Built in 1793 to protect the newly-founded Town of York, Fort York National Historic Site is the birthplace of urban Toronto. It is best known as the location where the Battle of York came to its violent climax in April 1813 during the War of 1812. The Fort served as the city’s primary harbour defence between the 1790s and the 1880s. It was the home of a military garrison until the early 1930s when the site was transformed into a municipal museum.
Today, the Fort’s defensive walls enclose Canada’s largest collection of original War of 1812 buildings. A visitor centre opened in 2014 outside the walls to provide orientation to the full 43-acre National Historic Site and to supply exhibition spaces capable of displaying extraordinary objects like Magna Carta.
John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, established Fort York. The links between Simcoe and the Fort make it a fitting place to explore Magna Carta’s legacy. Simcoe not only set up the Province’s democratic institutions, but championed a law passed in 1793 to prevent the further introduction of slaves into Upper Canada and allow for the gradual abolition of slavery – an act without precedent in the British Empire.