After years of campaigning by Black legislators and community advocates, Canada on Sunday is officially marking the abolishment of slavery nearly 200 years ago in its first nationwide Emancipation Day.
Canadian parliamentarians unanimously voted in March to recognise Emancipation Day across the country on August 1, the same date in 1834 that an act came into effect banning slavery in former British colonies, including Canada.
Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard, a leading figure in the years-long push for federal recognition of Emancipation Day, said the day “is not a celebration” but rather “a time of reflection, a time of remembering our ancestors and a time for honouring our ancestors”.
“The national recognition of Emancipation Day signals the beginning of what we do next,” Thomas Bernard said during an online event ahead of Sunday, explaining that Black history must be taught across Canada year-round, and that an apology and reparations need to be discussed.
“If we use our collective power, Emancipation Day and the recognition of Emancipation Day should propel us to move forward in very positive ways,” she said.