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History of Ontario

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Title: History of Ontario  
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Subject: History of Ontario, Timeline of Ontario history, History of Canada, Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada, Legislative Council of Upper Canada
Collection: History of Ontario
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

History of Ontario

Part of a series on the
History of
First Nations
Pays d'en Haut 1500s–1763
Province of Quebec 1763–1791
Upper Canada 1791–1841
Canada West 1841–1867
Ontario 1867–present
Upper Canada Topics
Province of Canada Topics
Province of Ontario topics
Ontario portal

The History of Ontario covers the period from the arrival of Paleo-Indians thousands of years ago to the present day. The lands that make up present-day Ontario, the most populous province of Canada as of the early 21st century, have been inhabited for millennia by groups of Aboriginal people, with French and British exploration and colonization commencing in the 17th century. Before the arrival of Europeans, the region was inhabited both by Algonquian (Ojibwa, Cree and Algonquin) and Iroquoian (Iroquois, Petun and Huron) tribes.[1]

The Province of Quebec in 1774

A French explorer

  • Ontario Visual Heritage Project
  • A collection of historical documents and primary sources about Ontario.

External links

  • Dictionary of Canadian Biography online, short scholarly biographies of every major Canadian who died before 1930
  • Baskerville, Peter A. Sites of Power: A Concise History of Ontario. Oxford U. Press., 2005. 296 pp. (first edition was Ontario: Image, Identity and Power, 2002). online review
  • Drummond, Ian M. Progress Without Planning: The Economic History of Ontario from Confederation to the Second World War (1987)
  • Hall, Roger; Westfall, William; and MacDowell, Laurel Sefton, eds. Patterns of the Past: Interpreting Ontario's History. Dundurn Pr., 1988. 406 pp. excerpt and text search
  • McCalla, Douglas. Planting The Province: The Economic History of Upper Canada, 1784-1870 (University of Toronto Press, 1993). 446 pp.
  • Mays, John Bentley. Arrivals: Stories from the History of Ontario. Penguin Books Canada, 2002. 418 pp.
  • Schull, Joseph. Ontario since 1867 (1978) 400pp; general survey emphasizing politics
  • Whitcomb, Dr. Ed. A Short History of Ontario. (Ottawa. From Sea To Sea Enterprises, 2006) ISBN 0-9694667-6-5. 79 pp.
  • White, Randall. Ontario: 1610-1985 (1985), general survey emphasizing politics
  • Celebrating One Thousand Years of Ontario's History: Proceedings of the Celebrating One Thousand Years of Ontario's History Symposium, April 14, 15, and 16, 2000. (Ontario Historical Society, 2000) 343 pp.


