National Newswatch
National Opinion Centre
Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau was in Australia around this date in 1970, holding talks with leaders from our Commonwealth from partners Down Under. Along with official discussions with his Auzzie counterparts, Canada’s 15th Prime Minister highlighted an often forgotten chapter in pre-Confederation Canadian history during his stay. He unveiled a plaque and monument on the shores of Canada Bay. The monument honoured those rebels from the 1837-1838 rebellions in Upper and Lower Canada who were exiled to far-off Australia after the British successfully put down these armed uprisings in the British North American colonies. Those participating in the revolts were fighting to achieve responsible government. Many of the exiles were from Lower Canada — where the rebellion had been bloodier than in Upper Canada — and were French Canadians. They arrived in the Australian colonies of Britain in 1840 and most were pardoned by the British after three or four years and returned to what is now Canada.

Today, in an era where very little of Canada’s rich political history is studied, particularly pre-Confederation politics, it might surprise many to learn that these exiled Canadians are credited with helping to inspire Australians in their own efforts to achieve responsible government and eventual independence. And the monument to them still stands. All these decades later let’s celebrate today the lives and legacies of these mostly forgotten Canadian heroes.

Plaque text

Near this spot in Longbottom Stockade fifty-eight French-speaking Canadian prisonoers from the uprising of 1837 – 38 in Lower Canada were incarcerated from March 11, 1840 to November 1842 before being released on Ticket-of-Leave and eventually pardoned to return to Canada. Their sojourn in the Parramatta River area is recalled by the names of Exile Bay, France Bay and Canada Bay.

Ninety-two English-speaking prisones captured in Upper Canada in 1838 were similarly exiled in Van Diemen`s Land.

Measures taken as a result of the uprisings in Lower and Upper Canada represented significant steps in the evolution of responsible government of parliamentary democracy on Canada and Australia.

This plaque was unveiled on May 16, 1970 by the Right Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, to mark the 130th anniversary of the landing of the Canadian exiles in Australia and to commemorate the sacrifices made by many Canadians and Australians in the evolution of self-governing, equal and free nations within the Commonwealth of Nations.

Arthur Milnes is an accomplished public historian and award-winning journalist.  He was research assistant on The Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney’s best-selling Memoirs and also served as a speechwriter to then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper and as a Fellow of the Queen’s Centre for the Study of Democracy under the leadership of Tom Axworthy.  A resident of Kingston, Ontario, Milnes serves as the in-house historian at the 175 year-old Frontenac Club Hotel.
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