day, a formal deed was prepared and signed, known as the Toronto Purchase. It described the area in question as 1,015 km2, which included York. It also called for a cash payment of 10 shillings (about $60 in 2021) and the distribution of 2,000 gun flints, 24 brass kettles, 120 mirrors, 24 laced hats, 96 gallons of rum and a bale of flowered flannel. Additionally, it included the sole use of the fishery at the mouth of the Etobicoke River for the Mississaugas, as had been agreed in the original Johnson-Butler Purchase. The size of this new purchase was several times larger than the 26 km2 that Sir John Johnson had remembered when questioned about the terms of the Johnson-Butler Purchase some years earlier in 1798.


Despite this new agreement, the status of the land beyond the limits of York that had been included in the Johnson-Butler Purchase was still not clarified. Additional purchases in 1818 and 1819 were required to secure these territories, although the waterfront along Lake Ontario still remained in question.

The territory included in the Johnson-Butler Purchase, as well its lack of guarantees of land rights and proper financial compensation, continued to be disputed by Indigenous groups. Because of these complaints, the federal government became involved. In 1916, the minister of justice appointed Robert V. Sinclair to study the issue. He reported that there were problems with the purchase, in particular that not all the land in question appeared to have been fully ceded.

Williams Commission

In 1923, the federal and provincial governments appointed a three-man committee to investigate the issue further. Besides Sinclair as the federal representative, it included negotiator Angus Williams representing Ontario and lawyer Uriah McFadden. There were no Indigenous representatives on the Williams Commission, nor were any negotiations conducted with the First Nations involved.

The commission confirmed Indigenous claims to three large tracts of land in central and southern Ontario, one of which included the area of Toronto. In return, the First Nations involved received a one-time cash payment of $25 per band member. In the case of the Mississaugas, the band received another $233,425. Some of the First Nations, including the Mississaugas, believed that the Williams Treaties guaranteed their right to hunt and fish, but the federal and provincial governments disagreed. This resulted in negotiations and legal disputes between the First nations and the two levels of government for decades. (See also Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)


In 1986, the Mississaugas initiated a claim against the Government of Canada over the 1805 Toronto Purchase. The Mississaugas believed that the Crown had acquired more land than the original purchase had agreed upon. They also contended that the Crown had not paid a reasonable amount of money for the land acquired by the 1805 agreement.

On June 8, 2010, the parties involved reached a final compensatory agreement. It resulted in a cash payment of $145 million to the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. Each of the 1,842 adult band members received a $20,000 cash payment, while the rest of the funds were put in trust. At the time, the band chief indicated that some of the trust money would be used for affordable housing and clean water. (See also Indigenous Land Claims in Canada.)

Further Reading

  • Donald B. Smith, Sacred Feathers: The Reverend Peter Jones (Kahkewaquonaby) and the Mississauga Indians, Second Edition (2013).

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