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e-2759 (Holidays and observances)

Initiated by Ngozi Paul from Toronto, Ontario

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

  • People of African descent have lived in Canada since the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade;
  • Slavery of trafficked Africans was introduced by colonists into the territories of what came to be known as Canada in the 1600s;
  • The practice of slavery, also inflicted on Indigenous Peoples, continued until it was abolished in the British Empire on August 1, 1834;
  • Canada’s history of enslavement, racial segregation and marginalization has had a devastating impact on people of African descent;
  • The existence of systemic anti-Black racism in education, housing, employment, health, criminal justice, politics and other areas can be directly traced to the history of slavery in Canada;
  • Canada has neither recognized nor educated the public adequately about the historical facts related to slavery and the anti-Black racism it has produced;
  • Despite this, Black Canadians have made outstanding contributions to Canada in every field, which is all the more remarkable given the legacy of slavery;
  • It is necessary to recognize the history of Black Canadians in order to build a more just society, free from discrimination;
  • The United Nations recommended the Government of Canada take steps to recognize the history of enslavement and the contributions of Black Canadians; and
  • The International Decade for People of African Descent provides an opportunity to permanently acknowledge the legacy of slavery and the achievements of Black Canadians.
We, the undersigned, citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to proclaim August 1 as Emancipation Day, and to celebrate it on that day each year.

Response by the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): ADAM VAN KOEVERDEN

The Government would like to thank the petitioners for their request that the House of Commons proclaim August 1st as Emancipation Day, and to celebrate it on that day each year.

Black history is Canadian history.

The Government of Canada recognizes the enslavement of African people in Canada and the racism, prejudice, inequalities, and systemic barriers that Canadians of African descent continue to face. The Government also recognizes the importance of sharing the history of Black Canadians, promoting Black cultural heritage, and continuing to highlight the significant contributions Black Canadians have made to the settlement, growth, and development of Canada

In December 1995, following a motion from the Honourable Jean Augustine, the House of Commons officially recognized February as Black History Month in Canada. In 1996, the first Black History Month was celebrated and the Government of Canada’ public education and promotional activities related to Canadians of African descent has continued, happening year round and not being limited to just February. For example, in 2017, in the context of Canada 150 and Emancipation Day celebrations, the Department of Canadian Heritage worked with the organizations that serve Black communities in Ontario and Nova Scotia to support their hosting of Canadian Heritage's "On the Road North" travelling exhibit.

On January 30, 2018, on behalf of the Government of Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau officially recognized the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024). The theme of the decade is “People of African descent: recognition, justice and development”. On July 17, 2019, the Government of Canada released Building A Foundation of Change: Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy (2019-2022), which included the creation of a new Anti-Racism Action Program and the creation of an Anti-Racism Secretariat. The Secretariat is committed to advancing human rights by collaborating with equity seeking groups, all orders of government, and all sectors of society in dismantling systemic racism in Canada. It is a one-stop shop for anti-racism resources and tools. This work also involves helping government departments identify systemic barriers and gaps in initiatives, implement new responsive efforts, and track impacts with the aim of better community outcomes.

On July 31,  2020, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada announced four new designations under the National Program of Historical Commemoration, as part of the effort to shed light on the collective and personal experiences of Black Canadians and their struggles for freedom, equality and justice.  One of these new designations, The Enslavement of African People in Canada (c. 1629–1834), recognizes the national historic significance of the over 4,000 enslaved people of African descent in the British and French colonies that later became Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick, as well as the exploitation, physical, sexual, and psychological violence they were subjected to.

On September 9, 2020, the Prime Minister announced the launch Canada’s first-ever Black Entrepreneurship Program, which will help thousands of Black business owners recover from the COVID-19 crisis and help build back better.

And on October 15, 2020, the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth announced the 85 projects that would receive funding under the new Anti-Racism Action Program. These projects will help national, regional, and local organizations make real change on the ground, in their communities and across Canada.

It is important that Canadians continue to learn about the full scope of our history. While much work remains to be done to address the intergenerational trauma caused by slavery and dismantle its enduring legacy, the Government of Canada knows that learning this history is key to understanding and addressing the realities that Black Canadians continue to face. We will continue to work with community to build back better and consciously more inclusive.

Open for signature
July 23, 2020, at 10:58 a.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
August 22, 2020, at 10:58 a.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Paul Manly (Nanaimo—Ladysmith)
October 5, 2020 (Petition No. 432-00068)
Government response tabled
November 18, 2020
Photo - Paul Manly
Green Party Caucus
British Columbia
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