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Upper Canada

Upper Canada is an early name for the land at the upstream end of the Saint Lawrence River in early North America – the territory south of Lake Nipissing and north of the St. Lawrence River and Lakes Ontario and Erie plus the eastern shoreline of Georgian Bay and the northern shoreline of Lake Superior. This area is the ancestor of the southern part of the present day province of Ontario, Canada. See the Canadas and Canada West.



This territory passed into British hands 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 in 1791 with the passing of the Constitutional Act by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which 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 British 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 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.

Land settlement

Land had been settled since the French regime, notably along the Detroit River. Prior to 1791, much land had been surveyed by the government in Quebec particulary in eastern Ontario along the Saint Lawrence River.

The land was surveyed as the Western Townships, while the Eastern Townships were in Lower Canada (now Quebec).

Rudimentary municipal administration began with the creation of districts, notably Western (including present day Brantford), Eastern, Gore (including present day Hamilton, Ontario and Home (including present day Toronto). These districts were broken up when counties were created from the former districts, including Brant County, Ontario County, Wentworth County and York Region from each of these former districts, respectively.

The Act Against Slavery passed in Upper Canada on July 9, 1793.

During the War of 1812, following General Isaac Brock's capture of Detroit on August 16, 1812, the Michigan Territory was at least nominally a part of the Province of Upper Canada.

The province ceased to be a political entity with the Act of Union (1840), when, by an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, it was merged with Lower Canada to form the Province of Canada. With Confederation in 1867, the area once again became a separate province, named Ontario, of the Dominion of Canada.

Its name lives on in a few fossilized forms, most notably the staid Law Society of Upper Canada, the elite Upper Canada College and the inebriating Upper Canada Brewing Company (since purchased).

When the capital first moved to Toronto in 1796, the Parliament of Upper Canada was located at the corner of Parliament and Front Streets, in a building that was eventually abandoned. In 2001 the remains of the original Parliament building were found during preparations to build a car dealership on that site.


1806 70,718 estimate
1811 77,000 estimate
1814 95,000 estimate
1824 150,066
1825 157,923
1826 166,379
1827 177,174
1828 186,488
1829 197,815
1830 213,156
1831 236,702
1832 263,554
1833 295,863
1834 321,145
1835 347,359
1836 374,099
1837 397,489
1838 399,422
1839 409,048
1840 432,159
(see Province of Canada for population after 1840)
Source: Statistics Canada website Censuses of Canada 1665 to 1871.

See also

Last updated: 02-07-2005 16:58:37
Last updated: 02-27-2005 19:11:38