Emancipation Day 2020

July 22, 2020

This year, August 1st 2020, we celebrate the 186th anniversary of the Slavery Abolition Act.

On August 1st 1834, the British government enacted this act which brought an end to legal slavery across the British Empire, which at the time included the dominion of what is today 'Canada'. This Act was pushed forward by a very important Canadian historical figure named Lieutenant General John Graves Simcoe.

Despite the importance of this Act, Emancipation Day is currently only recognised in Ontario, even though it is the day that slavery across the Empire and therefore the dominion of Canada was abolished. As such, it would make sense for this vital historical date to be recognised throughout the country.

Not only this, but this day should also be observed as a public holiday throughout modern Canada. Several countries in the Caribbean already observe Emancipation Day as a public holiday. They use this holiday to celebrate the end of slavery and forced labour for all their African-descendent population and to celebrate the multiculturalism of their countries. They also use this day to remember the horrible realities of the time, pay respect to the lives lost from slavery, and be critical of the current inequalities in their countries.

These Caribbean nations understand that Emancipation Day was a triumph for all, and that it should be celebrated by all for this reason. We need to do this in Canada too.

How to support and promote Canada's Emancipation Day:

  • The Canadian Senate is currently considering passing 'Bill S-255' that would recognise August 1st as Emancipation Day nationally, but it has not been brought up in a long time. Show your support to this bill by discussing it within your communities and signing petitions like this one that let representatives know you care about this Bill! This is the moving transcript of the last time it was brought up in the Senate, and this is what the bill says.
  • Celebrate Emancipation Day virtually this year with the Ontario Heritage Fund by clicking here. Or look and see if anyone in your community is having a celebration!
  • Learn more about how Emancipation Day came to be, how it is celebrated across the Americas, and what the impacts of this day were by clicking: here if you would like a resource for children, and here if you are a youth or older looking (scroll to the bottom of the petition).