  1. ^ "About Ontario; History: Government of Ontario". Retrieved 2007-01-05. 
  2. ^ "Étienne Brûlé". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2007-01-05. 
  3. ^ a b "About Ontario; History; French and British Struggle for Domination". Government of Ontario. Retrieved 2007-01-05. 
  4. ^ "The Quebec Act of 1774". Retrieved 2007-01-15. 
  5. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica (1911)
  6. ^ "The Constitutional Act of 1791". Archived from the original on 2007-08-29. Retrieved 2007-01-15. 
  7. ^ Janet Larkin, "The Oswego Canal: A Connecting Link Between The United States and Canada, 1819-1837," Ontario History, Spring 2011, Vol. 103 Issue 1, pp 23–41
  8. ^ a b Peter A. Baskerville, "Entrepreneurship and the Family Compact: York-Toronto, 1822-55," Urban History Review Feb 1981, Vol. 9 Issue 3, pp 15-34
  9. ^ Christopher J. Anstead and Nancy B. Bouchier, "The 'Tombstone Affair,' 1845: Woodstock Tories and Cultural Change," Ontario History, Dec 1994, Vol. 86 Issue 4, pp 363-381
  10. ^ "Population urban and rural, by province and territory (Ontario)". Statistics Canada. 2005-09-01. Retrieved 2006-11-29. 
  11. ^ "Canada's population". The Daily. Statistics Canada. 2006-09-27. Retrieved 2006-11-29. 
  12. ^ "Selected Ethnic Origins1, for Canada, Provinces and Territories - 20% Sample Data". Statistics Canada. Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  13. ^ Peter E. Dembski, "Political History from the Opposition Benches: William Ralph Meredith, Ontario Federalist," Ontario History, Sept 1997, Vol. 89 Issue 3, pp 199-217
  14. ^ James T. Watt, "Anti-Catholicism in Ontario Politics: The Role of the Protestant Protective Association in the 1894 Election," Ontario History, Nov 1967, Vol. 59 Issue 2, pp 57-67
  15. ^ Janet B. Kerr, "Sir Oliver Mowat and the Campaign of 1894," Ontario History, March 1963, Vol. 55 Issue 1, pp 1-13
  16. ^ Virtual Vault, an online exhibition of Canadian historical art at Library and Archives Canada
  17. ^ R. Cole Harris; et al. (1987). Historical Atlas of Canada: The Land Transformed, 1800-1891. University of Toronto Press. p. 97. 
  18. ^ D. A. Lawr, "The Development of Ontario Farming, 1870-1914: Patterns of Growth and Change," Ontario History, (1972) 64#3 pp 239-251
  19. ^ Ian A. McKay, "A Note on Ontario Agriculture: The Development of Soybeans, 1893-1952," Ontario History, June 1983, Vol. 75 Issue 2, pp 175-186
  20. ^ John Carter, "The Education of the Ontario Farmer," Ontario History, May 2004, Vol. 96 Issue 1, pp 62-84
  21. ^ Richard Jarrell, "Justin De Courtenay and the Birth of the Ontario Wine Industry," Ontario History, Spring 2011, Vol. 103 Issue 1, pp 81-104
  22. ^ Charlotte Neff, "Ontario Government Funding and Supervision of Infants’ Homes 1875-1893," Journal of Family History (2013) 38#1 pp 17-54.
  23. ^ Anstead and Bouchier, "The 'Tombstone Affair,' 1845: Woodstock Tories and Cultural Change," pp 363-381
  24. ^ Peter Bush, "The Reverend James Caughey and Wesleyan Methodist Revivalism in Canada West, 1851-1856," Ontario History, Sept 1987, Vol. 79 Issue 3, pp 231-250
  25. ^ Greg Gillespie, "Sport and 'Masculinities' in Early-Nineteenth-Century Ontario: The British Travellers' Image," Ontario History, (2000) 92#2 pp 113-126
  26. ^ Bruce Kidd, "Muscular Christianity and Value-centred Sport: the Legacy of Tom Brown in Canada." International Journal of the History of Sport (2006) 23#4 pp 701-713
  27. ^ Rainer Baehre, "'The Medical Profession in Upper Canada' Reconsidered: Politics, Medical Reform, and Law in a Colonial Society," Canadian Bulletin of Medical History, 1995, Vol. 12 Issue 1, pp 101-124
  28. ^ Terrie M. Romano, "Professional Identity and the Nineteenth-Century Ontario Medical Profession," Histoire Sociale: Social History, May 1995, Vol. 28 Issue 55, pp 77-98
  29. ^ C. Lesley Biggs, "The Case of the Missing Midwives: A History of Midwifery in Ontario from 1795-1900," Ontario History, March 1983, Vol. 75 Issue 1, pp 21-35
  30. ^ Jo Oppenheimer, "Childbirth in Ontario: The Transition from Home to Hospital in the Early Twentieth Century," Ontario History, March 1983, Vol. 75 Issue 1, pp 36-60
  31. ^ "Niagara Falls History of Power"
