All around the world, August 1st marks Emancipation Day. We commemorate the end of enslavement for people of African descent and renew the fight against modern slavery and oppression.
On August 1, 1834, the Slavery Abolition Act came into force, freeing slaves of African descent across the British Empire, including right here in Ontario. Ontario, then Upper Canada, had been the first colony in the British Empire to pass anti-slavery legislation in 1793, yet the Act Against Slavery was unable to put an end to the vicious practice. It was only in 1834 that abolition was realized and emancipation a reality.
Though the struggle for equality and equal rights was far from over, Emancipation Day represents the first step towards justice, a journey that we remain walking to this day.
Ontario typically celebrates Emancipation Day with Toronto’s Caribbean Festival, also known as Caribana. It is the largest Caribbean Festival. And while this year the Caribbean Festival has moved into the virtual world, we all look forward to gathering again to celebrate the end of slavery in the British Empire.
Today, on Emancipation Day, we recommit to justice and to the end of oppression, and we remember those whose lives and hopes were taken and destroyed in the slave trade.