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Government of Canada recognizes the national historic significance of the Celebrations of Emancipation Day

Celebrations of Emancipation Day represent the strength and perseverance of African Canadians in the fight for racial equality in the past, and into the present.

GATINEAU, QC, Aug. 1, 2023 /CNW/ - National historic designations encourage us to acknowledge the full scope of our shared history, both the triumphs and the struggles that define the story of Canada, and help us reflect on how to build a more inclusive society for present and future generations.

Today, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, announced the designation of the Celebrations of Emancipation Day as an event of national historic significance under Parks Canada's National Program of Historical Commemoration.

On August 1, 1834, the Slavery Abolition Act came into effect which put an end to the centuries-old system of colonial enslavement of Africans throughout the British Empire, which included the land now known as Canada. People of African descent marked the abolition of enslavement through organized celebrations in what are now the provinces of Ontario and Quebec starting in 1834, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in 1846, and British Columbia starting in 1858. Emancipation Day festivities ranged from small picnics to grand public affairs, typically with church services, parades, communal meals, formal dinners, and entertainment. These events inspired the longstanding tradition of recognizing Emancipation Day that continues to this day.

Throughout the years, these commemorations have offered opportunities for social connection and solidarity, a space to foster pride in African ancestry, and ceremonies of remembrance of ancestors who had endured enslavement. They also became opportunities for mobilization against enslavement in the United States until it was abolished there in 1865, and against systemic racism and segregation as it persisted in Canada.

The Government of Canada, through the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, recognizes significant persons, places, and events that have shaped Canada. Sharing these stories helps foster understanding and reflection on the diverse histories, cultures, legacies, and realities of Canada's past and present.

The designation process under Parks Canada's National Program of Historical Commemoration is largely driven by public nominations. To date, more than 2,200 designations have been made nationwide. To nominate a person, place or historic event in your community, please visit the Parks Canada website for more information: https://parks.canada.ca/culture/designation/proposer-nominate.


"The designation of the Celebrations of Emancipation Day as a national historic event acknowledges the strength and determination of African Canadian communities and sheds light on the almost 200-year-old tradition of gathering to commemorate this important day. On August 1, Emancipation Day, we reflect on Canada's history of enslavement and segregation, and its lasting impacts, while also committing to combatting all forms of racial discrimination."  

The Honourable Steven Guilbeault
Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada

"It is with immense jubilation that Celebrations of Emancipation Day as a national historic event has been accepted for designation. This federal recognition honours the celebrations of the Emancipation of a people taken forcibly from their nation, enslaved for 400 years, bought and sold like chattel, herded like cattle; yet, rising triumphantly above it all to not merely survive but thrive in our genius; Emancipation mi seh! Ase ancestors!" 

Nadine Williams, 
Poet, Author and Arts Educator

"The resistance and joy of the newly freed, formerly enslaved Africans here was expressed by August 1st Emancipation Day celebrations, speeches and activism across Canada effective in 1834. I am honoured that my ongoing quest to have August 1st as Emancipation Day commemorated, which began in 1994, have been successful. With joy and recognition comes hope." 

Rosemary Sadlier
Recipient of the Order of Ontario,
author, historian, consultant, speaker

"Recognizing the national historic significance of the Celebrations of Emancipation Day means honouring the courage, perseverance, and joy of Black people in Canada. These celebrations, in all their various forms throughout the years and across the country, showcase the unwavering strength of our communities in their fight for racial equality." 

Arielle Kayabaga
Member of Parliament for London West and Chair of the Black Caucus

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SOURCE Parks Canada

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