Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
January 2007

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Orange Association of British North America


[This text was written in 1948. For the precise bibliographical information, see the end of the document. The parts between brackets […] were added by Claude Bélanger]

The Orange Society, as it exists to-day, was founded in Ireland in 1795; though the first Orange societies or clubs existed in Great Britain as early as 1686, and had as their object the selection of William of Orange as king of Great Britain and Ireland—whence the name. Orangeism appears to have been introduced into Canada about 1820; but it was not until 1830 that a Grand Lodge for British North America was formed at Brockville, Upper Canada under the presidency of Ogle Robert Gowan, who was in 1832 appointed “deputy grand master of all the provinces of British North America."

The Orange Association is technically a secret society; but its only secrets are its annual passwords and the signs by which members recognize one another. Its constitution and objects are public property. In its constitution, it is declared to have been formed "by persons desirous of supporting, to the utmost of their power, the principles and practices of the Christian religion, to maintain the laws and constitution of the country, afford assistance to distressed members of the Association, and otherwise promote such laudable and benevolent purposes as may tend to the due ordering of religion and Christian charity, and the supremacy of law, order, and constitutional freedom." In the words of a former grand master, the Association "lays no claim to exclusive loyalty, or exclusive Protestantism; but it admits no man within its pale whose principles are not loyal, and whose creed is not Protestant."

Since the Association was founded in Canada, it has spread to all the provinces of the Dominion of Canada; and there are now Provincial Grand Lodges in every province, with primary, district, and county lodges under them, as well as kindred or subsidiary orders, such as the Orange Young Britons, Loyal True Blues, and the Ladies' Orange Benevo­lent Association.

One of the rules of the Association has always been that on July 12, the members shall meet and parade to celebrate the victory won at Boyne by William, Prince of Orange, over the forces of James II. These demonstrations have on various occasions been accom­panied by disorder; but recently they have been more peaceful, as the objects of the Association have been better understood. In Canada, the Association has been frequently accused of being subservient to the Conservative party; but on occasion they have proved their independence of that party, as, forinstance, in the controversy over the Manitoba school question in 1896. On the other hand, when the Association sought incorporation by Act of the Dominion parliament, the incorporation bill was opposed by the Liberals in parliament, and was defeated.

Among the grand masters of the Association have been some of the out-standing men in Canadian public life—such as the Hon. John Hillyard Cameron, Sir Mackenzie Bowell, the Hon. N. Clarke Wallace, the Hon. T. S. Sproule, and the Hon. J. W. Edwards.

See O. R. Gowan, Orangeism, its origin and history (3 vols., Toronto, 1859), and N. Clarke Wallace, "Sketch of the Orange Order in Canada", in J. Castell Hopkins, Canada: An Encyclopedia of the Country, vol. vi (To­ronto, 1900).

[Note by Claude Bélanger: The Orange Lodges followed rituals normally associated with secret societies. They organized social functions and provided support for their members that made it resemble, in some respects, a benevolent society. The various lodges were important in easing the integration of protestant immigrants in XIXth century Canada. While the history and origins of the Orange Order are rooted in the sectarian struggles that pitted the Catholics and the Protestants of Ireland against each other, in Canada the main target of the Order was French Canadians who were the pre-eminent representatives of the Catholic faith in the country. At various times, the Order has accused French Canadians of dominating the federal government in Canada, of spreading the dominion of the pope in the country (what the Order called "Popery"), of undermining British institutions and of disloyalty to England and the Empire. Historically, the Canadian lodges have opposed strenuously the extention of denominational schools in Canada and the rights of the French language. In short, they have wanted for Canada one language (English), one school (public non-denominational), and one loyalty (the British Crown and Empire). Yet, frequently enough, the Orangemen were political allies of Roman Catholics, even of Ultramontane Catholics, within the Conservative Party of Canada, especially in the XIXth Century. Politically, the Order was a force to reckon with in Canada, especially in the second half of the XIXth century and its influence was felt all the way until the 1950's. Three Canadian Prime Ministers are known to have been members of the Orange Order (Macdonald, Abbott and Bowell). In relative terms, the Order was strongest in Newfoundland and many of the Prime Ministers of the country were recruited from the ranks of the Orange lodges. In Canada, the celebrations associated with the "glorious 12th of July", frequently degenerated into violence and rioting, especially in the XIXth century.]

Return to the main page on the Orange Order

Source: W. Stewart WALLACE, ed., “Orange Association of British North America”, in The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. V, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 401p., pp. 60-61.


© 2007 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College