Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario

JUNE 2017

 JUNE 24, 1717 - “the before and the after”

   Skilled artisans working in stone have existed for millennia: their monuments can be seen in many locations around the world. Stone was also found to be a suitable medium for recording important societal events. The men who did this work established themselves into groups, usually bound by oath and covenant to observe particular rules for the preservation and good of the group.

   While we do not know the precise point (or points) of origin of the institution of “Freemasonry,” we believe it evolved out of the building trades and various guilds. A good craftsman would often keep secret the technique he knew which brought him into great demand. A master and his many apprentices working on a particular site would often occupy a single area of several small buildings in which to live. These quarters were known as lodges. The men were “operative” masons.

   By the Middle Ages masons in the British Isles evolved building standards as well as the terms and conditions under which they would enter into contracts for particular construction projects. In Scotland, master masons would occasionally sit on municipal governments to ensure standards were observed both by those providing the services and those doing the hiring. Although many early records have been lost over time, the Records of the City of London show that rules for the guidance of the “London Mason’s Company” were passed in 1356 and that four masons were elected to the City Council in 1376. Company documents for the period 1620-1706 have survived and indicate that over time men who were not masons were occasionally accepted into the Craft without being physical builders—they were shown as “Accepted” into the Company and were the first Speculative Masons.

   At this time Lodges were not just confined to stone masons but also included members of other trades such as wood workers, carpenters and cabinet makers, plasterers and slaterers. It is not clear when, or how, but over time the working tools of the various tradesmen became useful for moral instruction. Such is the working tool known as the Baal’s Bridge Square (found under the foundations of the Baal’s Bridge in Co. Limerick, Ireland). It dates from 1507 and has inscribed on its face and reverse the following “I will strive to live with love & care”—“upon the level by the square.”

   This then, is how we believe Speculative Masonry began. As lodges of operatives had officers whose roles evolved over time, so too did the Speculative ones. Thus with our ritual based on moral allegory do we encourage individual members of our Masonic lodges to strengthen their character, improve their moral and spiritual outlook, and broaden their mental horizons. It would take until the eighteenth century, in London, to organize what we, today, consider the first Grand Lodge. Through Grand Lodges did we evolve our ritual and regulate the working of individual lodges.

   So it was by unknown steps that Freemasons met on June 24 (the Feast of St. John the Baptist) 1717 when the representatives of four London lodges met together and formed the Grand Lodge of England. Inasmuch as Freemasonry is “a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols,” so too may the precise origin of this first Grand Lodge be considered as symbolic of an event that did occur on, or close to, this date. At this meeting they elected the oldest and most senior as Grand Master pro tem. Later records indicate that this was a temporary action until a Royal Prince would occupy the post: for England this has continued to the present time.

   Given the transportation challenges of the day, the Grand Master in London eventually appointed his “personal representative Grand Masters” in the British provinces (counties) and designated them as Provincial Grand Masters. The first such was Colonel Francis Columbine (Cheshire, 1725). Abroad the first Provincial Grand Master was appointed in 1728: the name being changed to District Grand Master later on to distinguish between domestic and foreign positions.

   This premier (or first) Grand Lodge was soon followed by others of which those of Ireland (formed 1725 or earlier) and Scotland (formed 1736) are the two key ones. These three—today’s United Grand Lodge of England and the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland—have spread the institution around the world and continue to do so. They hold of no limit on their territory except by mutual consent and they continue to warrant lodges around the world. Where lodges congregated to form new Grand Lodges, tradition permitted lodges predating the event to hold whatever their original authority was. In most cases they surrendered their earlier authorities and became loyal to the new Grand Lodge. This was an important step in the globalization of the craft. It certainly played its part in the development of Canadian Freemasonry through the creation of ten independent Grand Lodges and the ripple-like effect giving Freemasons many opportunities to support and influence the development of Canada.

