Simcoe Chapter Overview

About the Simcoe Chapter

With the establishment of the Simcoe Chapter in Toronto in 1967, Lambda Alpha expanded beyond the borders of the United States and became Lambda Alpha International. LAI now consists of 26 Chapters: 18 in the United States and 3 in Canada, plus Chapters in England, Spain, India, Japan, the United Arab Emirates and a growing collegiality worldwide.

The Simcoe Chapter celebrated its 50th Anniversary with a gala event on December 5, 2017. The event featured a keynote address by the Hon. Bob Rae (former Premier of the Province of Ontario) entitled “Planning for the Common Good – looking forward and looking back” and was attended by 140 members and guests.

In conjunction with its 50th anniversary, the Chapter hosted its first-ever student completion: “Toronto X2067”. The competition, which asked students to imagine the Toronto region 50 years into the future from the perspective of land economics, was open to undergraduate and graduate students in the areas of real estate development, land-use planning, engineering, architecture, public administration, business, law and related fields. The winning team from York University presented its vision at the 50th Anniversary Celebration and was awarded a cash prize of $2,000.

The Chapter was incorporated under the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act in 2016.

Who was John Graves Simcoe?

The Simcoe Chapter is named in honour of John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada (now the Province of Ontario) and founder of the City of Toronto.

Simcoe was born in England on February 25, 1752. Following his graduation from Eton College and Oxford, he entered the British army and was sent to Boston to fight in the American Revolution. A successful military commander, Simcoe achieved the rank of lieutenant-colonel before returning to Britain in 1781, having been wounded three times before being captured by American forces.

In 1791, Simcoe was appointed the first lieutenant-governor of the newly created Province of Upper Canada (now Ontario). The Upper Canada that Simcoe experienced when he first arrived here in 1792 was largely an uncleared wilderness populated by the First Nations and Loyalist settlers and Simcoe soon began to implement his plans to develop the province.

With Britain at war in Europe, Simcoe recognized the need to strengthen Upper Canada’s defences, establishing a provincial militia in 1793. He also recognized that the proximity of the provincial capital in Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake) to the American border left the government vulnerable to attack, leading to a decision to relocate the capital to present-day Toronto. The site, which Simcoe named York, was strategically located away from the border, midway between Niagara and Kingston. Simcoe quickly set about establishing a military presence in the new capital and ordered the construction of fortifications which would eventually grow into present-day Fort York.

Simcoe is responsible for building two of the main routes through Ontario. Construction of Yonge Street (named after the Minister of War, Sir George Yonge) began in 1793 along a north-south fur trade route between Lake Ontario and Lake Simcoe. Dundas Street (named for the Colonial Secretary Henry Dundas) was built east-west between Hamilton and York. Although these roads were intended to aid in the defence of Upper Canada, they would also help to encourage settlement and trade throughout the province.

In order to encourage immigration and settlement, Simcoe established a system to regulate the distribution of land and discourage speculation. He divided the province into 19 counties, with townships laid out in 200-acre lots separated by concession roads. A portion of the land in each township was reserved for the Crown, with another portion for the Protestant Clergy. The remainder was to be granted to settlers free of charge on the condition that the settlers would begin to build on their properties within one year.

Perhaps Simcoe’s most important achievement as lieutenant-governor was the limitation of slavery in the province.  Simcoe’s act to limit slavery, which was the first in the British Empire, would remain in effect until 1833 when the Emancipation Act abolished slavery in all British holdings, including Ontario.

Poor health forced Simcoe to return to Britain in July 1796, just four years after he arrived in Upper Canada. Simcoe would later serve briefly as governor of St. Domingo (now Haiti) and was appointed commander-in-chief of India in 1806, but died before he was able to assume that post.

Source: Ontario Heritage Trust

Photo Credit: Department of National Defence (The reproduction is not represented as an official version of the materials reproduced, nor as having been made, in affiliation with or with the endorsement of, the Department of National Defence).