Cabot Street is named after John Cabot (1450-1500), an Italian explorer who landed in Newfoundland in 1497. John Cabot’s legacy on Canada is not one to forget as it opened the doors for England to enter the nation and begin colonizing the land. As Canada is a nation that is home to thousands of Indigenous peoples, England's effect on the nation is one that brought extreme devastation to the land and harm to the Indigenous people. Cabot Street is located within Ottawa’s Alta Vista neighborhood.
Chloe Cooley was an individual of remarkable courage. An enslaved woman who lived in Queenston, Upper Canada, Cooley was the first face of resistance in the nation in regard to the fight against slavery. Under the ownership of Adam Vrooman, Cooley worked as a domestic slave and was on her way to being sold across the border into America when screamed and fought against Vrooman and his associates who had tied her and beat her. Though she was unsuccessful in this fight, her voice changed the trajectory of the history of the nation as bystanders heard her screams and approached lieutenant governor John Graves Simcoe. After extensive discussions and disagreements within Parliament, Chloe Cooley’s act of resistance led to the first legislation putting restrictions on the act of slavery.
Columbus Avenue can be found in Ottawa’s Vanier area. This avenue is famously named after the Explorer of the ‘New World’ Christopher Columbus (1451-1506). Though Columbus has no ties to the nation of Canada, he is still considered the primary discoverer of North America. After being sent on an expedition by Spain’s King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Columbus arrived in the Americas on October 12, 1942. After investigating the land and seeing it fit to become his new place of residence, Columbus soon encountered the local people. Instead of seeing them as the rightful owners of the land, he believed that they would be great servants. This laid the foundations for one of the greatest injustices in humanity, the Transatlantic slave trade. To support the new livelihoods of the Europeans moving to the Americas, many Africans were enslaved and transported by ship. These slaves then were sold to different owners and they were forced to work on plantations ranging in the production of coffee, sugar, cotton, and so on and they also did domestic work.
The name Elgin rings familiar as many places within the Nation’s capital are named after it including a hotel and Elgin Street, located in Ottawa’s downtown. The name originally belongs to James Bruce the 8th Earl of Elgin and the 12th Earl of Kincardine. Lord Elgin was the Governor General Of Canada from 1847-1854. Before this, he was appointed governor of Jamaica in 1842. Jamaica had recently abolished slavery, and Bruce had come at a time when society was just adjusting to the new change. Much of his time in Jamaica was spent by putting forth many reforms and making changes to the political and economic system. Bruce was highly influential as his great charm convinced all people in his favour.
In Canada, four organized Black settlements were developed by individuals to assist in the freedom of black fugitives who had escaped from America. Acquired by Reverend William King, these settlements were located in Southwestern Ontario and one of them, known as the Elgin Settlement, was actually one of the last stops on the Underground Railroad. The name Elgin was taken from Lord Elgin and it was a reminder of his great progress in Jamaica. The settlement was 6 miles long and 3 miles wide.
Named after British Prime Minister William Gladstone (1809-1898), Gladstone Avenue is located in Ottawa’s Centretown. William Gladstone was born in England and served as the Prime Minister of the land for 4 separate periods. Though he was not an owner of slaves, his family was known as one of the greatest slave-owning families in the early 19th century. With over 2,000 slaves father John Gladstone had the largest estates which were located in Jamaica and Demerara, which is now a part of Guyana. This gave the family prominence and power in the West. In regard to his family's activities, Gladstone was in charge of the management of the slaves owned by his father. When talks about abolition arose in British Parliament, Prime Minister Gladstone expressed his disdain for it as it would affect his families profit. Instead, he advocated for an apprenticeship system in which slaves would be receiving payment for their work. This system was intended to become a transition phase for slaves as they transition from a slave to a worker, to then freed men and women. That being said, the apprenticeship system primarily benefited the slave owners rather than the slaves themselves as they were still not entirely in charge of managing their plantations. The enslavers also received compensation from the British government to aid in their slave labour losses. The Gladstone family received £100,000 once the slaves had been finally released.
With a street, provincial government building, museum and school named after this British senior cabinet minister, Ottawa contributes to the legacy of Henry Goulburn (1784-1856). Sir Henry Goulbourn was a highly prominent British politician and the absentee owner of a plantation in Jamaica. He had many estates in Jamaica and his most important one was his sugar estate, Amity Hall. As an absentee owner, he managed many of his estates via agents and associates who took over all of his commitment though he oversaw it all. Goulburn believed that slavery was simply a social institution, and what mattered most was the health of the slaves rather than the morality of their work. Unfortunately, his agents gained a reputation for being extremely cruel to those enslaved. Goulburn Avenue can be found in Ottawa’s Sandy Hill neighbourhood.
William Osgoode (1754-1824) was the first Chief Justice of Upper Canada/Ontario and Lower Canada. He had an extensive history within the Canadian legal system and was highly respected by many generations to come due to his views on slavery and abolition. He ruled, n 1803, that slavery was not compatible with British law and this then restricted the trade of enslaved people within the province. This opened the pathway toward the total abolition of slaves. Osgoode Street is found in Ottawa’s Downtown, near the University of Ottawa.
Plantation Drive is located in the West End of Ottawa. This street name comes as a surprise for many as it seems to have no connection or relevance to the history of Canada. As the term itself is highly connected to the Transatlantic slave trade, plantations in general are not found and were not in use within Canada. Though slavery was a common practice within the late 18th century, plantations were not largely in use in the nation.
Russell Road is located in Eastern Ottawa and is named after Peter Russell (1733-1808), an Irish-born man who resided in Upper Canada. Russell was a strong advocate for slavery and had an entire family enslaved in his occupancy. This family consisted of father Pompadou, his wife Peggy and their three children Amy, Jupiter & Milly. However, he was the only legal owner of Peggy and the four children as Pompadour was a freedman. He did not treat these individuals humanely and it was noted in an advertisement he had posted attempted to sell certain members of the family in which he states that detailing that their skills were sub-par and that they exist to be ‘servants for life’. Russell is primarily known for fighting against John Graves Simcoe’s anti-slavery legislation as this would free the slaves that were in his possession. Though after time the legislation passed, Russell was still successful in keeping these slaves legally due to a clause that allowed it.
Originally a British Army General, John Graves Simcoe (1752-1806) was especially important to the nation's history as the governor of Upper Canada who proposed and established the first legislation restricting the trade of those enslaved people as well as their importation into the United States. After becoming aware of the Chloe Cooley incident, Simcoe began to lobby against slavery. Many within the legislature opposed him as they had enslaved people and benefitted from it, yet Simcoe persevered. The result of this incident was the Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada, and it received Royal Assent on July 9, 1793. Though no one was freed from this Act, it showed that the nation was beginning to embrace a new culture. There is a street named after him located in Ottawa’s downtown called Simcoe Street. Still to be done Archer Street, or John A MacDonald.
George Vancouver (1757-1798) led one of the greatest expeditions exploring North America’s northwestern regions. His 1791-1795 expedition explored the coasts of Canada’s British Columbia and the costs of Washington, Alaska, and Oregon of the United States. Originally a British Royal Navy Officer, Vancouver held great significance in Canada as Vancouver, BC is named after him. Vancouver Avenue located in Ottawa’s South is also named after him.