Administrator’s Report (spring 2013)

by David O’Hara, Site Administrator

Battle of York Commemoration ceremony. Photo: Andrew StewartOn April 27th some 7000 people descended upon Fort York National Historic Site to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of York. With the weather cooperating fully, the day began at 6:15 am with a Sunrise Ceremony led by the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. Approximately 800 people then joined ‘Walking in Their Footsteps,’ a walking tour from the point of the American landing near the Palais Royal to Fort York. Meanwhile, His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was at Queen’s Park presenting a new Regimental Colour to the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment. This ceremony was followed by a military parade of more than 1500 sailors and soldiers of the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Army from Queen’s Park to Fort York. Following an afternoon Service of Remembrance at Fort York, a new plaque honouring the First Nations warriors who died in the Battle of York was unveiled. Visit http://www.toronto.ca/1812/events.htm for more information.

Broken Social Scene performing at Field Trip Music & Arts Festival. Photo: Lucia GracaOur annual Doors Open Toronto program brought approximately 2500 to the fort on May 25-26 and well over 10,000 attended  ‘Field Trip’ on June 8. Field Trip, a music and arts festival, was tremendously successful–a family-oriented, free for children event in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Toronto-based music label Arts & Crafts.

On the heels of Field Trip, we moved into the War of 1812 Festival weekend on June 15-16. Fort York staff worked closely with narrator and director Peter Twist and our core supporters from the Re- Enactment Regiments of the Crown Forces and U.S. Forces of North America to dramatize the events of 27 April 1813. This was the first time a re-enactment of that scale has taken place at Fort York in over a decade. Other components of this festival included a Sutlers’ Row marketplace, music from the Drums of the Crown Forces and Gin Lane, and performances by the York Regency Dancers and Anishinaube performers Morningstar River. Special thanks go to Peter Twist and to Kevin Hebib, Richard Haynes, and all staff and volunteers for pulling together such a unique event as we wind down our bicentennial events at Fort York.

The lineup of Aboriginal programming for the June 20-22 Indigenous Arts Festival included the Métis Fiddler Quartet, the launch of Donald B. Smith’s book Mississauga Portraits (University of Toronto Press), Ogitchada (Warrior) songs from Morningstar River, and the premiere of two stunning works: ‘The Road’ by Toronto’s Centre for Indigenous Theatre and ‘The Honouring’ by Kaha:wi Dance Theatre. On June 21 Fort York marked National Aboriginal Day with traditional stories, songs, dances, and a Sunset Ceremony and on June 22, out in New Credit near Hagersville, a new Community Centre was opened with an exhibit titled ‘Outcome of the War of 1812: First Nations Betrayed.’ This exhibit, along with much of our National Aboriginal Day programming is the result of the ongoing partnership between the City of Toronto’s Museum Services and the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation.
 
Foundation of the Fort York Visitor Centre takes shape. Photo: Andrew Stewart.Although a few weeks delayed due to weather, construction of the Visitor Centre is moving along with the foundation work largely complete. Actual building completion is still scheduled for May/June of 2014 with exhibit installation to follow. Parallel projects, including the rehabilitation of the Garrison Common and planning for the Fort York Pedestrian bridge, continue to move ahead. One of the next major components of the overall landscape master plan now being investigated is the future removal of the obsolete Garrison Road bridge. The plan is to demolish the bridge structure and to create a level route at the lower Garrison Common elevation. This will have a huge and positive impact on the overall site, providing a much stronger connection between the Armoury and Fleet Street portion of the national historic site and the actual Common, and allowing for improved access through the site in the area of the Visitor Centre.
 
With restoration work completed on the Brick Magazine, the exhibit ‘Finding the Fallen: The Battle of York Remembered’ has now been installed in the building. Those visiting the site recently might have noticed the new windows in the North Soldiers’ Barracks. These windows have been meticulously hand-crafted by Chris Laverton, Cultural Assets staff, from wood salvaged from the Queen’s Wharf after archaeological investigation at Bathurst and Fleet streets. The landscape design at the east end of the national historic site is also moving along. The last public meeting was held on May 15 and the response to the final conceptual design and approach was very positive. I encourage everyone to view the presentation material from the first public meeting http://ward20.ca/files/2013-03-05_CreekParkPresentation.pdf.

Indigenous Arts Festival at Fort York

Indigenous Arts Festival, Kaha:wi Dance Theatre. Photo by David Hou.The First Nations and Métis experience during the War of 1812 was artistically honoured and explored with dance, music, theatre and literary works at the free Indigenous Arts Festival at Fort York National Historic site June 20-22.

