United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada | The Canadian Encyclopedia


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.

Loyalists at the Site of Kingston
One wave of Loyalists came up the St Lawrence River in 1783 to Lake Ontario, where their encampment grew into the town of Kingston. Drawing by James Peachey.

Who Were the Loyalists?

United Empire Loyalists were American colonists who supported the British cause and Crown during the American Revolution (1775–83). They included approximately 19,000 who served in provincial militia units, such as the King’s Royal Regiment of New York and Butler’s Rangers.

Loyalty to Britain was dangerous. Loyalists were often subjected to mob violence during the war, their property vandalized or confiscated. About 40,000–50,000 migrated to British North America during and after the conflict. Loyalist refugees received land grants from the British government in compensation for their service and losses. The influx of Loyalists boosted the population and heavily influenced the politics and culture of what would become Canada.

In 1789, Lord Dorchester, governor-in-chief of British North America, proclaimed that the Loyalists and their children should be allowed to add "UE" to their names, "alluding to their great principle, the Unity of Empire." As a result, the phrase "United Empire Loyalist," or UEL, was applied to Loyalists who migrated to Upper and Lower Canada.

Tens of thousands of Loyalists also migrated to the Maritimes, swamping the existing population. In 1784, the separate colonies of New Brunswick and Cape Breton were created to deal with the influx.


The United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada was incorporated on 27 May 1914. Since that time, it has worked to unite the descendants of families of Loyalists; promote Loyalist memory and history; collect memorabilia and artifacts; support historical research and the assembly of databases of Loyalist family names and other records; and maintain buildings and monuments. It publishes a journal, The Loyalist Gazette, twice a year (in the spring and fall). The association also provides scholarships for Masters and PhD students whose research explores the contributions of Loyalists to the development of Canada.

The organization's national head office is in Toronto, and there are local branches in all provinces except Newfoundland and Labrador. Membership is open to anyone who supports the organization's aims, regardless of whether or not they have Loyalist family heritage. Many of the group's members live outside Canada, particularly in the United States.

Among recent projects, the association and its branches have helped restore a Black Loyalist church site in Nova Scotia; identified and marked Loyalist burial sites in New Brunswick; created digital records of Loyalist papers, photographs and artifacts in eastern Ontario; participated in community parades in Edmonton; and planted Loyalist gardens in Victoria.

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