Toronto, the Belfast of Canada: The Orange Order and the Shaping of Municipal Culture

Toronto, the Belfast of Canada: The Orange Order and the Shaping of Municipal Culture

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By William J. Smyth
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2015
World Rights
328 Pages 12 Images
ISBN 9781442614680
Published Apr 2015
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ISBN 9781442646872
Published Apr 2015
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In late nineteenth-century Toronto, municipal politics were so dominated by the Irish Protestants of the Orange Order that the city was known as the “Belfast of Canada.” For almost a century, virtually every mayor of Toronto was an Orangeman and the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne was a civic holiday. Toronto, the Belfast of Canada explores the intolerant origins of today’s cosmopolitan city.

Using lodge membership lists, census data, and municipal records, William J. Smyth details the Orange Order’s role in creating Toronto’s municipal culture of militant Protestantism, loyalism, and monarchism. One of Canada’s foremost experts on the Orange Order, Smyth analyses the Orange Order’s influence between 1850 and 1950, the city’s frequent public displays of sectarian tensions, and its occasional bouts of rioting and mayhem.

William J. Smyth is the president emeritus of the National University of Ireland, Maynooth and a past president of the Geographical Society of Ireland and the Association of Canadian Studies in Ireland.


1. Canada and Ireland: Toronto and Belfast. The Imperial Context

2. A Tale of Two Cities: Belfast and Toronto

3. Toronto Orangeism: The Nature and Structure of The Orange Order

4. Power, Patronage and Public Employment within the Protestant City, 1850–1920

5. The Emergence of a New Order: Toronto's Orangemen at the Close of The Nineteenth Century

6. The Climax and Onset of Decline of the Orange Order, 1900–1940

7. The Faded Sash: Toronto and Orangeism, 1940–c.1950

8. Conclusion

Toronto, the Belfast of Canada is grounded in a rich analysis of documentary, statistical, journalistic, and institutional sources. It provides a great deal of insight into the realpolitic of Toronto and the complex ethnic underpinnings of an evolving cultural identity.”

Brian Osborne, Professor Emeritus, Department of Geography, Queen's University

‘It is one of the few studies exploring Order’s interface with public power structures and contributes significantly to the growing literature of diasporic global Orangeism.’

Deborah Butcher, Journal of Historical Geography vol 30:1-2:2015

‘This is a well written and impressively researched study of the role and impact of the orange order fraternity in shaping of a civic culture in Toronto between 1850 and 1950.’

William Jenkins, Canadian Historical Review vol 97:02:2016

Toronto, the Belfast of Canada locates Orangeism in a wider imperial frame, and deftly handles the comparisons with other territories – not least Belfast, where Smyth’s cross-analysis is detailed. He correctly correlates Canadian Orangeism with the Order in Ulster. … Smyth is able to show that, in a comparative emigrant context, Orangeism in Canada was unique, and at the heart of it was Toronto.

Donald Macraild, Times Higher Education, August 13, 2015

Floyd S. Chalmers Award for Best Book in Ontario History awarded by The Champlain Society (Canada) - Winner in 2016