Emancipation Day

Jul 31, 2023

August 1st marks Emancipation Day in Canada. On this day in 1834 the Slavery Abolition Act came into effect bringing an end to the enslavement of African people across the British Empire.

By acknowledging Emancipation Day, we confront the painful legacy of anti-Black racism and the lasting impacts of slavery. The day also allows us to celebrate the leadership of African people in pushing for the systemic change that made the abolition of slavery possible and Emancipation Day a reality.

Slavery played a significant role in contributing to anti-Black racism in Canada today. The institution of slavery, and the dehumanization and commodification of African people have created a deeply ingrained belief about racial inferiority which continues to reinforce stereotypes and prejudices that have persisted for generations.

The legacy of enslavement and its historic and ongoing trauma is felt by people of African descent in Nova Scotia through ongoing systemic inequalities, racial discrimination, and cultural marginalization. Discriminatory practices and systemic racism continue to shape the socio-economic and political structures of our society, leading to ongoing disparities faced by Black communities. The reality of limited economic opportunities, lack of access to resources, and experiences of racial profiling highlight the need for continued efforts towards equity and justice.

Challenging and dismantling these deep-rooted prejudices and addressing structural inequities are an essential part of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission’s work to foster a more inclusive and just society for all.

Emancipation Day is an opportunity for reflection, education, and understanding of our shared history. Recognizing and celebrating the immense resilience and contributions of people of African ancestry challenges systemic inequalities and promotes social justice.   An awareness of the legacies of enslavement and the ongoing effects of colonialism and the need for reconciliation help foster a collective commitment to challenge and dismantle the structures that perpetuate discrimination and inequality.

Commemorating Emancipation Day sends a powerful message of solidarity and support to communities of African descent. It demonstrates that their history and contributions are valued and acknowledged, fostering a sense of belonging and inclusivity.

Emancipation Day serves as a reminder of our shared humanity and the importance of equality and justice. By recognizing this significant day, we work towards creating a more inclusive and equitable society where the experiences and contributions of all individuals are respected and celebrated.

The preceding is a statement from Joseph Fraser, Director & CEO of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

How can you recognize Emancipation Day?

  • Participate in events commemorating Emancipation Day across the province.
  • Continue the conversation around anti-Black racism and our collective responsibility in building an equitable society for all, regardless of race.
  • Create space to acknowledge the history and contemporary issues affecting African Nova Scotians and positive actions for addressing them.
  • Support efforts to pursue reparations.