Government of Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Government of Canada

australia.gc.ca

Breadcrumb

  1. Home
  2. >
  3. Bilateral Relations
  4. >
  5. Historical Relations

Canada and Australia, Shared History

Canadian exiles monument, Hobart
Canadian exiles monument, Hobart

Canada and Australia, Shared History

Though a world apart, Canada and Australia have much in common. As countries they share not only an important heritage through the British connection, but also strong historical links including the many personalities and events that have shaped them.

One of the oldest connections is Captain James Cook, whose navigational experience in the Gulf of St Lawrence on Canada’s east coast led not only to his survey of Australia’s east coast, in 1770, but also the Pacific Coast of Canada in 1778.

Transportation of Canadian Convicts 1840

One of the most interesting historical links that led ultimately to the establishment of responsible government in both countries was the ill-fated Rebellions of 1837-1838 and the transportation of two groups of Canadian convicts.

The rebels, one group from Upper Canada (English speaking) and the others from Lower Canada (French speaking) agitated for representative government against the domination of the unelected British Legislative Councils. Both rebellions were quashed and many of the participants transported to Australia as convicts. Ninety-two followers of William Lyon Mackenzie, in Upper Canada, were sent to the harsh penal colony in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania).

Today, two monuments in Hobart commemorate the landing of the Canadian exiles in Van Diemen’s Land.

The first monument was unveiled in 1970, and the text on it reads:

Canadian Exiles of 1840

Near this spot in Sandy Bay ninety-two English speaking exiles from the uprising of 1837-1838 in Upper Canada were incarcerated in 1840 before being removed to labour on the Hobart to Launceston Road. Subsequently they were released on ticket-of-leave and eventually pardoned to return to Canada.

Fifty-eight French speaking prisoners from the uprising in Lower Canada were similarly exiled to the Parramatta River area of New South Wales.

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

This plaque was unveiled on September 30, 1970, by The Honourable Douglas Harkness, P.C., M.P., former Minister of National Defence of Canada, to mark the 130th anniversary of the landing of the Canadian exiles in Van Diemen’s Land 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.

The second monument, which was unveiled in 1995, was designed by Bob Jennings of the University of Tasmania Centre for the Arts.

The text on the monument in Prince’s Park, Battery Point, reads:

This monument honours the memory of 92 exiles transported from Canada to Van Diemen’s Land in 1840. Their struggle was a significant factor in the evolution of responsible government in Canada and Australia.

Unveiled by Canadian High Commissioner Brian Schumacher on the 12th of December 1995 during the Centenary of official Canada-Australia trade relations.

At the same time, 58 followers of the rebel leader, Louis-Joseph Papineau, from French-speaking Lower Canada, were sentenced to transportation to Longbottom on the Parramatta River in Sydney. In 1970, the Right Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, unveiled a monument in Cabarita Park commemorating the landing of the Canadian exiles in Australia.

The text on the Cabarita Park monument reads:

Canadian Exiles of 1840

Near this spot in Longbottom stockade fifty-eight French-speaking Canadian prisoners from the uprising of 1837-1838 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 prisoners 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 and parliamentary democracy in Canada and Australia.

This plaque was unveiled on May 19, 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-government, equal and free nations within the Commonwealth of Nations.

Another small monument is located in the grounds of the Victoria Barracks in Sydney. It was dedicated during Australia’s Bicentenary in 1988, and acknowledges the Patriotes’ association with the construction of the barracks in 1840.

The plaque reads:

In memory of the Canadian Patriotes exiled in New South Wales from 1840-1844, a number of whom assisted in the construction of Victoria Barracks.

Unveiled by The Honourable Don Mazankowski, Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, July 6, 1988.

Canadian exiles monument, Sydney
Canadian exiles monument, Sydney

The 1837-1838 Rebellions led the British Government of the day ultimately to adopt remedial measures leading to the evolution of responsible government and parliamentary democracy in Canada. These principles were incorporated in both countries’ constitutions, leading to the establishment of Canada’s Confederation in 1867, and Australia’s Federation in 1901.

A record of this remarkable colonial exploit was written by François-Maurice Lepailleur, whose diary of the events, published as Land of a Thousand Sorrows, is held in the collection of the National Library of Australia.

The Eureka Rebellion 1854

The Eureka rebellion followed years of discontent on the Victorian goldfields and has come to be regarded as a “milestone in Australian democracy”. The Eureka flag, also known as the Southern Cross, is closely associated with this struggle for democracy. It is generally thought that a Canadian digger from Ontario, Captain Ross, designed the f lag and commissioned miners’ wives to sew it. Along with other Canadians, Ross came to Ballarat seeking gold and adventure in the early 1850s. Although the uprising was put down quickly – the known death toll was five soldiers and 22 miners – important social changes and political improvements arose out of the events at Eureka that inf luenced the course of Australia’s political history.

