On March 24, 2021, members of parliament unanimously voted to designate August 1 as Emancipation Day in Canada. This means that every year, on this special day, we are invited to reflect upon and engage in the ongoing fight against anti-Black racism and discrimination. The historical significance of this date is that it marks the day, August 1st, 1834, when the Slavery Abolition Act came into effect and formally ended slavery throughout the British Empire.
In Canada, commemorating the struggles and systemic racism endured by the Black and Indigenous Peoples who were once enslaved here has been a process characterized by incremental change. Emancipation Day serves as a reminder of this. It is a reminder that freedom, justice, and equal rights cannot be taken for granted. These ideals that have been fought for must be preserved at all costs. They must be defended, and embodied in practice in everyday life.
So, on Emancipation Day we think of intergenerational impacts of Black Canadians and Indigenous Peoples who were enslaved, and we celebrate the perseverance and resilience that defined their histories. This day marks a special relationship with the hard-earned freedom shared by peoples and communities that have been persecuted, dispossessed, or held in bondage against their will. On August 1, Canadians are invited to reflect on and engage in the ongoing fight against systemic racism and discrimination to take the actions needed to create a more fair and just society.
A year ago, Emancipation Day 2021 represented a starting point in terms of recognizing, becoming educated about, and carrying forth the all-important fight for justice in this country. It was followed by the passing in December 2021 of Bill 75, Emancipation Month Act, legislation I was proud to co-sponsor, which officially proclaimed the month of August as Emancipation Month in Ontario. This year, Emancipation Month 2022 gives us a unique opportunity for each of us to reflect and recognize the struggle that continues in order to have a more inclusive life for all in Ontario and Canada today. We must work actively to ensure that improvements associated with building Ontario reach every community, every family, and every Canadian. Emancipation Day is a celebration of freedom. Above all, this day is a celebration of the strength and perseverance of Black and Indigenous communities throughout Canada’s history. As we reflect on Emancipation Day’s meaning and lessons for today, we must resolve to guard those freedoms earned through emancipation, protect civil rights, and work towards the fulfillment of freedom and equality and justice for all.