Today is Victoria Day

Canada is the only country that commemorates Queen Victoria with an official holiday. The holiday has been observed in Canada since at least 1845, originally falling on the sovereign’s actual birthday, however today it is celebrated on the last Monday before May 25, in honour of Queen Victoria’s birthday.

Queen Victoria (24 May 1819- 22 January 1901) was an ardent imperialist and took an intense interest in her colonial subjects during her reign.

On New Year’s Eve 1857, Queen Victoria as a symbolic and political gesture was presented with the responsibility of selecting a location for the permanent capital of the Province of Canada.

The ‘Queen’s choice’ turned out to be the small frontier town of Ottawa for two main reasons: Firstly, Ottawa’s isolated location in a back country surrounded by dense forest far from the American border and situated on a cliff face would make it more defensible from attack. Secondly, Ottawa was located approximately midway between Toronto and Kingston in (Canada West) and Montreal and Quebec City in (Canada East).

No individual has been more honoured than Queen Victoria in the names of Canada’s public buildings, streets, populated places and physical features.

Victoria College in Toronto, Royal Victoria Hospital in Montréal, Victoria General Hospital in both Halifax and Winnipeg are among the notable public institutions named for her.

Among Canada’s 280 postal divisions, more than half have at least one thoroughfare identified by the name Victoria, most named to honour her.

In 1831 John ROSS, while searching for the Northwest Passage, entered a small bay on the E side of Boothia Pen and named it Victoria Harbour for the young princess. Subsequently, she formally granted him permission to use her name for this remote and minor water feature in Canada’s Arctic.

From then on, explorers, mapmakers and administrators assigned the name Victoria to a multitude of geographical features all over the Canadian map, where her name appears more than 300 times.

On the occasions of the golden (1887) and diamond (1897) anniversaries of her reign many features were named for her. And long after her death, Queen Peak in northern BC was named for her in 1933 because of its association with nearby Victoria Peak and Consort Park.

The best-known place named for the British monarch is the city at the tip of Vancouver Island.

In 1843, the Hudson’s Bay Company resolved to name the new fort overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca for the beloved queen, but Fort Albert was locally assigned to it. Subsequently, a terse message from London compelled the use of Fort Victoria. The townsite of VICTORIA was established in 1851-52, and in 1868 the growing city became the capital of the colony of British Columbia.

Alberta also had a Victoria northeast of Edmonton, where George MCDOUGALL had established a mission in 1862, and the Hudson’s Bay Co had set up a post in 1864. In 1887, to avoid confusion with other Victorias, the name of this small community was changed to Pakan, the nickname of a Cree chief.

The village of Empress, NE of Medicine Hat, was named in 1913 in commemoration of the queen’s imperial title received from Parliament in 1876 when Disraeli was prime minister. The marquess of Lorne and his wife, Princess Louise (the queen’s daughter), wanted to give the name Victoria to the capital of the North-West Territories in 1882, but wisely chose the other half of her Latin title, Regina. In 1905 Regina became the capital of the new province of Saskatchewan.

Manitoba has a rural municipality and a lake named Victoria, and another municipality called Victoria Beach.

Ontario has at least 47 distinct features with her name: one county, one township, 14 populated places and 31 physical features. In fact, one does not travel far in Ontario before encountering Victoria Corners, Victoria Square, Victoria Harbour, Victoria Springs, Victoria Lake or just plain Victoria. Evidence of Victoria is less apparent in Québec, although the second-largest place in Canada with her name is in that province. Victoriaville, a town of more than 21 500 people, was named for the queen in 1861. There are as well 7 physical features in Québec with the name Victoria, including Grand lac Victoria at the head of the Ottawa R, S of Val-d’Or.

The Atlantic provinces have 29 places and features with the name Victoria. Among these are a county in each of NB and NS. Victoria is an attractive seaside village in PEI, where there are also places called Victoria Cross and Victoria West. Newfoundland has a Victoria, a town of nearly 2000; it lies on the west side of Conception Bay about 50 km NW of St John’s.

Canada’s northern territories have 22 features with the name Victoria. Among them are Victoria Island, Canada’s second-largest island (after Baffin) in the Arctic Archipelago, and Victoria and Albert Mountains on Ellesmere Island.

Complied by Thomas Joseph Simpson

Read about Thomas Joseph Simpson

Queen Victoria

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