Nova Scotia senator calls on Canada to officially recognize Emancipation Day


Nova Scotia Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard urges Canadians to recognize August 1 as the day slavery was abolished in the British Empire – even though the federal government will not.Thomas Bernard has been lobbying for years for the Canadian government to mark Emancipation Day every August 1. Currently, this day is officially recognized only in Ontario.

She introduced a private member’s bill in the Senate in 2018, but it has since been dropped. But she continues to demand recognition and remind Canadians that although slavery was abolished 186 years ago, it laid the foundation for the anti-Black racism and marginalization that prevails today.

“From coast to coast to coast we could pause and recognize Emancipation Day and use it as a moment of memory, use it as a moment to reflect and use it as a moment for ourselves. commit to action, ”Thomas Bernard told CBC. Information morning this week.

She hosted a virtual roundtable in Halifax last week on the importance of Emancipation Day.

Canadians haven’t learned history

On August 1, 1834, the Slavery Abolition Act came into force, freeing approximately 800,000 slaves in most of the British colonies.

But while Canada is often seen as a safe haven for those fleeing slavery on the Underground Railroad, the reality for black people at the time was grim, said Thomas Bernard.

August 1 marks an important anniversary in Canada and other former British colonies: slavery was abolished 186 years ago. Senator from Nova Scotia says Canada is not doing enough to mark Emancipation Day. We are talking with Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard. 7:24

“What had been promised as conditions of freedom and opportunity was not achieved,” she said. “So people didn’t get any land or if they did, it was a lot smaller plots and land that was really not very fertile. ”

The problem, she says, is that this story is not taught in Canada.

“I can’t even imagine how our ancestors survived with the few resources they had,” she says.

Thomas Bernard said it was important to remember that Emancipation Day was not just a celebration 186 years ago. It was a call to action – and one that must continue today as black people continue to face racism and violence, she said.

“Many people argue that the current anti-Black racism that we see, the racial profiling, the history of marginalization… is really rooted in this history of slavery,” she said.

Afua Cooper, a professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, spoke about the roots of contemporary racism at last week’s roundtable. She also chaired a panel that looked into Dalhousie’s connection to slavery and called on the institution and the province to apologize for the impact of slavery on Nova Scotia.

WATCH | How recognition of Emancipation Day can help dismantle racism:

Nova Scotia Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard says Canada must face its role in slavery by formally recognizing Emancipation Day every August 1. 9:31

Majid Jowhari, an MP for Richmond Hill, Ont., Near Toronto, introduced a new motion in the House of Commons calling for Emancipation Day to be recognized across the country. Thomas Bernard said she expects the motion to be presented to MPs this fall.

She said she would continue to fight until the goal of a nationally recognized emancipation day is achieved.

“But even when that happens, it’s only part of the equation,” she said. “Repairs are important. Apologies are important. These are things that never happened. “


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