  32. ^ Freeman, Neil (September 1992). "Turn-of-the-Century State Intervention: Creating the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario, 1906". Ontario History 84 (3): 171–194. 
  33. ^ Wilson, G. Alan (March 1964). "John Northway's Career: An Approach to Ontario's History". Ontario History 56 (1): 37–44. 
  34. ^ Wilson, Alan. "Northway, John". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. 
  35. ^ R. D. Gidney, and W. P. J. Millar, "The Reorientation of Medical Education in Late Nineteenth-Century Ontario: The Proprietary Medical Schools and the Founding of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto," Journal of the History of Medicine & Allied Sciences, Jan 1994, Vol. 49 Issue 1, pp 52-78
  36. ^ "Sir Frederick Grant Banting" in The Canadian Encyclopedia
  37. ^ J. M. Fenster, "The Conquest of Diabetes," American Heritage of Invention & Technology, Jan 1999, Vol. 14 Issue 3, pp 48-55
  38. ^ John Weaver, "Crime, Public Order, and Repression: The Gore District in Upheaval, 1832-1851," Ontario History, Sept 1986, Vol. 78 Issue 3, pp 175–207
  39. ^ Bill Rawling, "Technology and Innovation in the Toronto Police Force, 1875-1925," Ontario History, Mar 1988, Vol. 80 Issue 1, pp 53-71
  40. ^ Gaffield, Chad (1987). Language, Schooling, and Cultural Conflict: The Origins of the French Language Controversy in Ontario. 
  41. ^ Cecillon, Jack (December 1995). "Turbulent Times in the Diocese of London: Bishop Fallon and the French-Language Controversy, 1910–18". Ontario History 87 (4): 369–395. 
  42. ^ Barber, Marilyn (September 1966). "The Ontario Bilingual Schools Issue: Sources of Conflict". Canadian Historical Review 47 (3): 227–248.  
  43. ^ Jack D. Cecillon, Prayers, Petitions, and Protests: The Catholic Church and the Ontario Schools Crisis in the Windsor Border Region, 1910-1928 (2013)
  44. ^ John C. Carter, "Ontario Conservation Authorities: Their Heritage Resources and Museums," Ontario History, May 2002, Vol. 94 Issue 1, pp 5-28
  45. ^ Milligan, Ian (Autumn 2008). "Sedition in Wartime Ontario". Ontario History 100 (2): 150–177. 
  46. ^ Sharon Anne Cook, "'Earnest Christian Women, Bent on Saving our Canadian Youth': The Ontario Woman's Christian Temperance Union and Scientific Temperance Instruction, 1881-1930," Ontario History, Sept 1994, Vol. 86 Issue 3, pp 249-267
  47. ^ Brian Douglas Tennyson, "Sir William Hearst and the Ontario Temperance Act," Ontario History, Dec 1963, Vol. 55 Issue 4, pp 233-245
  48. ^ Randall White, Ontario: 1610-1985 (1985) pp 213-17
  49. ^ Cynthia Comacchio Abeele, "'The Mothers of the Land Must Suffer' Child And Maternal Welfare in Rural and Outpost Ontario, 1918-1940," Ontario History, Sept 1988, Vol. 80 Issue 3, pp 183-205
  50. ^ Andrew Ebejer, "'Milking' the Consumer?" Ontario History, Spring 2010, Vol. 102 Issue 1, pp 20-39
  51. ^ Keith Brownsey, "Opposition Blues: Leadership, Policy, and Organization in the Ontario Conservative Party, 1934-43," Ontario History, Nov 1996, Vol. 88 Issue 4, pp 273-296
  52. ^ Ruth A. Frager, and Carmela Patrias," "Human Rights Activists and the Question of Sex Discrimination in Postwar Ontario," Canadian Historical Review (2012) 93#4 pp 583-610
  53. ^ Shirley Tillotson, "Human Rights Law as a Prism: Women's Organizations, Unions, and Ontario's Female Employees Fair Remuneration Act, 1951," Canadian Historical Review (1991) 72#4 pp 532-557
  54. ^ Joan Sangster, “Women Workers, Employment Policy and the State: The Establishment of the Ontario Women's Bureau, 1963-1970,” Labour / Le Travail (1995) 36#1 pp. 119-145 in JSTOR
  55. ^ Donald C. MacDonald, "Ontario's Political Culture: Conservatism with a Progressive Component," Ontario History, (1994) 86#4 pp 297-317
  56. ^ Dan Azoulay, "'A Desperate Holding Action': The Survival of the Ontario CCF/NDP, 1948-1964," Ontario History, (1993) 85#1 pp 17-42
  57. ^ Bob Rae, From Protest to Power: Personal Reflections on a Life in Politics (1996)
  58. ^ Kershaw, Paul, and C. P. A. Lynell Anderson. "Ontario Election 2014 Study." (2014). online
  59. ^ Peter A. Stevens, "Cars and Cottages: The Automotive Transformation of Ontario's Summer Home Tradition," Ontario History, (2008) 100#1 pp 26-56


