The Provincial Plaque Program is the Trust's oldest and perhaps best-known activity. Over 1,200 provincial plaques have been unveiled – including 22 international plaques. The plaques make Ontario's history come alive by telling stories of the people, places and events that helped shape our province. They enrich our sense of place. They also introduce newcomers and visitors to the unique character of each region of the province.
The range of subjects commemorated includes such diverse topics as:
- Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Ross Tubman
- the fascinating underwater Huron Fish Weirs in Orillia
- grocery pioneer and philanthropist Theodore P. Loblaw
- civil rights activist Hugh Burnett who, with the National Unity Association, convinced the government of Ontario to pass legislation in the 1950s that influenced today’s Ontario Human Rights Code
- the first female Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Pauline McGibbon
- Dr. James Naismith, creator of the game of basketball
- silent screen star Mary Pickford
- the 1921 discovery of insulin by Frederick Banting and Charles Best
- the tragedy of The Canada Steamship Lines passenger cruiser Noronic in 1949 when the ship burned in Toronto harbour, killing 119 people
- the 1858 convention held in Chatham by John Brown, the American abolitionist seeking support for the liberation of slaves in the United States
- the establishment of Ontario’s first French-language radio station (CFCL) in Timmins
- the oldest wooden lighthouse on the Canadian shore of Lake Erie, in Port Burwell
- Chloe Cooley, a Black slave from Queenston forcibly taken by her owner and sold in the United States in 1793, who prompted John Graves Simcoe to pass the Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada – an early step in the abolition of slavery
- the unique structure of the Sharon Temple, near Newmarket, built in 1825-31 for the Children of Peace
- the fur trading at Saugeen, a Hudson’s Bay Company post near present-day Southampton, which helped define regions, encourage economic growth and promote exploration
- the Aurora Armoury, Ontario’s oldest purpose-built armoury still used for military service
- Chinese-Canadian entrepreneur and activist Jean Lumb
- the Brent Crater, a three-kilometre-wide crater thought to have been caused by a meteorite 450 million years ago
In 1956, the Archaeological and Historic Sites Board of Ontario began erecting plaques to stimulate public awareness of, and pride in, Ontario's past. In 1974, the Sites Board was incorporated into the Ontario Heritage Foundation. The Foundation (which became the Ontario Heritage Trust in 2005) assumed responsibility for the Provincial Plaque Program, working in partnership with heritage-minded community groups, non-profit organizations, municipalities and corporations throughout the province.
Over the years, the variety of subjects commemorated by plaques has grown. Early plaques concentrated on the founding of communities and the province's political and economic heritage. Today, they cover a much broader range of subjects, including science, nature and culture.
The Provincial Plaque Program also identifies important heritage subjects that received little attention in the past – the contributions of women, First Nations, Franco-Ontarians and other cultural groups in shaping our society. Since 1982, the Trust has provided both French and English text for all new and replacement plaques. Plaques may also be created in additional languages (e.g., Mandarin, Mohawk, braille, Gaelic, etc.).
The Trust works in partnership with community groups, governments and corporations across Ontario on provincial plaque initiatives. We welcome applications for plaques that commemorate provincially significant people, places and events. Contact us
to discuss your ideas.