Christopher J. Amos Hons. BA, Indigenous Studies, Trent University; 1999
First Nations and Upper Canada Historian; “Lower Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Valley Region”
February 24, 2023
Re: Egerton Ryerson, Henry Dundas, etc, and William Jarvis
Let’s be clear, History is History, and it SHOULDN’T be changed; even though many times the record IS changed. Our history tells us where we came from and how far we’ve come since then; the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. We have to learn from our past mistakes and we cannot do that if our previous mistakes are hidden in the dust of the past.
Egerton Ryerson had NOTHING to do with the establishment of the Residential School Programme “PERIOD”. He definitely did assist with the establishment of the Methodist Mission to the Mississauga Indians of the Credit in 1826 at the request of Peter Jones, then Chief of the Mississaugas of the Credit Reserve, which did double duty during week days as the Reserve School, and also directed the construction of a saw and grist mill on the Reserve, and he was the founder of the Public School System in Ontario, but Egerton Ryerson died well before the Government sponsored Residential School Programme was established. His name should be memorialized in this province; what a shame to all of us that his name has been expunged from Ryerson University.
And with that being fully and historically acknowledged the question arises WHY was there no government oversight to monitor the Government Sponsored Residential School Programme, when it eventually became law, to assess the happiness and well-being and progress of the students and to inquire why some students were missing and where those students went after they went missing; after all this was a Canadian Law and if some students were missing from those schools their whereabouts should have been ascertained. This was not done and the ultimate blame is on the Canadian Government; not the architect of the Mission School at the Credit which was operated by Band members of the Mississaugas of the Credit themselves.
(By the way the Sunday School Hall of the United Church in Colborne, I was the custodian for a while, now under private ownership with plans to turn it into apartments, was the original Methodist Chapel built in 1830, in Colborne which was built using the same architecture designed by Egerton Ryerson to build the Methodist Mission Chapel at the Credit Reserve.)
And when the Mississaugas of the Credit were cheated out of their Reserve on the Credit and were forced to move in 1847 they built another Methodist Church, now a United Church, on their new Reserve at the Six Nations Territory near Hagersville, Ontario.Where is this “WOKE” fashion going in Canada.
Recently it was decided to change the name of Dundas Street for the sake of a “supposed” reference to Henry Dundas who “supposedly”, true or not, delayed the abolition of slavery in Upper Canada from 1796, when Sir John Graves Simcoe, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, introduced a bill to the British Parliament to prohibit the sale of slaves to or from Upper Canada and elsewhere in the British Empire, though this bill did not abolish slavery in Upper Canada as it was not abolished until 1833/34. Henry Dundas is blamed for procrastinating the abolishment of slavery in Upper Canada but does anyone realize the reason WHY. How many people, in their blindness, realize that slaves had no private assets to use if they obtained their freedom, there was no such thing as a Welfare System, and that if they were freed they had no resources to re-establish themselves, house themselves or feed themselves, and that many of those slaves were children without the skills or physical means to engage in trades as adults and that even adult slaves faced very challenging times when they were eventually freed.
Let me provide an example from “A History of Scarborough” though this actually happened in Pickering Township: There was an slave of African origin whose task was to drive a team of oxen on a steep hill into the Rouge Valley on the road that led to the Pickering Harbour; then located at the mouth of the Rouge River until 1847 when it moved to Frenchman’s Bay. His job was to hitch his team behind farmer’s wagons going down the hill to prevent the wagons from running into the teams of horses and on the return trip to hitch onto the front of the team to help them up the incline to the rim of the valley. When that slave was freed he had no place to live and no means to support himself and ended up in a Work House in the Don Valley where he was committed to work for his keep in a life of continued servitude. Can anyone imagine what would have happened to child slaves if they had been set free without any skills to support themselves after the abolition of slavery in Upper Canada. Thus Henry Dundas, exercising a frame of humanity not easily understood in our current era, was preventing the release of child slaves who would not have had any means to support themselves after the abolition of slavery; he was actually a humanitarian.
Now to the change of the name of Dundas Street: Dundas Street was so named simply because it was the highway from York and the Village of Dundas near Burlington Bay on the way to Hamilton and Niagara and is referred to in the Burlington Bay area as the “York Road” in the same way that Kingston Road was so-named as it was the highway from York to Kingston – even though the King did not live there.
So what about Sir William Jarvis, Secretary to the Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada? William Jarvis was a genuine scoundrel. After John Graves Simcoe returned to England his office was the practical convenor of law in Upper Canada for some years; he died in 1819. For example he refused to provide documentation of Land Grants to Quakers because their religion forbade military service; and he owned slaves. In fact he owned one African bond servant and two African child slaves. He was not a “gentle” master and when the two children planned to run away the bond servant provided them with the means and was severely punished; it is not know what happened to the two children. And yet Jarvis Street retains it’s name while the name of Dundas Street will now be changed.
Whose name comes next? There are many that could be changed, some might say “should” be changed, and if we are going to change some why do we allow the rest to remain if they are so disreputable in our history?