See also

The rapid spread of automobiles after 1910 and the building of roads, especially after 1920, opened up opportunities in remote rural areas to travel to the towns and cities for shopping and services. City people moved outward to suburbs. By the 1920s it was common for city folk to have a vacation cottage in remote lake areas. A stretch of the QEW opened in 1939, becoming one of world's first controlled access highways. The trend of city dwellers opening vacation cottages surged after 1945. It brought new money into remote areas, while also bringing negative environmental impacts and occasional conflict between cottagers and the permanent residents.[59]

Roads and travel

Ontario has no official language, but English is considered the de facto language. Numerous French language services are available under the French Language Services Act of 1990 in designated areas where sizable francophone populations exist.

Toronto replaced Montreal as the nation's premier business centre because the nationalist movement in Quebec, particularly with the success of the Parti Quebecois in 1976, systematically drove Anglophone business away. Depressed economic conditions in the Maritime Provinces have also resulted in de-population of those provinces in the 20th century, with heavy migration into Ontario.

Toronto as business centre

The Ontario Retirement Pension Plan was passed by the Liberals and will start operations in 2017. It is intended to cover an estimated 3.5 million workers in Ontario who do not have workplace pension plans. It is designed to supplement the Canada Pension Plan, and provide up to 15 per cent of a retiree's pre-retirement income as an annual pension.[58]

The NDP routinely captured 20-some percent of the vote, save for its surprise win in 1990 when it surged briefly to 38%, won 75 of the 120 seats, and formed a government under Bob Rae. He served as premier but Ontario's labour unions, the backbone of the NDP, were outraged when Rae imposed pay cuts on unionized public workers. The NDP was defeated in 1995, falling back to 21% of the vote. Rae quit the NDP in 1998 as too leftist and joined the Liberals.[57]

[56] By contrast the

The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party held power in the province from 1943 until 1985 by occupying the political centre and isolating both the Left and Right, at a time when Liberals most often controlled Ottawa.[55]


Ontario's Fair Employment Practices Act combatted racist and religious discrimination after the Second World War, but it did not cover gender issues. Indeed, most human rights activists did not raise the issue before the 1970s, because they were family oriented and subscribed to the deeply embedded ideology of the family wage, whereby the husband should be paid enough so the wife could be a full-time housewife. After lobbying by women, labour unions, and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), the Conservative government passed the Female Employees Fair Remuneration Act in 1951. It required equal pay for women who did the same work as men. Feminists in the 1950s and 1960s were unsuccessful in calling for a law that would prohibit other forms of sex discrimination, such as discrimination in hiring and promotion. The enforcement of both acts was constrained by their conciliatory framework. Provincial officials interpreted the equal pay act quite narrowly and were significantly more diligent in tackling racist and religious employment discrimination.[52][53][54]

Women's labour laws

The post-World War II period was one of exceptional prosperity and growth. Ontario, and the Greater Toronto Area in particular, have been the recipients of most immigration to Canada, largely immigrants from post war Europe in the 1950s and 1960s and after changes in federal immigration law, a massive influx of non-Europeans since the 1970s. In terms of ancestry, from a largely ethnically British province, Ontario has rapidly become very genetically diverse.

Celebrating V-E Day in Ottawa in 1945.


Following a massive defeat in 1934 by the Liberals, the Conservatives reorganized themselves over the next decade. Led by pragmatic leaders Cecil Frost, George Drew, Alex McKenzie, and Fred Gardiner, they minimized internal conflicts, quietly dropped laissez-faire positions and opted in favor of state intervention to deal with the Great Depression and encourage economic growth. The revised party declared loyalty to the Empire, called for comprehensive health care and pension programs, and sought more provincial autonomy. The reforms set the stage for a long run of election wins from 1943 onward.[51]

Agriculture and industry alike suffered in the Great Depression in Canada; hardest hit were the lumbering regions, the auto plants and the steel mills. The milk industry suffered from price wars that hurt both dairy farmers and dairies. The government set up the Ontario Milk Control Board (MCB), which raised and stabilized prices through licensing, bonding, and fixed price agreements. The MCB resolved the crisis for the industry but consumers complained loudly. The government favoured producers over consumers as the industry rallied behind the MCB.[50]

Great Depression

When surveys of public health showed infant mortality rates were high in Ontario, particularly in the more rural and isolated areas, the provincial government teamed with middle-class public health reformers to take action. They launched an educational campaign to teach mothers to save and improve the lives of infants and young children, with the long-range goal of uplifting the average Canadian family.[49]

[48] Premier Hearst had a number of progressive ideas planned for his next term, but his Conservatives were swept from power in 1919 by an avalanche led by a totally new farmer's party. The


The sale and consumption of liquor, wine, and beer are still controlled to ensure that strict community standards and revenue generation from the alcohol retail monopoly are upheld. In April 2007, Ontario Minister of Provincial Parliament Kim Craitor suggested that local brewers should be able to sell their beer in local corner stores, however, the motion was quickly rejected by Premier Dalton McGuinty.

Anti-German sentiment after 1914 and the accession of Conservative William Hearst to the premiership made prohibition a major political issues. The Methodists and Baptists (but not the Anglicans or Catholics) demanded the province be made dry. The government introduced prohibition of alcoholic sales in 1916 with the Ontario Temperance Act. However, drinking itself was never illegal and residents could distill and retain their own personal supply. Major liquor producers could continue distillation and export for sale, which allowed Ontario to become a centre for the illegal smuggling of liquor into the United States, which after 1920 was under complete prohibition. The drys won a referendum in 1919. Prohibition came to an end in 1927 with the establishment of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario by the Conservative government.[47]

