Emancipation Day is a celebration of the strength and perseverance of Blacks in Canada.
August 1 is Canada’s Emancipation Day. The House of Commons designated the day to mark the actual day in 1834 that the Slavery Abolition Act came into effect in the British Empire.
It is a reminder of the transatlantic slave trade that shipped many Africans to North America, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Blacks fought on the side of Canada during the American invasion of 1812. A plaque is at the Brock Towers, Queenston Heights, Niagara-on-the-Lake, in honour of the colored people who fought during the war.
“When the war of 1812 began, people of African descent in Niagara Peninsula feared an America invasion. They were anxious to preserve their freedom and prove their loyalty to Britain,” according to the dedication.
The memorial states, “Many joined the militia company. Authorities responded by forming a “Colored Corps” of about thirty men commanded by white officers.”
The colored corps was said to have fought at Queenston Heights in October 1812 and at the siege of Fort George in May 1813.
The Underground Railroad helped in bringing slaves fleeing the United States to Canada. Salem Chapel B.M.E Church was a sanctuary for slaves seeking freedom arriving from the United States. A member of the church, Harriet Tubman, conducted many clandestine trips to bring the slaves to Canada. It has since been designated a historical site by Canada, attracting tourists to Niagara region.
Black loyalists and slaves contributed to building of infrastructures across Canada. In Nova Scotia, many blacks deported from Jamaica following their rebellion against colonial government worked on the third fortification at the Citadel in Halifax.
Emancipation Day is a reminder of the slavery of Indigenous Peoples by settlers and explorers.
Emancipation Day 2021 is virtual because of the restriction on mass congregation due to Covid-19 pandemic.
First Ontario Performing Arts Centre, St. Catharines, has events that can be accessed on-line.