Lady Eaton College principal, Dr. Michael Eamon was invited to provide his expertise at an important event, as the Ontario Heritage Trust commemorated the 200th Anniversary of the American invasion on Sunday, April 29, 2013 at the site of the first Parliament in downtown Toronto. Speeches to mark the event were given by lieutenant governor David Onley; the minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Michael Chan; and Ontario Heritage Trust chairman and founding Trent University president Tom Symons.
Two hundred years ago, an American invasion force launched an amphibious assault against York, the capital of Upper Canada. After a brief battle, the British forces defending the city and decided to ignite the town’s power magazine and sound the retreat. The angered American soldiers decided to loot, pillage and burn the town including the colony’s parliament buildings.
To an audience of over 150 guests, Dr. Eamon told of the trials and tribulations of the long winter of 1813. Encouraging everyone to be their own historian, he emphasized the importance of pursuing the question “why” when thinking about the past. “Whether a ninth-generation United Empire Loyalist or a first-generation Ontarian,” Eamon argued, “we all can ask why about the past and find meaningful answers.” The past is not too distant as “sadly, war, forced immigration, being a refugee, fear of attack, the pain and anger surrounding death… are things that we still experience collectively and many in our region have experienced personally.”
Dr. Eamon’s talk also touched upon life in the early capital, the tensions between British and Upper Canadian residents and the invaluable role that Indigenous peoples played in the War.
In his conclusion, Dr. Eamon, encouraged the audience to visit public libraries, museums and archives to explore for themselves some of the “whys” that exist in our past.