CORNWALL, Ontario – The Bridge Annex Branch of the United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada (UELAC) decided pre-pandemic to host the 2021 convention in this city and when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the decision to pivot to a virtual convention was made. The event was held May 27 to 30 and featured key note speakers, presentations from local historical societies and museum as well as the UELAC Annual General Meeting.
Jennifer DeBruin, former Cornwall resident and convention co-chair, explained the decision to hold the convention in Cornwall was an easy one to make. She explained how “the image of the Loyalist settlement in 1784” on the banks of the St. Lawrence River in New Johnstown as Cornwall was known at that time, is a well-known sketch which when combined with DeBruin’s “knowledge and connections” would “create opportunities for a collaborative event.
DeBruin confirmed this was the first virtual UELAC conference, noting “Bridge Annex is the first virtual branch of the UELAC.” She mentioned how most of the conference details had been confirmed prior to the beginning of the pandemic, with the virtual conference following “the plan of the live event in many ways.”
All the events were held virtually with commentators from historical societies and museums such as the Lost Villages Historical Society and the Glengarry Pioneer Museum in Long Sault and Dunvegan respectively providing an added component to speakers at the conference which included Stuart Manson, Nathan Tidridge, Tim Compeau and Jennifer DeBruin. The weekend included genealogical sessions led by Wendy Broda and Steve Fulton.
DeBruin mentioned there were 220 people at the event, commenting how they are being told “this was potentially a record for attendance. She attributes this to the virtual nature of the conference and the “dynamic programming” with attendees viewing the event “from across Canada, the US and even Australia!”, noting that at least “half our attendees were not UELAC members”. After thanking to all who supported the event, she noted plans are being formulated to have a memorial to John Baker, who was “born enslaved to a Loyalist family, fought in the War of 1812 and was a respected member of his community” raised in this community.