Starting in the late 1870s the Ontario Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) wanted the schools to teach "scientific temperance," which reinforced moralistic temperance messages with the study of anatomy and hygiene, taught as a compulsory subject in schools. Although initially successful in convincing the Ontario Department of Education to adopt scientific temperance as part of the curriculum, teachers opposed the plan and refused to implement it. The WCTU then moved to dry up the province through government action. They started with "local option" laws, which allowed local governments to prohibit the sale of liquor. Many towns and rural areas went dry in the years before 1914, but not the larger cities.[46]


The British element strongly supported the war with men, money and enthusiasm. So too did the Francophone element until it reversed position in 1915. The government doubted the loyalty of residents of German descent, as anti-German sentiment escalated. The City of Berlin was renamed Kitchener after Britain's top commander. Left wing antiwar activists also came under attack. In 1917–18 Isaac Bainbridge of Toronto, the dominion secretary of the Social Democratic Party of Canada and editor of its newspaper, Canadian Forward, was charged three times with seditious libel and once with possession of seditious material, and he was imprisoned twice.[45]

World War I

The preservation of natural resources began with the passage of the Public Parks Act in 1883, which called for public parks in every town and city. Algonquin Provincial Park, the first provincial park, was established in 1893. The creation of the provincial Department of Planning and Development in 1944 brought conservation offices throughout the province and made for an integrated approach. The conservation authorities started to create heritage museums, but that ended in the 1970s when responsibility was shifted to the new ministry of Culture and Recreation. Repeated budget cuts in the 1980s and 1990s reduced the operation of many museums and historical sites.[44]

Conservation and heritage museums

In July 1912, the Conservative government of Sir James P. Whitney issued Regulation 17 which severely limited the availability of French-language schooling to the province's French-speaking minority.[40] French could only be used in the first two years of schooling, and then only English was allowed. The French-Canadian population, which was growing rapidly in eastern Ontario from migration, reacted with outrage; journalist Henri Bourassa denounced the "Prussians of Ontario"; with the World War raging this was a deep insult to the Anglophones. It was one of the key reasons the Francophones turned away from the war effort in 1915 and refused to enlist. Ontario's Catholics were led by the Irish Bishop Fallon, who united with the Protestants in opposing French schools.[41] Regulation 17 was repealed in 1927.[42][43]

Language war and school crisis

Toronto, Hamilton, Berlin (Kitchener), Windsor and other cities modernized and professionalized their public services in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. No service was changed more dramatically than the police. The introduction of emergency telephone call boxes linked to a central dispatcher, plus bicycles, motorcycles and automobiles shifted the patrolman's duties from passively walking the beat to fast reaction to reported incidents, as well as handling automobile traffic. After 1930 the introduction of police radios speeded response times.[39]

Modernizing the police

Road and canal construction brought in rowdy workers whose wages often went to liquor, gambling and women, with much fighting involved. Community leaders realized the traditional method of dealing with troublemakers one by one was inadequate and they moved to less personal modernized procedures that followed imperial models of policing, trial, and punishment through the courts.[38]

Legal reform

Once they had taken control of the practice of medicine, the doctors on the Medical Council of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) turned their attention to the quality of medical education in Ontario. Marginal and untrained practitioners were banned, but the question rose of the permanence and the quality of proprietary for-profit medical schools. CPSO imposed regulations in the 1860s to increase faculty size and raise matriculation standards. They required students to take Council-administered examinations. Toronto had two medical schools - Trinity Medical School and the Toronto School of Medicine (TSM). During the 1880s the TSM added instructors, expanded its curriculum, and focused on clinical instruction. Enrollments grew at both schools. Critics found proprietary schools lacking especially for their failure to offer sufficient instruction in the basic sciences. In 1887, the TSM became the medical faculty of the University of Toronto, increasing its emphasis on research within the medical curriculum. Trinity realized that its survival depended as well on close ties to basic science, and it in 1904 it also merged into the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine.[35] In 1923 J.J.R. Macleod (1876–1935) and Frederick Banting (1891–1941), researchers there won the Nobel Pr1ze in Medicine for their 1921 discovery of insulin, putting Toronto on the world map of avant-garde science.[36][37]

Modernizing medicine

Entrepreneurship was exemplified by the career John Northway (1848–1926). Beginning as a tailor in a small town, he moved to Toronto and soon developed a chain of department stores. His innovations in the sewing and marketing of ladies' wear enabled the emergence of a Canadian ladies' garment industry. Northway pioneered modern business and accounting methods. He innovated as well in labour relations, as a pioneer in sickness and accident compensation and profit-sharing schemes. A millionaire by 1910, he played a leading role in Toronto's civic life.[33][34]

The Conservatives replaced the Liberals and set up HEPC. In 1908 HEPC began purchasing electricity from Niagara Falls. In the next decade it purchased most of the privately owned distribution systems and built an integrated network.[32] The availability of cheap electric power further facilitated the development of industry. The Ford Motor Company of Canada was established in 1904. General Motors of Canada Ltd. was formed in 1918. The motor vehicle industry became by 1920 the most productive industry in Ontario and a customer for smaller suppliers.