"This festival successfully showcased the diverse history and talent that exists within Toronto's and Canada's Aboriginal communities," said Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19 Trinity-Spadina), Co-chair of the City of Toronto's Aboriginal Affairs Committee.

The performances evoked the personal and collective indigenous experience in a space and place where some of that history occurred.

The festival presented three world premieres:
- The Honouring, an evocative multi-disciplinary work from award-winning choreographer Santee Smith's Kaha:wi Dance Theatre
- The Road, an original play from the Centre for Indigenous Theatre
- Corps de Voyageur - Soldiers in Capote, a play from an original script from Métis historian and filmmaker Virginia Barter with original music composed and performed by the Métis Fiddler Quartet.

Additional events included the Toronto launch of a new book "Mississauga Portraits, Ojibwe Voices' from Nineteenth-century Canada" by Donald B. Smith and multiple performances by renowned Toronto Anishinabe group, Morningstar River.

Fort York marked National Aboriginal Day on June 21 with expanded aboriginal programming that encompassed traditional stories, songs, dances and a stirring sunset ceremony by the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation.

All of the Indigenous Arts Festival @ Fort York events were part of the City's War of 1812 Bicentennial Commemoration program. Fort York is located at 250 Fort York Blvd. and is one of 10 historic museums operated by the City of Toronto.

More information is available at http://www.toronto.ca/fortyork, 416-392-6907, https://twitter.com/fortyork and https://www.facebook.com/fortyork.

This festival was presented by the City of Toronto with support from the Government of Canada, the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Province of Ontario and Tim Hortons.

Toronto is Canada's largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.8 million people. Toronto's government is dedicated to delivering customer service excellence, creating a transparent and accountable government, reducing the size and cost of government and building a transportation city. For information on non emergency City services and programs, Toronto residents, businesses and visitors can dial 311, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Shane Gerard, Communications Coordinator
City of Toronto

Battle of York spectacularly staged at Fort York's War of 1812 Festival

Large crowds gathered on Fort York's parade ground to enjoy the War of 1812 Festival, Fort York National Historic Site, 15-16 June 2013. Photo: Andrew Stewart.Fort York National Historic Site once again became a theatre of war this past weekend with muskets, marching and cannon fire at the free War of 1812 Festival.

More than 6,000 people witnessed Toronto's most traumatic and historic battle, restaged in three stirring sequences. Over 250 re-enactors, collectively called the Re-Enactment Regiments of the Crown Forces and U.S. Forces of North America, descended upon and camped out at Fort York throughout the weekend.

"A military battle re-enactment of this scale has not been mounted at Fort York for more than a decade," said Councillor Michael Thompson (Ward 37 Scarborough Centre), Chair of the City's War of 1812 Bicentennial Steering Committee. "This weekend was a special opportunity for visitors and for Torontonians to fully experience a pivotal time in Toronto's history."

Crown Forces opposing U.S. Forces in a reenactment of part of the Battle of York on Garrison Common, War of 1812 Festival at Fort York National Historic Site, 16 June 2013. Photo: Andrew Stewart.The battle scenes were created and narrated by historic re-creation director Peter Twist. Known in North America for his 1812-era battle re-enactments, Twist is also recognized for his battle choreography on some of the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

Throughout the weekend, Fort York also appeared as it was two centuries ago, with period music and dance by the Drums of the Crown Forces, the York Regency Dancers, Gin Lane and Anishinabe First Nations performers, Morningstar River.

At the Sutlers' Row marketplace, merchants peddled 1812-era reproduction items, including clothing and accessories. Visitors also toured the encampment, interacted with the re-enactors and watched demonstrations of trade and artisanal work while enjoying period food and food presentations in the Officers' Quarters and the outdoor fire pit.

A British flag-raising launched the festival on Saturday morning while on Sunday morning, the U.S. Stars and Stripes flew over Fort York, symbolically signalling the fall of the fort to the Americans.

"The revitalization of Fort York and the Garrison Common is creating a unique downtown space that can be enjoyed by its surrounding community and by all Toronto residents," said Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19 Trinity-Spadina).

The Fort York Foundation received a $100,000 gift from TD Bank Group in support of the revitalization of the western end of Fort York's Garrison Common. The Garrison Common hosted the weekend's battle re-enactments and will also host many large events this summer.

"U.S. and Crown Forces reenactment units at flag-lowering ceremony during the War of 1812 Festival, Fort York National Historic Site, 15-16 June 2013. Photo: Andrew Stewart.Fort York’s Garrison Common is not only a part of Toronto’s history, but it also continues to be significant space for residents and visitors to enjoy,” said Alan Convery, Senior Manager, Community Relations, TD Bank Group. “At TD we are committed to protecting urban green spaces and are thrilled to be part of the revitalization of this beautiful space in the heart of the city.”

