Region of Canada now known as Ontario. In 1791–1841 it was known as Upper Canada and in 1841–67 as Canada West. Settled primarily by English-speaking immigrants, it sought confederation with Canada East in order to secure the unified government needed for effective administration and the construction of intercolonial railways. The unified Dominion of Canada was made official by the British North America Act of 1867.
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The Province of Upper Canada (French: Province du Haut-Canada) was a British colony located in what is now the southern portion of the Province of Ontario in Canada. Upper Canada officially existed from 1791 to 1841 and generally comprised present-day Southern Ontario and, until 1797, the Upper Peninsula of what is now part of the U.S. state of Michigan. Its name reflected its position closer to the headwaters of the St. Lawrence River than Lower Canada was, the same relationship between Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt.
Upper Canada included all of modern-day southern Ontario and all those areas of northern Ontario in the 'pays d'en haut' which had formed part of New France, essentially the watersheds of the Ottawa River, Lake Huron, and Lake Superior. It did not include any lands within the watershed of Hudson Bay.
It passed from French control into British control with the Treaty of Paris (1763). It was incorporated into the Province of Quebec by the Quebec Act of 1774. Upper Canada became a political entity on 26 December 1791 with the Parliament of Great Britain's passage of the Constitutional Act of 1791. The Act divided the Province of Quebec into Upper and Lower Canada. The division was effected so that Loyalist American settlers and British immigrants in Upper Canada could have English laws and institutions, and the French-speaking population of Lower Canada could maintain French civil law and the Catholic religion.
The colony was administered by a lieutenant-governor, legislative council, and legislative assembly. The first lieutenant-governor was John Graves Simcoe. On February 1, 1796 the capital of Upper Canada was moved from Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake) to York (now Toronto), which was judged to be less vulnerable to attack by the Americans.
Local government in the Province of Upper Canada was based on districts. In 1788, four districts were created:
Additional districts were created from the existing districts as the population grew until 1849, when local government mainly based on counties came into effect. At that time, there were 20 districts; legislation to create a new Kent District never completed. Up until 1841, the district officials were appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor, although usually with local input. A Court of Quarter Sessions was held four times a year in each district to oversee the administration of the district and deal with legal cases.
Major battles (or attacks) fought on territory in Upper Canada included;
Rudimentary municipal administration began with the creation of districts, notably Western (including present day Brantford), Eastern, Gore (including present day Hamilton) and Home (including present day Toronto).
These land tracts expanded in reach well beyond the St. Lawrence-Lake Ontario-Lake Erie shores after the war of 1812. In 1828, Britain appointed Upper Canada's first Chief Agent of Emigration, A.C. Buchanan. His title reflected the centrality of Britain's perspective on migration in the colonies at the time, especially since most new arrivals in Upper Canada were from the United Kingdom.
British regiment soldiers who were veterans of the war were offered free land, some remained despite the harsh winters. Unlike the period prior to the war, immigration was now directed at Europe and more specifically to the United Kingdom and Ireland, not from the US, which was the largest source of immigration before the war. Very cheap or even free land was offered with advertisements to entice immigrants to settle there, even those in financially meager circumstances. Passage could be obtained across the Atlantic on returning empty lumber ships for little fare. During the early 1830s, the population increased more than 10% of its total each year. In the 1820s many German speaking Mennonite immigrants came to the Grand River region of Upper Canada from Pennsylvania, they were joined as well by many German speaking Amish immigrants. This region was sometimes called "Little Pennsylvania", however this term is no longer used today. Many of their descendants continue to speak a form of German called Pennsylvania German.
It is estimated that thousands of escaped slaves entered Upper Canada from the United States, using the Underground Railroad.
Upper Canada ceased to be a political entity with the Act of Union (1840), when, by an act of the British Parliament, it was merged with Lower Canada to form the United Province of Canada. This was principally in response to the Upper and Lower Canada rebellions of 1837 and 1837-38, respectively. At Confederation in 1867, the Province of Canada was re-divided along the former boundary as the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.
The name 'Upper Canada' lives on in a few historical forms, most notably the Law Society of Upper Canada, Upper Canada Lumber, Upper Canada College, Upper Canada Mall (in Newmarket, Ontario), and the Upper Canada Brewing Company. When the capital was first moved to Toronto from Newark (present-day Niagara-on-the-Lake) in 1796, the Parliament Buildings of Upper Canada were located at the corner of Parliament and Front Streets, in buildings that were burned by United States forces in the War of 1812, rebuilt, then burned again by accident. The site was eventually abandoned for another, to the west. In 2001, some remnants of the original Parliament building were found. Today, there is an ongoing fight by preservationists and historians who propose the government develop and interpret the historic site. Currently the government leases most of the site.
The area of Canada West covered all of modern-day Southern Ontario and all those areas of Northern Ontario in the pays d'en haut which had formed part of New France, essentially the watersheds of the Ottawa River, Lake Huron, and Lake Superior.
Canada West was a political entity and a geographic way of referring to the former Province of Upper Canada, following its merger into the United Province of Canada. Canada West was given 42 seats in the Legislative Assembly of Canada, exactly the same number as Canada East.
The area was named the Province of Ontario under the British North America Act of 1867.
The population of Canada West had grown substantially during the period it existed, mostly due to unprecedented immigration and a high birth rate. In 1841 it was 455,000 but grew to approximately 1,500,000 people or more than 300% at the time of Confederation in 1867.