Energy policy focused on hydro-electric power, leading to the formation in 1906 of the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario (HEPC), renamed Ontario Hydro in 1974. HEPC was a unique hybrid of a government department, a crown corporation, and a municipal cooperative that coexisted with the existing private companies. It was a "politically rational" rather than a "technically efficient" solution that depended on the watershed election of 1905 when the main issue became "Niagara Power", with the Conservative slogan of "water power of Niagara should be free".[31]

Mineral exploitation accelerated in the late 19th century, leading to the rise of important mining centres in the northeast like Sudbury, Cobalt and Timmins.

Economic growth

Since 1896

As physicians became better organized, they had the assembly pass laws controlling the practice of medicine and pharmacy and banning marginal and traditional practitioners. Midwifery—practiced along traditional lines by women—was restricted and practically died out by 1900.[29] Even so the great majority of childbirths took pace at home until the 1920s, when hospitals became preferred, especially by women who were better educated, more modern, and more trusting in modern medicine.[30]

Numerous local rivalries had to overcome before physicians could form a single, self-regulating, and unified medical body for licensing and educating practitioners.[27] Professionalization began with the first medical board in 1818, and an 1827 act that required all doctors to be licensed. From the 1840s on, the number of new doctors with medical degrees increased rapidly because of legislation and the establishment of local medical schools. Finally the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons was chartered in 1869.[28]


The ideals promulgated by English author and reformer Thomas Hughes, especially as expressed in Tom Brown's Schooldays (1857), gave the middle class a model for sports that provided moral education and training for citizenship. Late in the 19th century, the Social Gospel themes of muscular Christianity had an impact, as in the invention of basketball in 1891 by James Naismith, an Ontarian employed at the International Young Men's Christian Association Training School in Massachusetts. Outside of sports, the social and moral agendas behind muscular Christianity influenced numerous reform movements, thus linking it to the political left in Canada.[26]

Travelers commented on the class differentials in recreation, contrasting the gentrified masculinity of the British middle class and the rough-and-ready bush masculinity of the workers. Working-class audiences responded to cockfights, boxing matches, wrestling, and animal baiting. That was too bloody for gentlemen and army officers, who favoured games that promoted honour and built character. Middle-class sports, especially lacrosse and snowshoeing, evolved from military training. Ice hockey proved a success among both refined gentlemen and bloodthirsty labourers.[25]

Sport and recreation

[24] While Anglicans consolidated their hold on the upper classes, workingmen and farmers responded to the Methodist revivals, often sponsored by visiting preachers from America. Typical was Rev.

The changes in the next generation in the town of Woodstock in southwestern Ontario exemplified the shift of power from the Tory elite to middle class merchants and professionals. The once-unquestioned leadership of the magistracy and the Anglican Church, with their closed interlocking networks of patron-client relations, faded year by year as modern ideas of respectability based on merit and economic development grew apace. The new middle class was solidly in control by the 1870s and the old elite had all but vanished.[23]



The care of illegitimate children was a high priority for private charities. Before 1893, the Ontario government appropriated grants to charitable infants’ homes for the infants and for their nursing mothers. Most of these infants were illegitimate, most of their mothers were poor; many babies arrived in poor physical condition, so that their chances of survival outside such homes was poor.[22]

Social welfare

Commercial wine production began with an aristocrat from France Count Justin McCarthy De Courtenay in County Peel in the 1860s. His success followed from the realization that the right grapes could grow in the cold climate, producing an inexpensive good wine that could reach a commercial market. He gained government support and raised the capital for a commercial-scale vineyard and winery. His financial success encouraged others to enter the business.[21]

Farming was generally quite profitable, especially after 1896. The major changes involved mechanization of technology and a shift toward high-profit, high-quality consumer products, such as milk, eggs and vegetables, for the fast-growing urban markets.[18] It took farmers a half century to appreciate the value of high-protein soybean crops. Introduced in the 1890s, acceptance was slow until 1943-52, when farmers in the southwestern counties expanded production.[19] Farmers increasingly demanded more information on the best farming techniques. Their demands led to farm magazine and agricultural fairs. In 1868 the assembly created an agricultural museum, which morphed into the Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph in 1874.[20]


