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Canadian connections

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The historical link between Saint-Cyprien-de-Napierville, Quebec and the City of Canada Bay was marked last week by an exchange of letters as an expression of friendship. Appropriately the ceremony took place at the Canadian Exiles memorial at Bayview Park, close to where the exiles were set ashore in 1840.

The events of 1837-1838 which led to the French Canadian Patriotes being exiled to Australia, where they were incarcerated at Longbottom Stockade, Concord have left their mark on our area. The names Marceau Drive, Chateauguay Walk, Exile Bay, French Bay and our namesake, Canada Bay are a reminder of their story.

While most of the Canadian Exiles returned to their families and friends in Canada in 1842, Joseph Marceau who came from Saint-Cyprien-de-Napierville chose to stay and make a new home for himself in Australia.

The photograph shows Pierre Marcoux from Quebec, who is working on a documentary on the Canadian Exiles, with City of Canada Bay Mayor, Helen McCaffrey (for more images, see flickr).

Maison Lepailleur

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Pierre Marcoux in Canada has kindly sent a photograph of Fran├žois-Maurice Lepailleur’s family home in Chateauguay near Montreal, Quebec to Canada Bay Connections.

Lepailleur was a bailiff at Chateauguay and a leader in the Canadian Rebellion of 1838. Originally he was condemned to death by a court martial but his sentence was commuted to transportation to Australia. Together with 57 other French Canadian prisoners he arrived in New South Wales in March 1840. They were imprisoned at Longbottom Stockade, near present-day Concord Oval until being granted pardons in 1844.

Lepailleur kept a journal from the time he learnt of his exile until he was reunited with his family some five years later. His journal, published with the evocative title Land of a thousand sorrows (1980), provides an insight into the convict system and Sydney in the early 1840s.

Chateauguay Walk at Cape Cabarita is one of many local place names which reflect Canada Bay’s links with the story of the Canadian Exiles.

Canadian Exiles anniversary

Monument unveiling (Small)

This month marks the 175th anniversary of the arrival of the Canadian Exiles in Australia.

In 1837 and 1838 there were revolts in Lower Canada (now Quebec) by French Canadian Patriotes who held a number of grievances against British government rule. The uprising was severely crushed with some rebels being executed while others were sentenced to transportation. In 1840 the ship Buffalo transported 91 English speaking rebels to Port Arthur in Tasmania and another 58 French speaking Canadians to New South Wales, who arrived at Port Jackson on 25 February 1840. Originally the French Canadians were destined for Norfolk Island but the intervention of the Roman Catholic Bishop, Dr John Bede Polding resulted in the more humane option of the convicts working in Sydney, although conditions were still harsh. On 11 March 1840 the French Canadians were transferred to Longbottom Stockade, a convict depot near the present site of Concord Oval.

Their presence along the Parramatta River is recalled by the names Exile Bay, France Bay and, our city’s namesake, Canada Bay. A memorial to the Canadian Exiles was unveiled by Pierre Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, in Cabarita Park in 1970. The photograph shows some of the descendants of Joseph Marceau who was the only one of the exiles to remain in Australia when pardons were granted to the convicts in 1843-1844.

The memorial is now located in Bayview Park, Concord, close to where the French Canadians stepped ashore in 1840. Local Studies holds a range of reference material relating to the Canadian Exiles.