   Freemasonry was carried with explorers, soldiers, developers, settlers, out from the British Isles and around the world. For us in Canada the fraternity was brought by early settlers to the Thirteen Colonies and carried north- and westwards into New France with Lodges being found in a few of the major centres with sufficient numbers of men to establish a Lodge and keep it working: St. John’s (NF), Halifax (NS), St. John and Moncton (NB), Quebec City and Montreal (Lower Canada), Kingston and Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake in Upper Canada) and even smaller outposts. The creation of Grand Lodges across Canada followed settlement and the establishment of sufficient numbers of Freemasons. Today’s Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of Canada in the Province of Ontario was formed October 10, 1855 in Hamilton (when the “Canada” in its title referred to the United Province of Canada, formed by the Province of Canada West and Canada East) and the Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia A.F. & A.M. (formed February 20, 1866) are the only Canadian Grand Lodges formed before the formation of the present-day Provinces (July 1, 1867 and afterwards). The other Grand Lodges followed the formation of their individual Provinces.

Grand Lodge formed                                                                                                                          Province formed

New Brunswick—October 10, 1867                                                                           July 1, 1867

Quebec—October 20, 1869                                                                                                   July 1, 1867

Manitoba—May 12, 1875                                                                                                       July 15, 1870

British Columbia—October 21, 1871                                                                          July 20, 1871

(named revised to British Columbia and Yukon in 2000)

Prince Edward Island—June 23, 1875                                                           July 1, 1873

Alberta—October 12, 1905                                                                                                     September 1, 1905

Saskatchewan—August 9, 1906                                                                                September 1, 1905

Newfoundland and Labrador—November 1, 1997                            March 31, 1949

(At present there are no sovereign Grand Lodges in Yukon, Northwest Territories or Nunavut.)

As prepared by           Michael Jenkyns, Grand Historian, Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Canada in the Province of Ontario

October 26, 2016 (Rev 3 December 20, 2016)

1,150 words

Our Purpose

Making Good Men Better.

Freemasonry is the oldest and largest fraternal organization in the world. Its members share a common goal of helping each other become better men. Its body of knowledge and system of ethics is based on the belief that each man has a responsibility to improve himself while being devoted to his family, faith, country, and fraternity.

Its roots go back centuries and its members are diverse: high profile leaders, physicians, construction workers, farmers…and maybe you.

Ancient…and modern.

We’re united by three ancient and fundamental principles—brotherly love, charity and truth—that are made relevant to the 21st century through the personal development, good works and social connections available to our members in the 550+ lodges across Ontario.

Great benefits…for you and the world.

Freemasonry offers much to its members—the opportunity to grow, the chance to make a difference and the means to build a better world for our children. It offers the chance to socialize and work with men who have the same values and ideals.

We strengthen and improve our character by learning and practicing basic virtues of fraternal love, charity, and truth. Our principles extend far beyond our interactions with each other, and we strive to apply them to our daily lives.

And there’s so much more.

It's easy to learn about Masons—starting with the pages of this website. Need more details? Looking for a Mason in your community to share his personal perspective? Send an email, call or drop by your local Masonic lodge.

Who are Masons?

Masons are spiritual and moral men who choose to associate with groups of like-minded individuals for mutual benefit. What they find in Freemasonry is a disciplined and systematic course of self-improvement based on the Golden Rule: always do to others what you would like them to do to you.

There are 3.2 million masons across the world and more than 40,000 in Ontario.


Everyone is welcome, regardless of race, colour or creed.

Masons are spiritual and moral people, but there’s no room for discussion of sectarian religion or partisan politics in freemasonry. Members are free to follow their own path, as long as it fits with the ethical principles of integrity and virtue symbolized by the square and compasses—the icon most commonly associated with Masonry.

Masonry stresses the principles of kindness and consideration at home, honesty in business, courtesy towards others, dependability in one’s work, compassion for the less fortunate and being a good citizen of the world. Masonry recognizes that each man has obligations to his family, his work, his religious beliefs, his community and himself - these must take priority and Masonry does not interfere with his ability to meet these obligations.

