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Loyalists in Canada (Plain-Language Summary)

Loyalists were American colonists who remained loyal to Britain during the American Revolution (1775–83). Tens of thousands of Loyalists migrated to British North America. Most of them went to the Maritime provinces. The Loyalists left a long-lasting legacy on Canada. They influenced politics and culture in what would become Canada.

(This article is a plain-language summary of Loyalists. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry, Loyalists in Canada.)

timeline event

Niagara Purchase of 1781

The Niagara Purchase of 1781, also known as Treaty 381, was one of the first land agreements between Indigenous peoples and British authorities in Upper Canada (now Ontario). As a result, a 6.5-km-wide strip along the west bank of the Niagara River connecting Lake Erie and Lake Ontario was made available for settlement by Loyalists, who had been displaced by the American Revolution. The Niagara Purchase was one of many agreements made in the 1700s and 1800s that are collectively known as the Upper Canada Land Surrenders.

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Oromocto

Oromocto, New Brunswick, incorporated as a town in 1956, population 9,223 (2016 census), 8,932 (2011 census). The town of Oromocto is located at the junction of the Oromocto and Saint John rivers, 22 km southeast of Fredericton. The Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) called the Oromocto River Wel-a-mook'-took (“deep water”) because of its good canoeing. The northeastern portion of the town bounds the Oromocto First Nation’s reserve, Oromocto No. 26.

Article

Shelburne Race Riots

On 26 July 1784, a mob of Loyalist settlers stormed the home of a Black preacher in Shelburne, Nova Scotia. They were armed with hooks and chains seized from ships in the harbour. The confrontation ignited a wave of violence in Shelburne County that lasted approximately 10 days. The majority of the attacks targeted the county’s free Black population. The Shelburne Riot has been described as the first race riot in North America. (See also British North America.)

timeline event

McKee’s Purchase of 1790

McKee’s Purchase of 1790 (also known as the McKee Treaty or Treaty 2) was an early land agreement between Indigenous peoples and British authorities in Upper Canada (now Ontario). The southernmost Upper Canada treaty, it consisted of a large strip of territory from the southwestern shore of Lake Erie north to the Thames River and east to a point southwest of modern-day London, Ontario. This land was made available for settlement by Loyalists who were displaced by the American Revolution. McKee’s Purchase legitimized the land transfers of 1784 and 1786 as well as many other private illegal sales of Indigenous land to settlers.

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Immigration to Canada

The movement of individuals of one country into another for the purpose of resettlement is central to Canadian history. The story of Canadian immigration is not one of orderly population growth; instead, it has been — and remains one — about economic development as well as Canadian attitudes and values. It has often been unashamedly economically self-serving and ethnically or racially discriminatory despite contributing to creating a multicultural society (see Immigration Policy in Canada; Refugees to Canada). Immigration has also contributed to dispossessing Indigenous peoples of their ancestral lands.

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Simon Girty

Simon Girty, frontiersman, British Indian agentLoyalist settler in Upper Canada (Ontario), (born 14 November 1741 near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; died 18 February 1818 in Malden, Upper Canada). Girty fought in the American Revolution and in wars involving Indigenous peoples and white settlers. Girty had a great capacity to work with Indigenous leaders but was often remembered as a villain and controversial figure, mainly because of his allegiance to Britain, rather than to the Americans.

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Laura Secord

Laura Secord, née Ingersoll, Loyalist, mythologized historic figure (born 13 September 1775 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts; died 17 October 1868 in Chippawa [Niagara Falls], ON).

Article

Black Soldiers in 19th Century Canada

Black soldiers served in military units throughout the 19th century in Canada. Although some (white) commanding officers rejected Black volunteers, they served in the militia in integrated units and in Black units such as the Coloured Corps in Niagara, the Victoria Pioneer Rifle Corps in British Columbia and the Victoria Rifles in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Black soldiers served in peacetime and in major events such as the War of 1812 and the Rebellions of 1837–38.

Article

Loyalists in Canada

Loyalists were American colonists, of different ethnic backgrounds, who supported the British cause during the American Revolutionary War (1775–83). Tens of thousands of Loyalists migrated to British North America during and after the war. This boosted the population, led to the creation of Upper Canada and New Brunswick, and heavily influenced the politics and culture of what would become Canada.

(This is the full-length entry about Loyalists in Canada. For a plain-language summary, please see Loyalists in Canada (Plain-Language Summary).)

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Saint John

Saint John, NB, incorporated as a city in 1785, population 67,575 (2016 census), 70,063 (2011 census). The City of Saint John, the second largest city in New Brunswick, is located at the mouth of the Saint John River on the Bay of Fundy.

Editorial

Editorial: The Arrival of Black Loyalists in Nova Scotia

“Freedom and a Farm.” The promise was exciting to the thousands of African Americans, most seeking to escape enslavement, who fought in British regiments during the American Revolutionary War (1775–83). Following the war, they joined tens of thousands of Loyalists — American refugees who had sided with the British. Between 80,000 and 100,000 Loyalists eventually fled the United States. About half came to British North America. The main waves arrived in 1783 and 1784. The territory that now includes the Maritime provinces became home to more than 30,000 Loyalists. Most of coastal Nova Scotia received Loyalist settlers, as did Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island (then called St. John’s Island).

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Family Compact

The term Family Compact is an epithet, or insulting nickname; it is used to describe the network of men who dominated the legislative, bureaucratic, business, religious and judicial centres of power in Upper Canada (present-day Ontario) from the early- to mid-1800s. Members of the Family Compact held largely conservative and loyalist views. They were against democratic reform and responsible government. By the mid-19th century, immigration, the union of Upper and Lower Canada, and the work of various democratic reformers had diminished the group’s power. The equivalent to the Family Compact in Lower Canada was the Château Clique.

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Edith Clayton

Edith Clayton (née Drummond), basket weaver (born 6 September 1920 in Cherry Brook, NS; died 8 October 1989 in East Preston, NS). Using dyes from the Mi’kmaq community and a style that originated in Africa, Edith Clayton weaved traditional baskets that were admired across Canada and around the world. She was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977. Her baskets were prominently displayed at the Canadian pavilion at Expo 86 in Vancouver. In 1989, she was featured in a National Film Board film titled Black Mother Black Daughter.

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Fergus

Fergus, Ontario, population centre, population 20,767 (2016 census), 19,335 (2011 census). Fergus is a community located on the Grand River 22 km north of Guelph. First incorporated as a village in 1858 and later as a town in 1952, it was incorporated into the township of Centre Wellington in 1999.

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United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada

The United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada (UELAC) is a national organization that brings together descendants of United Empire Loyalists and promotes their memory and history through conferences, research, the maintenance of plaques and monuments and other such works. Membership is also open to those without Loyalist heritage. There are 28 branches in Canada, located in all provinces except Newfoundland and Labrador.

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Picton

Picton, Ontario, unincorporated place, population 4,508 (2021 census), 4,395 (2016 census). Picton is on a peninsula of rolling farmland and sand beaches jutting out into Lake Ontario about 160 km east of Toronto. It is the administration centre for Prince Edward County.

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Peter Martin

Peter Martin, loyalist, soldier (born c. 1753; died before 1816). Martin was one of at least twenty noted Black Loyalists who relocated to Upper Canada after the American Revolution and was one of many Black inhabitants in Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario). (See also Black Loyalists in British North America.) Martin was instrumental in reporting the Chloe Cooley incident to the Executive Council of Upper Canada, which influenced the creation of the 1793 Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada.