Today commemorates the historic date on which slavery was officially abolished across the British Empire in 1834.
Canadians can be proud of our history in the fight to end slavery. Upper Canada, now known as Ontario, became the first colony in the Empire to move toward abolition when, under its first Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe, it passed anti-slavery legislation in 1793.
This was followed in 1819 by Upper Canada Attorney General John Robinson’s declaration that slaves residing within our borders were set free and that, by virtue of being Canadian subjects, British law would protect their freedom.
Emancipation Day holds particular significance this year as we celebrate the bicentennial of the War of 1812, when black Loyalists such as Richard Pierpoint rallied to the Imperial flag to defend Canada from the United States’s first war of territorial expansion.
As we mark this anniversary and reflect on the historical importance of Emancipation Day, we are reminded that slavery, oppression and human trafficking – often described as modern-day slavery – remain a terrible evil with too many people around the globe.
Today let us reaffirm Canada’s commitment to promote and uphold our fundamental values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and let us stand together in our efforts to rid the world of the ancient and enduring evil of slavery – in all its forms – once and for all.
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