Masons participate in three progressive degrees, each one teaching an important lesson through the use of symbols. The degrees help a Mason think about the big questions: Where did I come from? What am I doing here? And what comes next?

A lodge is not a building…it’s the men that form it.

The foundation of the Masonic family is the Masonic lodge. It is here that Masonry teaches its lessons: kindness in the home, honesty in business, courtesy in society, fairness in work, concern for the unfortunate and respect for one another. Most lodges are clearly signed and located on main streets in communities small and large across the globe.

With over 550 Lodges in Ontario, there should be a lodge that meets in a location near you.

Masonry is not a secret society…we’re happy to share what we know.

Any information about Masons can be found at a well-stocked bookstore or local library. Masonic buildings are clearly marked and listed in the phonebook and members often identify themselves by wearing Masonic jewelry.

The so-called Masonic “Secrets” are confined to modes of recognition by which a visitor can prove himself to be a Mason and thereby become eligible to enter a lodge in which he was otherwise not known.

The Extended Masonic Family.

A Mason can choose to broaden and deepen his experience of Masonry by participating in other branches of the Masonic family:

the Scottish Rite, York Rite, Shriners and Knights Templar.

Masonry is for men…but it’s a family affair.

Women, girls and boys who share Masonic values are welcome to participate in the many social and charitable events hosted by lodges. But there are affiliate organizations for those looking for ways to become formally involved. Young men can join DeMolay, young women can join the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls and Job's Daughters International.

What do Masons do?

Masonry is first and foremost a fraternity rather than a service organization, social club or benevolent society. However, charity in the form of helping other people, is considered to be a cornerstone of the fraternity.

Community Involvement:

Masons Community Involvement

Masons are encouraged to be actively involved in their communities. Some of the community outreach programs that Masons are actively involved with are listed below:

The Masonic Foundation of Ontario, a public charity registered with the Canada Revenue Agency, supports hearing research, a bursary program for university and college students, autism services, prostate cancer research and alcohol and drug awareness programs in elementary and high schools.

The Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario sponsors the MasoniCh.I.P. child identification program. And we’re not above bleeding for a cause—every year, Ontario Masons support the Canadian Blood Services donor program with approximately 35,000 donations.

Shriners operate the largest network of hospitals in North America providing free care for burned and orthopaedically impaired children. The Scottish Rite Masons maintain a network of some 150 childhood language disorder clinics, centres and programs.

Individual districts support their own charitable projects.

Want to learn more about Masonry At Work?

Why become a Mason?

Masonry offers the opportunity to make each man better through its teachings, his Masonic associations and a philosophy that has served the social needs of men for centuries, by promoting:

  • Tradition: when you become a Mason, you become part of ancient tradition that spans centuries. From the original stonemasons that produced some of the most majestic architectural wonders of Europe to modern day Masons who participate in numerous charitable foundations, you’ll feel connected to a vital, growing and spiritually uplifting organization of moral men;
  • Self Improvement: learning portions of the Ritual and participating in the Degree stimulates the mind and, coupled with committee work and lodge management, presents the opportunity to develop leadership and organizational skills, build self-discipline through commitment, poise and self-confidence, and strengthen presentation and public speaking proficiencies;
  • Sense of Accomplishment: participating in lodge projects, be they charitable or social in nature, provides the opportunity to contribute, work with others and enjoy the success of effort well expended;
  • Fellowship - Belonging to a Like-minded Group: the modern work environment has reduced or eliminated social association with co-workers; joining with lodge members in a fraternal atmosphere can substitute for that former workplace fellowship lost;
  • A Break from the Workaday Routine: Masonry brings together in lodge men of diverse backgrounds, where the daily pressures of a career can be left outside the door and where fellowship is the common theme.

These attributes are summarized in the tenets, or fundamental principles of Ancient Freemasonry: Brotherly Love; Relief; and Truth. If these values address your needs, Masonry welcomes you.

How can I join?

To find out more or to be contacted by a local lodge member, please complete the information below. Our response may take some time depending on your interest. We may use any of the options you provide (email, phone or surface mail) to contact you

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