Another noteworthy Canadian was the 20-year-old artist from Quebec, Charles Doudiet, who helped carry the fatally injured Ross from the battlefield to a nearby hotel. His Australian Sketchbook contains watercolours and annotations that are among the most significant documents on Eureka. Doudiet was the only eyewitness observer on hand to record these historic events. Fifteen of his sketches, including Swearing Allegiance to the Southern Cross, are now on display with the f lag in the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery.

This historic connection to Canada is ref lected in the name given to the Ballarat suburb of Canadian.

Chaffey Brothers Pioneer First Irrigation Colony in Australia 1887

In 1887, two Canadian brothers, George and William Benjamin (W.B.) Chaffey who were born in Brockville, Ontario, signed an agreement with the Victorian Government that would establish the first great Australian irrigation colony in the Murray Valley. The Chaffey Agreement founded the irrigation settlement at Mildura and later was extended to include irrigation colonies at Renmark in South Australia.

The Chaffey brothers established their reputations as successful irrigation engineers in California in 1871 where they launched model colonizing schemes. Their efforts were recognized by Alfred Deakin, a Victorian state parliamentarian and later Prime Minister of Australia, who was impressed by their ability to irrigate once arid regions of the country and convinced them to come to Australia.

A prominent statue honouring W.B. Chaffey and his brother George was erected on Deakin Avenue, Mildura, with the inscription, “He laboured for the common good”.

Chaffey statue, Mildura
Chaffey statue, Mildura

Canada and Australia Relations Begin with Trade 1895

In January 1895 when John Short Larke disembarked from the Warimoo at Sydney Harbour to take up his assignment in Australia, he became the first emissary appointed by the Government of Canada to any country in the world.

Larke’s instructions included: “to collect information both on the general trading requirements in Australia and specific trade opportunities” and “to promote trade between Canada and Australia in every possible way”.

His efforts stimulated trade in a wide range of goods including textiles, carriage wheels and cereals. Canadian exports increased ten-fold during his time. Larke continued to promote Canadian trade in Sydney until just before he died in 1910. His descendants are still doing business in Australia.

He also played a significant role in the establishment of the Pacific cable which helped bridge the vast ocean between Canada and Australia. Larke is recognised for his efforts in improving shipping services between the two countries.

Diplomatic Relations Established 1939

Although the first known Canadian arrived in Australia from Montreal in 1790, official relations were not established until the advent of World War II.

In September 1939, with the outbreak of war in Europe, Canada and Australia agreed to establish full diplomatic relations and despatched envoys to each other’s countries.

Canada was the first country apart from the United Kingdom to establish a diplomatic mission in Canberra during World War II. Its first envoy, Charles J. Burchell, arrived in May 1941 after having had a difficult time travelling to Australia during the war.

In June 1940, the mission established its first offices in Casey House, State Circle, which was a former residence of the Honourable Richard Casey, Australian Treasurer and later Minister for External Affairs, before he became Lord Casey and Governor-General of Australia.

High Commissioner’s Official Residence 1950

The Official Residence located at 32 Mugga Way, Red Hill, was built in 1929. It was purchased by the Government of Canada in 1950 as a residence for the Canadian High Commissioner.

The residence has historic significance and is listed within the Red Hill Conservation Area in the Register of the National Estate.

The Red Hill Conservation Area is one of the most important areas of early housing in Canberra. It was planned by Sir John Sulman in 1924 within the road layout in Walter Burley Griffin’s Official Plan of Canberra.

The area consists of large private gardens and majestic tree-lined streets that combine to form a harmonious and beautiful residential area reflecting the inf luence of the Garden City movement.

For more than half a century, the residence has been an historic and gracious setting for bringing together Canadians and Australians. From prime ministers to poets, the Mugga Way residence, surrounded by its majestic Australian gum trees, has welcomed all who gathered there to promote better understanding between the two countries.

Official Residence, Canberra
Official Residence, Canberra

Opening of the Chancery of the Canadian High Commission 1964

The new Chancery of the Canadian High Commission on Commonwealth Avenue was officially opened on January 30, 1964 by the Prime Minister of Australia, the Right Honourable Sir Robert Menzies.

The building, with its simple, classic lines, was designed by Mathers and Haldenby, a well known firm of Canadian architects. The roof is sheathed in copper and the eaves, designed to give a wide overhang, are made of Canadian red cedar. Canadian timbers were used extensively throughout the building, including birch, rock maple and pine.

A plaque in the foyer of the Chancery reads:

To Commemorate the Official Opening of the Chancery of the Canadian High Commission by the Right Honourable Sir Robert Menzies, KT, CH, QC, MP Prime Minister of Australia Canberra, January 30, 1964

During 1994, the Chancery was extended from its original building design to include a second wing at the rear of the building. The new extension was officially opened by the Honourable Raymond Chan, Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific), on August 4, 1994.

Canadian High Commission, Canberra
Canadian High Commission, Canberra

Footer

Date Modified:
2010-10-06