History

Throwback Thursday: Canadian rebels were once exiled to Bermuda

This one time, the Canadian government sent a group of eight men to Bermuda and called it punishment
  • May 11, 2016
  • 270 words
  • 2 minutes
Once, the Canadian government sent a group of eight men to Bermuda and called it punishment. (Image: Canadian Geographic Archives) Expand Image
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Being banished to Bermuda probably doesn’t seem like the worst of punishments. But in 1838, the young Canadian government exiled eight rebellious men to the tropical island to think about what they’d done. Namely, rebelling against the young Canadian government.

These “Canadian Exiles” as they became known, promptly rented a small cottage on a hill, and passed the following months (they’d served a mere four months when the English courts disallowed the Canadian government’s banishment, thereby freeing them of their parole) in what can only be described as “Exile Lite”.

Three of the men were doctors and continued their medical practice and the others were said to have fine musical talents.

“One can well imagine the sweetness of the Canadian folksongs with their note of sadness and longing wafted in the breezes of a soft Bermudian evening,” wrote B. E. Kruse writes in the June 1937 issue of Canadian Geographic, nearly 100 years after the group returned home.

Still, wrote Kruse, the men were delighted when they learned they could return to Canada.

They went on to live productive and even prestigious lives. One, Dr. Wolfred Nelson, went on to become mayor of Montreal. Another was elected a member of Parliament following a long medical career. Major Goddu lived to be 90 (an impressive achievement at the time!)

Clearly, the group managed to overcome the trauma of serving time in Bermuda. Kruse seemed similarly bemused.

“We cannot help wondering if, had the authorities known the delightfully soothing and balmy effects of the climate of Bermuda, they would have considered a sojourn there in the light of punishment.”

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