International Day for Remembrance of the Victims of the Transatlantic Slave Trade

Mar 24, 2023

On March 25th we are asked to reflect on the victims of the transatlantic slave trade, a brutal and dehumanizing practice that lasted for centuries.

Between 1526 and 1867, an estimated 12 million African adults and children were taken captive and enslaved to enable the spread of colonialism throughout the Americas, including Canada. The legacy of this shameful period continues to have a lasting impact in Nova Scotia where communities of African descent are forced to fight against anti-Black racism, the origins of which can be traced to this human tragedy.

The very existence of transatlantic slavery was rooted in the notion of the inferiority of African people - the belief that Africans were sub-human and therefore could be captured, owned, enslaved, and held for generations as property. These sickening beliefs are buried so deep within the fibers of our society that we are still fighting to uncover and address them.

On the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, it is important to reflect on the lasting effects of slavery and the ways in which it and the beliefs that permitted it to occur have shaped our society. This day serves as a reminder that the horrors of slavery have left a deep scar on our world, and that we must continue to work towards a future where racism and inequality are no longer tolerated.

In Nova Scotia, the legacy of slavery and racism is particularly pronounced. African Nova Scotians have a rich and unique history that spans several centuries, but their experiences have often been marked by violence, discrimination, and marginalization. Even after the abolition of slavery in Canada, African Nova Scotians continued to face systemic racism, including being denied access to education, healthcare, and basic human rights. The impacts of this systemic racism are still felt today.

Reflecting on the legacy of slavery and the impact of systemic racism is not only important for understanding the past, but it is also essential for shaping our present and future. By acknowledging the ways in which racism has shaped our society, we can work towards dismantling the systems that perpetuate it. This requires a commitment to anti-racism and an understanding of the ways in which privilege and power operate within our society.

We must remember the millions of lives lost because of the transatlantic slave trade; people who died in captivity, on ships and because of violence at the hands of their captors. We must reflect on the role slavery played in the success of colonialism and the foundation of wealth that would be passed on for generations creating lasting disparities.

It is crucial that white Nova Scotians listen to the voices of African Nova Scotians and other marginalized groups who have been fighting against racism and inequality for decades. The experiences and perspectives of those affected most must be at the forefront of any discussions about racism and its impacts, but they should not be left to do the important work remaining to be done.

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