If you live in Ontario, there’s a good chance you’re enjoying a holiday today. Known as Civic Holiday in most of the province, in Toronto it’s been Simcoe Day since 1968. It’s appropriate that Toronto was the first to honor John Graves Simcoe by connecting the Civic Holiday with him, since Simcoe moved the province’s capital from Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake) to the almost nonexistent township of York (now Toronto). Toronto has been the provincial capital ever since.
As the first lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, Simcoe is famous for welcoming the thousands of American settlers (usually known as the Late Loyalists) who became much of Upper Canada’s early population—one of them was Thomas Ingersoll, Laura Secord’s father. Most Ontarians are also proud of Simcoe for passing the first anti-slavery law in the British Empire, the 1793 Act Against Slavery.
Interestingly, though, after leaving Upper Canada he became the British governor of Santo Domingo, where his mission was to support anti-republican French plantation owners in their attempt to suppress the army of freed slaves led by Toussaint L’Ouverture. I have no idea how Simcoe felt about about that responsibility.
If you want to know more about him, a fuller biography of John Graves Simcoe is available at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography online.
Happy Simcoe Day!