Canada’s first official Emancipation Day


In March, Canada’s House of Commons voted unanimously to mark August 1st as Emancipation Day. It’s the anniversary of when Britian’s Parliament abolished slavery in the British Empire in 1834.

Now we have formal recognition of this important date. And this recognition comes at the same time as the United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent, which focuses on the fact that people of African descent represent a distinct group whose human rights must be promoted and protected.

All of this is important because it can help us reckon with our underacknowledged and oft-ignored history of slavery and systemic anti-Black racism in Canada, as well as celebrate all the people who strive to make change.

It’s important because there is so much more work to do.

From health to housing to opportunities for advancement, Black individuals and communities face barriers rooted in anti-Black racism. And Black women, girls, and gender-diverse people face higher rates of workplace and housing discrimination, pay inequity, and criminalization than other groups of people.

Ending anti-Black racism is most certainly not a project, nor is it limited to a single day. And it is especially pressing today as the pandemic has amplified inequalities faced by Black women and gender-diverse people.

A key element of the solution is building up tailored, community grounded supports and services that promote rights, well-being, and critical protections for Black women, girls, and gender-diverse people. That’s why the Canadian Women’s Foundation works with community partners and supporters to move much-needed funds to excellent grassroots programs and support efforts that challenge and change harmful systems and practices.

On Emancipation Day, I remember my ancestors and those who paved the way for me. We must also think forward and act collectively to end anti-Black racism and strive for justice. This is everyone’s work to do every day.

As the Honourable Rosemary Brown, Canada’s first Black female member of a provincial legislature and a Founding Mother of Canadian Women’s Foundation has taught us, “Until all of us have made it, none of us have made it.” I believe this to my core and it’s what we strive for at the Foundation, nothing less.

-Paulette Senior, President & CEO, Canadian Women’s Foundation

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