Sci Station Canada

Saturday, July 03, 2004

A little bit of Canada in Sydney

In honour of Canada Day, I thought I'd share with you some history about a little bit of Canada in the City of Sydney, Australia where I live. The following is from the website of "Canada Bay Local Government Area"

Canada Bay and the Canadian Exiles

In 1837 and 1838 there were revolts in Lower Canada (now known as Quebec) by French Canadian Patriotes who held a number of grievances against British government rule, most notably the need for greater participation in government and an increase in the legislative power of the lower house. Following the crushing of the revolts some of the rebels were executed while others were sentenced to transportation.

In 1840 the ship Buffalo transported 91 English speaking rebels to Tasmania and 58 French speaking Canadians to New South Wales. Originally the French Canadians were destined for Norfolk Island however due to representations to the Governor Sir George Gipps by the Roman Catholic Bishop, Dr John Bede Polding, they were sent to the Longbottom Stockade a less severe prison. Nevertheless conditions were still harsh for the convicts. At first there was no bedding while food and clothing was of poor quality. Work included breaking stones for the construction of Parramatta Road. Many of them collected oyster shells along the shores of Parramatta River to be be made into lime, a commodity then in high demand for building purposes. Most were Catholic and found some consolation in visits from Bishop Polding and his Secretary Fr John Brady, both of whom spoke French. Despite the harsh conditions the convicts found some time for relaxation and one prisoner fashioned a set of bowls, the first recorded instance of the game being played in the Canada Bay area.

In 1842 the good behaviour of the French Canadians led to their being granted a ticket-of-leave which allowed them to work outside the Stockade. They found work in the colony as clerks, gardeners, builders and in saw milling. Some worked in the construction of the Victoria Barracks in Paddington. Free pardons were granted to the French Canadians between November 1843 and February 1844. Eventually all but three of the Canadian Exiles returned to Canada: two died while one, Joseph Marceau, married a local women and settled at Dapto.

Following the disturbances Lord Durham (John George Lambton), Governor General and Lord High Commissioner to Canada, recommended that responsible self government should be granted to the Union of Upper and Lower Canada. This same principle of self government was later applied to the Australian colonies in the 1850s, thus establishing parliamentary democracy.

Longbottom Stockade was located in the vicinity of present day Concord Oval, St Luke's Park and Cintra Park. Remains of the Stockade were identified when foundations were laid for the new grand stand at Concord Oval in 1984. Several place names in the area reflect a link with the story of the French Canadian Exiles : Canada Bay, Exile Bay, France Bay, Durham Street, Marceau Drive, Polding Street and Gipps Street. A plaque was unveiled in Cabarita Park by Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1970 to honour the Exiles and their role in the political history of Canada. In 1984 the monument was relocated in Bayview Park as this was where the Canadian Exiles disembarked in 1840 on their way to the Longbottom Stockade.

Australia, although ostensibly established for criminal convicts, was used on many occassions by the British government of the day for political prisoners, most notably Irish seperatists and political & trade union activists from England & Wales, for example survivors of the Tolpuddle incident. In the case of the Canadian activists their ordeal had a comparatively "happy ending" - for most others Australia became their home. However by "adding their cultural uniqueness" to Australia we have gained by their assimilation.

A country that ignores it's past is a country without a future as my History teacher used to say. The next time you excercise your right to vote, or your trade union negotiates for your livelyhood, or you watch your child graduate from High School or, heaven forbid, you draw on social security in time of need, remember that none of these would be ours without the efforts of those who went before us. Civil Liberties are not civil rights, they are worth respecting and protecting because they can be taken from us, whittled away in the name of the common good.

The Roddenbury dream is based on equality and repect for what makes us different as well as what we have in common. It will not come about by apathy and complacency but by boldy grasping the technological and social advances made possible by the affluent society built by our ancestors.

REMEMBER - the opinions voiced are my own and do not necessarily represent the USS Magellan or SFI


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