15,000 attend Battle of Queenston Heights commemoration
Queenston Heights came alive over the weekend as more than 15,000 people turned out to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the defining battle on that site.
In the lead up to the weekend commemoration, Parks Canada’s national historic sites of Niagara manager Jarred Picher promised it would be a weekend to remember; those in attendance would probably agree. More than 1,000 volunteers showed up on the battlefield — now a Niagara Parks Commission-maintained park — to participate in the hour-long re-enactment of battle. Spectators looked on as Major General Sir Isaac Brock marched into battle, only to fall from a fatal musket shot that took the life of the ‘hero of Upper Canada’. American and British forces, as well as militia and Native allies were well represented on the battle field battling it out while a narrator explained the “four act” reenactment to the crowd.
Despite the chill in the air and a threat of rain that saw intermittent sprinklings, the Niagara Parks Commission estimated more than 15,000 turned out for the event — a larger crowd than the 12,000 at the dedication of Brock’s monument said Rob Nicholson, Canada’s Attorney General and Niagara Falls MP.
“We are a people who appreciate our history, we love our country and we love what it’s all about,” Nicholson said from the base of the monument during a ceremony following the battle reenactment on Saturday.
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Commemoration events kicked off on Friday with an education day organized by the Friends of Fort George and Parks Canada at Queenston Heights National Historic Site. Saturday’s events a designation ceremony at Brock’s Monument by the Historic Sites and Monuments board of Canada at 11 a.m., leading up to the 3 p.m. battle re-enactment. The commemorative ceremony at the base of Brock’s monument was held at 4:30 p.m. In addition to Nicholson, other speakers included Niagara Falls MPP Kim Craitor, Niagara Parks Commission Chair Janice Thomson, Parks Canada CEO Alan Latourelle, Ontario’s minister of culture, sport and tourism Michael Chan, and Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor David C. Onley. Niagara-based historian Wilma Morrison spoke about the contribution of black soldiers in the War of 1812, bringing particular attention to the efforts of Richard Pierport. a member of the Coloured Corps of Upper Canada.
Rick Hill, chairperson of the Six Nations Legacy Consortium, along with Keith Jamieson used the ceremony as an opportunity to not only reflect on the Native allies contribution to the battle and what it meant for their people, but as an occasion to make special presentations. Hill displayed two wampum belts that wer given to the Native allies as a “pledge to respect their culture and government.” Hill said they were used to record alliances between First Nations and settlers during the colonial period.
Jamieson took the opportunity to present Lt.-Gov. David C. Onley with a special commemoration bronze medallion that featured artwork by Hill.
A special fireworks display lit up the sky around Brock’s Monument on Saturday night, capping off the evening. Things continued on Sunday with the funeral procession and commemorative service honouring Brock and his aide-de-camp John Macdonell. The procession saw hundreds of people lining Queen Street as the caskets of Brock and Macdonnell were loaded onto horse-drawn wagons and accompanied through town, with a stop at St. Mark’s Anglican Church before the procession ended at the bastion at Fort George with a Drumhead service. Cannons were fired from oth Fort George and Fort Niagara to mark the service and commemorate peace and friendship between the two nations.
Ontario’s Tourism minister said the entire weekend spoke to the enduring friendship between Canada and America.
“That 200 years later we stand together to honour those who fought for us, it makes me proud that over the next few years the program will continue,” said Chan.
The weekend was the result of collaborations between the Niagara Parks Commission, Parks Canada, the Friends of Fort George, the Niagara-on-the-Lake War of 1812 Committee and the Queenston Residents Association.