The Loyalists were war refugees who sacrificed their homes and belongings to retain their loyalty to the British Crown during the American War of Independence (1775-1783). They were from all walks of life and of many different ethnic backgrounds.
Of the 80,000 Loyalists who fled the colonies, about half either journeyed by ship to the Maritimes or travelled north through the wilderness to parts of Quebec and to what is now Ontario. It is estimated that between four and six million Canadians or about one-fifth of the population can trace their lineage to a Loyalist ancestor. The next generation fought in the War of 1812, ensuring that Canada remained British.
As early as the 1820s, attempts were being made to commemorate the struggle and sacrifice of the Loyalists. By the late 1800s, the third generation of settlers, that is the grandchildren of the original Loyalists had formed Loyalist societies or organizations in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, and Alberta. In the early 1900s, officials from these groups realized there was a need to form a Dominion organization to keep alive the spirit of these early Canadian pioneers.
On May 27, 1914, an Act of Parliament was passed to create the United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada. This legislation brought together all the Loyalist groups across the country under one patriotic, historical, and genealogical organization. The United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada, which has its Dominion Office in Toronto, now has 29 branches across Canada with a total membership of over 2,000. Members support Canada's constitutional monarchy and uphold the nation's distinctive political and legal heritage to which their Loyalist ancestors contributed. Through the association, members seek out historic places, documents, and artifacts connected to the Loyalist experience and migration so these items can be preserved for future generations.
While the association is geared to attracting the descendants of Loyalists, anyone who supports the Association's aims is welcome to join the organization by becoming a branch member. Branches hold informative meetings on related topics and social gatherings throughout the year.
The Manitoba Branch was formed in 1932.