Celebrating Corunna, almost Canada’s capital

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Corunna 200 Chair Tracy Kingston helps unveil a 200 block quilt during the rededication of the St. George Monument.

Blake Ellis/Local Journalism Initiative

Corunna looked to its past on May 23, or at least what could have been, as people converged on St. George’s Square.

A large crowd assembled on there Tuesday afternoon on the 200th anniversary of the survey of the area to rededicate the monument and unveil storyboards created by the heritage committee, which tell the history of the community.
Lord William Beresford and his survey party first set foot in the area which would become Corunna in 1823. The intention was for the community to become the future capital of the united colony of Upper and Lower Canada, now Ontario and Quebec.

Of course this didn’t happen. The original survey had a diagonal street grid, which resembled the Union Jack with the 10-acre St. George’s Square converging in the middle where the parliament buildings were to be located.
The idea of the community becoming a capital was rejected because of the close proximity to the United States and needing a more central location within the colony, closer to Quebec.

It took a long time after Corunna was actually settled.

The original 1823 survey was rejected in favour of one conducted in 1837, which lays out how Corunna was eventually developed.

But on Tuesday, the community marked what might have been with the rededication of the monument marking the survey.

The event began with a march into the square by a colour guard from the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 447.

Kevin McGlade, chaplain of the St. Clair Fire Department lead the rededication of the newly restored square. He said there are a number of ‘what ifs’ to consider if Corunna had been named Canada’s capital as originally planned. He reminded people not to “forget about the beauty of what Corunna actually is. I am honestly pretty happy it turned out the way it did,” he said. “Here is to another 200 years of not being Canada’s capital.”

Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey presented a certificate commemorating the 200th anniversary, giving his congratulations to the community. Lambton County Warden Kevin Marriott acknowledged not many people were aware Corunna was almost the capital of Canada.

St. Clair Township Mayor Jeff Agar added history defines the identity of a community and it is important to preserve it.

The event featured the voices of many school children including the Aamjiwnaang Junior and Senior Kindergarten. They sang O Canada in Ojibwa.

Aamjiwnaang Chief Chris Plain told those assembled the children singing today are the 10th generation of the Indigenous people who came across the survey party in 1823. Indigenous people have been welcoming and he gave well wishes to Corunna on behalf of the First Nation.

St. Joseph Catholic School students sing at the Corunna 200 celebration

Students from Sir John Moore Community School sang O Canada in French, as well as presented a quilt featuring 200 squares, each made by a student, which depicts a different aspect of Corunna and its history.

Students from the Colonel Cameron Public School presented a tree, which will be planted in the square, and a number of painted stone, which were placed at the base of the monument.

St. Joseph’s Catholic School also sang a couple of songs before ending the hour-long ceremony with a final rendition of O Canada in English.

Corunna 200 Committee Chair Tracy Kingston said a family street festival is being planned for Sept. 23 to again mark the occasion of Corunna being the almost capital.

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