The TD Bank Group funds will support the rehabilitation of the historic military burial ground and the surrounding ceremonial area, the installation of modern interpretive signage, maintenance of existing trees as well as the planting of new ones, and resurfacing of the central walkway.

The War of 1812 Festival was presented by the City of Toronto with support from the Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario, Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund, Tourism Toronto, the Department of National Defence, Pioneer Energy, the RBC Foundation, and AGF Management Ltd.

All of the War of 1812 Festival events are part of the City's War of 1812 Bicentennial Commemoration program. Fort York is located at 250 Fort York Blvd. and is one of 10 historic museums operated by the City of Toronto. The public can call 416-392-6907 or visit http://www.toronto.ca/fortyork for more information on the Fort's many events.

The public can also find, and interact with, Fort York at https://twitter.com/fortyork
and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/fortyork

Toronto is Canada's largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.8 million people. Toronto's government is dedicated to delivering customer service excellence, creating a transparent and accountable government, reducing the size and cost of government and building a transportation city. For information on non emergency City services and programs, Toronto residents, businesses and visitors can dial 311, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Shane Gerard, Communications Coordinator
City of Toronto

Canadians commemorate 200th anniversary of Battle of York

Monday, April 29, 2013
His Royal Highness Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh (HRH), presents new regimental colours to the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment. Photo: Sergeant Colin Kelley, Royal Canadian Air Force Toronto, Ontario — The City of Toronto and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) commemorated the 200th anniversary of the Battle of York in Toronto, Ontario, on April 27.

Events took place throughout the day that reminded Canadians of their history, including demonstrations by present-day CAF members, a march, and ceremonies to mark April 27, 1813.

The day’s festivities began with dynamic displays by the 3rd Battalion,The Royal Canadian Regiment (3 RCR), including an urban patrol, rappelling, and a parachute demonstration.

Afterwards, His Royal Highness Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh (HRH), who has been Colonel-in-Chief of The Royal Canadian Regiment since December 1953, presented them with a new Regimental Colour on the steps of the Ontario Legislature at Queen’s Park.

"The 3rd Battalion is incredibly proud to have received their new Regimental Colour from our Colonel-in-Chief. (...) Today was the culmination of many weeks of hard work, discipline and a relentless pursuit of excellence, which we hope resonates with those came to  watch the ceremony," said LCol David Quick, Commanding Officer of 3 RCR.

Royal Regiment of Canada band; part of the Canadian Forces' military parade to commemorate the City of Toronto's Battle of York bicentennial, 27 April 2013. Photo: Kathy Mills.Following the presentation of the Colour, a military parade began at Queen’s Park, ending at the Fort York National Historic Site, the birthplace of urban Toronto and the location where the Battle of York came to its violent climax in 1813. Over 1400 CAF members  participated in the parade, with marching bands, Regimental Colours and ceremonial uniforms giving Toronto a taste of the CAF’s rich heritage.

At the Fort York National Historic Site, modern forces joined re-enactment regiments for a commemorative ceremony for the Battle of York. Following this, a ceremony was held which celebrated the significant contributions of First Nations peoples.

"The day was an important way to link ourselves with our history," said LCol Phillip Halton, Commanding Officer of the Queen’s York Rangers. "We often think of war and conflict as happening somewhere else. But this happened here. And, when we look back, the things we are doing today are not that different from what our forebears did - it gives us a sense of continuity."

Re-enactors in regular uniforms and a militia dressed more casually present arms at Battle of York Day ceremonies at Fort York on 27 April 2013. Photo: Department of National DefenceThe Battle of York was the largest military conflict in Toronto’s history. Approximately 1700 U.S. soldiers advanced on York (Toronto), then the capital of Upper Canada.

U.S. land forces, commanded by BrigadierGeneral Zebulon Pike, and supported by Commodore Isaac Chauncy’s naval force, confronted the British Major-General Roger Hale Sheaffe. Under Sheaffe’s command were 300 British regulars, 500 soldiers from the 1st and 3rd regiments of York militia, and 50 Mississaugas and Chippewas First Nations allies.

Brigadier General Pike and thirty-nine U.S. soldiers were killed, and 222 were wounded. For the British, over 150 were killed or wounded, and 290 were captured.

"I think it is important to consider what our forebears - the people who fought 200 years ago - would think," said LCol Halton. "Would they be proud of us? I hope so. This is what I take from the 1812 commemorations and it drives me to work hard to maintain a high standard."

Even though the forces defending York were defeated, the battle is an important part of Canada’s past. The 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 gives Canadians an opportunity to take pride in our traditions and to commemorate our shared history.

Directorate of Army Public affairs, DND