As we commemorate Parkdale’s 138th birthday I include First Nations contributions to our joint history.
1. Our first participatory democracy: everyone has a vote on every decision.
2. Achieving responsible government: elected representatives make decisions for us.
3. Parkdale had democracy without universal suffrage: only male land owners voted.
(Views are those of the author.)
1 a The people living around lake Ontario believed that Mother earth was a living thing that no person could own any part of. They shared the land and lived communally, using participatory and representative democracy. The women managed families and towns while the men managed relations with other nations, hunting and war. Jikohnsseh, shown in white, is leading a meeting. There had been ongoing feuds between nations for too long. Peace was wanted.
1 b The Great Peace. Around 1450 a Wendat man, shown here, from Ontario, travelled south from around Kingston into the land of five feuding Iroquois nations. He gained the support of woman, Jikohnsseh and a well spoken man, Hiawatha (not actual name) and together they travelled about until all agreed to “The Great Peace”. It has lasted to the present. For a time it included the Wendat and other Iroquoian speaking nations in Ontario.
1 c In order to hold their five nations together the Haudenosaunee adopted the same process between nations that the women used among clans. It involved participatory and representative democracy and a ritualistic process comparable to our parliamentary process. Initially this democratic model resulted in peace among all the Wendat and Haudenosaunee nations. Among the Haudenosaunee it was permanent. After the Revolution Americans consulted with the Haudenosaunee, when planning their own democratic system. https://ratical.org/many_worlds/6Nations/
1.d Haudenosaunee women had strong powers and rights. Unfortunately shortly after Canadian Confederation we made their rights and governments illegal. I understand that this traditional native government survives. It is the Oldest surviving participatory democracy in the world. The Haudenosaunee built it. https://ratical.org/many_worlds/6Nations/
3 a John Henry Dunn, apparently through aristocratic family ties, became Canada’s first Receiver General. He was appointed for life but still he became a reformer. Although he was an elected representatives he had no power, he could only recommend. Dunn wanted “Responsible Government” where elected politicians could make final decisions. It cost him dearly but he helped advance our democracy. He and his heirs came to own most of the land in South Parkdale, but never lived here. Per Wikipedia. John Dunn's son Alex won the Victoria cross for his role in the charge of the light brigade. Alex's widow names Dunn Avenue.
3 b William Lyon Mackenzie was a newspaper man who also wanted Responsible Government. He was a reformer. Like Dunn, despite being elected to the Legislative Assembly, his decisions were frequently overturned by the “Family Compact”, a small group who ran Upper Canada. He became Toronto’s first mayor. He lead a rebellion, but he ”felt that given an armed demonstration, the Tories would be overwhelmed and there would be no need to actually use violence.” Per Wikipedia. When the army arrived and opened fire with artillery the rebels disbanded. Mackenzie was reelected while avoiding arrest in the USA. However the powers in Britain, fearing more trouble implemented responsible government the next year. ”In 1848, the Province of Canada (which had been formed out of Upper and Lower Canada in 1841 upon the recommendation of Lord Durham) received responsible government, with Lord Elgin being the first Governor General of the Province of Canada to accept the Legislative Assembly's advice as to whom to appoint to the Executive Council and hence the cabinet, instead of appointing the cabinet himself.” Per Wikipedia.
4 a See the ‘Union Hall’ in the lower left corner. The inaugural meeting of the Village of Parkdale was held in the new Union Hall, a large wooden building run by Robert Moor on the south side of Queen Street just west of Dufferin. Parkdale In Pictures, ‘PIP’ page 49. It burned in May 1880.
4 b After this first meeting, the Village Council met regularly in rented space in the Society Hall, a frame building on the south side of Queen Street three lots east of Cowan Avenue. PIP page 49. By Spring 1881 Society Hall had been rebuilt on the same site in brick to the above plan. City Services rented the ground floor until 1888. After Parkdale vacated the building it become McMillian and Storage until the 1960s. A local resident, Steve, described to me, that after finishing a beer at the Parkdale Hotel about 1963 he found McMillian burning. The Storage company relocated to 1291 Queen St W. The Parkdale Library was built in place of the burned building.
4 d In March 1888 Parkdale moved into it's own City Hall at the S-W corner of Cowan and Queen. J. Ades Fowler, who had also designed Brockton's town hall and several other buildings in Parkdale, was the principal designer. The building was very beautiful but future economies would demand more careful spending. After annexation, the City of Toronto took over Parkdale's town and fire hall, converting it into Police Station No.6. It was demolished in 1931 to make way for a more modem police station that unfortunately lacked parking. It now is used by the BIA and artists.
4 e In 1888 Parkdale built a grand Public School, Queen Victoria, on Close Ave s of King. It served until the 1960s. It was replaced with a much more efficient building.
4 f In 1889 Parkdale built a grand High School on Jameson just south of Queen St W. It was Demolished in 1928 and rebuilt in 1929.
4 h In 1889 Parkdale voted to become part of Toronto. Most residents did not have a vote and were not happy with the outcome. Only male property owners could vote and most of them lived in Toronto per PIP. It was about investment, not community. That would change in the decades to come. The above satirical drawing mocks a demonstration that never occurred.
Your feedback is appreciated. Please comment below.