Ontario large manufacturing and finance sectors waxed profitable in the late 19th century. Lucrative new markets opened up nationwide thanks to the federal government's high-tariff National Policy after 1879, which limited competition from the United States. New markets out west opened after the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway (1875–1885) through Northern Ontario to the Prairies and British Columbia. Tens of thousands of European immigrants, as well as native Canadians, moved west along the railroad in order to set up new farms. They shipped their wheat east and bought from local merchants who placed orders with Ontario wholesalers, especially those based in Toronto.[17]

As the population increased, so did the industries and transportation networks, which in turn led to further development. By the end of the century, Ontario vied with Quebec as the nation's leader in terms of growth in population, industry, arts and communications.[16]


Economic development

In the 1894 election the main issues were the Liberals' "Ontario System", as well as French language schools and anti-Catholicism (led by the Protestant Protective Association (PPA)),[14] farmer interests as expressed by the new Patrons of Industry, support for Toronto business, woman suffrage, the temperance movement, and the demands of labour unions. Mowat and the Liberals maintained their large majority in the assembly.[15]

Meanwhile Ontario's Conservative Party leader William Ralph Meredith had difficulty balancing the province's particular interests with his national party's centralism. Meredith was further undercut by lack of support from the national Conservative party and his own elitist aversion to popular politics at the provincial level.[13]

Mowat consolidated and expanded Ontario's educational and provincial institutions, created districts in Northern Ontario, and fought tenaciously to ensure that those parts of Northwestern Ontario not historically part of Upper Canada (the vast areas north and west of the Lake Superior-Hudson Bay watershed, known as the District of Keewatin) would become part of Ontario, a victory embodied in the Canada (Ontario Boundary) Act, 1889. He also presided over the emergence of the province into the economic powerhouse of Canada. Mowat was the creator of what is often called Empire Ontario.

Once constituted as a province, Ontario proceeded to assert its economic and legislative power. In 1872, the Liberal Party leader Oliver Mowat became premier, and remained as premier until 1896, despite Conservative control in Ottawa. Mowat fought for provincial rights, weakening the power of the federal government in provincial matters, usually through well-argued appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. His battles with the federal government greatly decentralized Canada, giving the provinces far more power than Prime Minister John A. Macdonald had intended.

A poster from 1878 encouraging immigration to Ontario

Both Quebec and Ontario were required by section 93 of the BNA Act to safeguard existing educational rights and privileges of the Protestant and Catholic minorities. Thus, separate Catholic schools and school boards were permitted in Ontario. However, neither province had a constitutional requirement to protect its French- or English-speaking minority. Toronto was formally established as Ontario's provincial capital at this time.

A political stalemate between the French- and English-speaking legislators, as well as fear of aggression from the United States during the American Civil War, led the political elite to hold a series of conferences in the 1860s to effect a broader federal union of all British North American colonies. The British North America Act took effect on July 1, 1867, establishing the Dominion of Canada, initially with four provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. The Province of Canada was divided at this point into Ontario and Quebec so that each linguistic group would have its own province.


From 1867 to 1896

An economic boom in the 1850s, brought on by factors such as a free trade agreement with the United States, coincided with massive railway expansion across the province, furthering the economic strength of Central Canada, pre-confederation.

Due to heavy waves of immigration in the 1840s, the population of Canada West more than doubled by 1851 over the previous decade, and as a result for the first time the English-speaking population of Canada West surpassed the French-speaking population of Canada East, tilting the representative balance of power.

Although both rebellions were put down in short order, the British government sent Lord Durham to investigate the causes of the unrest. He recommended that self-government be granted and that Lower and Upper Canada be re-joined in an attempt to assimilate the French Canadians. Accordingly, the two colonies were merged into the Province of Canada by the Act of Union (1840), with the capital at Kingston, and Upper Canada becoming known as Canada West. Parliamentary self-government was granted in 1848.

