Emancipation Day recognizes end of slavery in Canada

By Hana Mae Nassar and The Canadian Press

Aug. 1 marks Emancipation Day in Canada, recognizing the day in 1834 that the Slavery Abolition Act came into force.

The act effectively ended slavery in most British colonies and freed more than 800,000 people.

The House of Commons voted unanimously to designate Aug. 1 Emancipation Day in Canada last year, on March 24.

“Canadians are not always aware that Black and Indigenous Peoples were once enslaved on the land that is now Canada. Those who fought enslavement were pivotal in shaping our society to be as diverse as it is today,” the Government of Canada website notes, inviting Canadians to reflect and educate themselves on the history of discrimination and racism in this country.

“Despite the abolition of enslavement happening nearly two centuries ago, the legacy of anti-Black racism in Canada and around the world is still prevalent today,” Diversity and Inclusion Minister Ahmed Hussen said Monday.

“We cannot accept that this is the way things are. Let me be clear: There is no place for racism or hate in Canada. On Emancipation Day, we remember the destructive effects of the slave trade and its devastating impact on the community. But let us also recommit ourselves to building a safer and more inclusive future for our children, our grand-children, and for generations to come.”

Despite the declaration, many Black leaders and scholars continue to call on the federal government to make a formal apology for the country’s history of slavery and its intergenerational harms.

Nova Scotia Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard says an apology is empty without action, pointing out there is a significant need for education.

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