#Human Rights
Government of Canada; all Canadians


Emancipation Day was celebrated throughout the British Empire immediately following the passage of the British Imperial Act of 1833. Black communities throughout Ontario – including Amherstburg, Hamilton, Brantford, St. Catharines, London, Owen Sound, Toronto and Windsor held annual celebrations until over time the communities and the inspiration dwindled or until the celebrations were stopped due to security concerns in the 1960’s. In Toronto, once the abolitionist centre of the province, new found interest in supporting the Canadian Centennial project called Caribana overshadowed Emancipation Day celebrations in Toronto, or in collaboration with the “Big Picnic” that drew hundreds from American and Canadian cities, converging in Port Dalhousie, ON.

The OBHS has been working to have August 1st as Emancipation Day since 1997 when the OBHS supported the international effort of the Caribbean Historical Society of Trinidad and Tobago to have it commemorated. Immediately successful in having it formally recognized with the City of Toronto, Metro Toronto and the City of Ottawa, the earlier attempt to have Provincial recognition through the initiative of Jim Brown MPP was only recently noted to have only gone to second reading. Renewed OBHS advocacy for this Bill resulted in a working relationship with the initiators of this successful Bill.

Bill 111, the first co-sponsored act of the Ontario Provincial Legislature, was introduced by Ted Arnott, MPP and Maria Van Bommel, MPP with the support of Peter Kormos, MPP. It was passed unanimously on December 4, 2008 - the first co-sponsored bill of the Ontario Provincial Legislature.

The OBHS had also approached the Federal Government, and Preston Manning immediately had us to a reception in Ottawa to mark his party’s support of a national recognition of August 1st as Emancipation Day. However, while introduced by Deepak Obhrai MPP for Calgary East, it only went to second reading. Numerous subsequent efforts to have Emancipation Day recognized nationally including letters and emails to the Prime Minister and to MPs have yet to produce the desired result. The OBHS will continue to work on a national commemoration of August 1st as Emancipation Day.

The effort was renewed by a petition launched at the OBHS launching event for February as Black History Month held on January 25th, 2009 in Toronto. See also www.blackhistorysociety.ca

This is the first online petition.


To the Parliament of Canada:

WHEREAS the British Parliament abolished slavery in the British Empire as of August 1, 1834, as a result of the work of Abolitionists; and

WHEREAS The Ontario Black History Society (OBHS) has for several years been advocating for the commemoration of August 1st as Emancipation Day; and

WHEREAS there remain in Canada many clear and visible signs of Canada’s early Black presence; and

WHEREAS the freedom offered by Emancipation Day facilitated a Black presence throughout Canada and fully sparked the northward movement of enslaved Africans from the United States into Canada on the Underground Railroad; and

WHEREAS Bill 111, An Act to proclaim Emancipation Day, has recently been passed unanimously in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario;

WE the undersigned petition the Parliament of Canada to recognize August 1 formally as Emancipation Day.

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The August 1st Emancipation Day in Canada petition to Government of Canada; all Canadians was written by ROSEMARY SADLIER and is in the category Human Rights at GoPetition.