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1783

United Empire Loyalists reach Canada

On this day in 1783, the first United Empire Loyalists, known to American Patriots as Tories, arrive in Canada to take refuge under the British crown in Parrtown, Saint John, Nova Scotia (now New Brunswick), Canada. The town was located on the Bay of Fundy just north of the border with what is now the state of Maine.

Most of the refugees came from New York, which had been under royal control throughout most of the War for Independence. After the Treaty of Paris ended the War for Independence in February 1783, the British evacuated their New York Loyalists to remaining British territories, mainly in Canada. These families had been dispossessed of their land and belongings by the victorious Patriots because of their continued support of the British king and were able to regain some financial independence through lands granted to them by the British in western Quebec (now Ontario) and Nova Scotia. Their arrival in Canada permanently shifted the demographics of what had been French-speaking New France until 1763 into an English-speaking colony, and later nation, with the exception of a French-speaking and culturally French area in eastern Canada that is now Quebec.

In 1784, one year after their arrival, the new Loyalist population spurred the creation of New Brunswick in the previously unpopulated (by Europeans, at least) lands west of the Bay of Fundy in what had been Nova Scotia. In 1785, the Loyalists yet again made their mark on Canadian history when their combined settlements at Parrtown and Carleton of approximately 14,000 people became British North America’s first incorporated city under the name City of Saint John.

Loyalist refugees in western Quebec received 200 acres apiece. The division between the Anglophile and Francophile sections was ultimately recognized by creating the English-dominant province of Ontario, west of Quebec, in 1867.

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