Canada West

Many men chafed against the anti-democratic Family Compact that governed through personal connections among the elite, which controlled the best lands. This resentment spurred republican ideals and sowed the seeds for early Canadian nationalism. Accordingly, rebellion in favour of responsible government rose in both regions; Louis-Joseph Papineau led the Lower Canada Rebellion and William Lyon Mackenzie led the Upper Canada Rebellion. The rebellions failed but there were long-term changes that resolved the issue.[9]


The Family Compact looked for the ideal model to Britain, where landed aristocrats held power. The Family Compact was noted for its conservatism and opposition to democracy, especially the rowdy American version. They developed the theme that they and their militia had defeated American attempts to annex Canada in the War of 1812. They were based in Toronto, and were integrated with the bankers, merchants and financiers of the city, and were active in promoting canals and railroads.[8]

In the absence of a hereditary aristocracy, Upper Canada was run by an oligarchy or closed group of powerful men who controlled most of the political, judicial and economic power from the 1810s to the 1830s. Opponents called it the "Family Compact", but its members avoided the term. In the religious sphere, a key leader was John Strachan (1778–1867), the Anglican bishop of Toronto. Strachan (and the Family Compact generally) was opposed by Methodist leader Egerton Ryerson (1803–1882). The Family Compact consisted of English gentry who arrived before 1800, and the sons of United Empire Loyalists, who were exiles who fled the American revolution. The term "family" was metaphorical, for they generally were not related by blood or marriage. There were no elections and the leadership controlled appointments, so local officials were generally allies of the leaders.[8]

Family Compact

Canal projects and a new network of plank roads spurred greater trade within the colony and with the United States, thereby improving relations over time. Ontario's numerous waterways aided travel and transportation into the interior and supplied water power for development. Canals were capital-intensive infrastructure projects that facilitated trade. The Oswego Canal, built in New York 1825–1829, was a vital commercial link the in Great Lakes–Atlantic seaway. It linked into Ontario's Welland Canal in 1829. The newly fashioned Oswego–Welland line offered an alternative route to the St. Lawrence River and Europe, as opposed to the Erie Canal which terminated in New York City.[7]

After the War of 1812, relative stability allowed for increasing numbers of immigrants to arrive from Britain and Ireland rather than from the United States. This deliberate immigration shift was encouraged by the colonial leaders. However, many arriving newcomers from Europe (mostly from Britain and Ireland) found frontier life difficult, and some of those with the means eventually returned home or went south. Population growth far exceeded emigration in the decades that would follow.

The Welland canal around Niagara Falls has been modernized often since it opened in 1829.


During the Battle of York Americans occupied the Town of York (later named Toronto) in 1813. After losing their general Zebulon Pike and having a difficult time holding the town, the departing American soldiers burned it to the ground.

American troops in the War of 1812 invaded Upper Canada across the Niagara River and the Detroit River but were defeated and pushed back by British forces, local militia and Native American forces. The Americans gained control of Lake Erie at the Battle of Lake Erie. The British had to flee on foot, and the American William Henry Harrison caught up and decisively defeated them at the Battle of the Thames. The Americans also killed Tecumseh, leader of the anti-American First Nations military force, which permanently disrupted the military alliance between Britain and the Indians.

War of 1812

Upper Canada

Upper Canada in orange.



  • 1791-1867 1
    • Upper Canada 1.1
      • War of 1812 1.1.1
      • Transportation 1.1.2
      • Family Compact 1.1.3
      • Rebellion 1.1.4
    • Canada West 1.2
  • From 1867 to 1896 2
    • Confederation 2.1
    • Economic development 2.2
      • Transportation 2.2.1
      • Farming 2.2.2
      • Social welfare 2.2.3
    • Culture 2.3
      • Religion 2.3.1
      • Sport and recreation 2.3.2
    • Medicine 2.4
  • Since 1896 3
    • Economic growth 3.1
    • Modernizing medicine 3.2
    • Legal reform 3.3
    • Modernizing the police 3.4
    • Language war and school crisis 3.5
    • Conservation and heritage museums 3.6
    • World War I 3.7
    • Prohibition 3.8
    • 1920s 3.9
    • Great Depression 3.10
    • Postwar 3.11
      • Women's labour laws 3.11.1
    • Politics 3.12
    • Toronto as business centre 3.13
    • Roads and travel 3.14
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Bibliography 6
  • External links 7

The region was annexed to Quebec in 1774.[4] The first European settlements were in 1782-1784 when 5,000 American loyalists entered what is now Ontario following the American Revolution.[5] From 1783 to 1796, Britain granted them 200 acres (0.8 km²) of land and other items with which to rebuild their lives.[3] This measure substantially increased the population of Canada west of the St. Lawrence-Ottawa River confluence during this period, a fact recognized by the Constitutional Act of 1791, which split Quebec into The Canadas: Upper Canada southwest of the St. Lawrence-Ottawa River confluence, and Lower Canada east of it. John Graves Simcoe was appointed Upper Canada's first Lieutenant-Governor in 1793.[6]

The British established trading posts on Hudson Bay in the late 17th century and began a struggle for domination of Ontario. The 1763 Treaty of Paris ended the Seven Years' War by awarding nearly all of France's North American possessions (New France) to Britain.


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