A national online campaign is underway for people to vote for the introduction of an Emancipation Day in Canada to celebrate our human rights and mark the end of slavery in this country.
Almost 100 people from across Canada have signed an e-petition seeking the approval of Bill E-1289, which calls on the federal government to designate August 1 as Emancipation Day in Canada every year.
Organizers said the day will mark the end of slavery in Canada, while celebrating the UN International Decade for People of African Descent and our 150th year of Confederation.
People are being asked to sign the petition, which is being sponsored by Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, the Liberal MP for Beaches-East York. The petition was posted last week by David Haisell, of Montreal, and will remain open for signatures until February 15 next year.
The petition declares that on August 1, 1834 the British Imperial Act came into effect in Canada ‘ending chattel slavery and marking the rise of the first freedom movement of the Americas’, the Underground Railroad.’
Black community historian Rosemary Sadlier supports the petition and said there will be discussions in the House of Commons once the signatures have been obtained.
”This time seems like the best moment for our community and our politicians to commemorate the freedom that this Act created,” Sadlier told Share.
She said Emancipation Day is already recognized by the Cities of Toronto, Ottawa and dozens of others in the U.S.
This is the second attempt to have the day receive approval in Parliament. An unsuccessful attempt was made in 2012 but it failed to receive support from the community.
Ontario, she noted, was one of the first provinces to designate August 1 as Emancipation Day back in 2008.
The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 ended slavery in the British Empire on August 1, 1834, and thus also in Canada. The first colony in the British Empire to abolish slavery was Upper Canada, now Ontario.
John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada from 1791 to 1796, passed an Act Against Slavery in 1793, which led to the abolition of slavery in Upper Canada by 1810. It was superseded by the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.
Simcoe was moved to pass new legislation that year called an ‘Act to Prevent the further Introduction of Slaves and to limit the Term of Contracts for Servitude,’ or the Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada.
The Act freed nearly one-million slaves in Canada, as well as in the Caribbean and South Africa.
Simcoe’s interest in ending slavery began after an enslaved Black woman in Upper Canada, named Chloe Cooley, was bound and thrown on a boat to be sold in the U.S., which angered the politician after he was told of the incident.
The petition for Bill E-1289 can be found at www.petitions.ourcommons.ca/en