October 29, 2014 – Emancipation Day
Ontario Hansard – 29-October2014
Mr. Ted Arnott: There are many notable milestone anniversaries this year: The 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, and the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the beginning of the Battle of Normandy and the liberation of Europe are two that come to mind. But there’s another significant milestone anniversary this year that has passed largely unnoticed. In the summer of 1834, 180 years ago this year, slavery was abolished in the British colonies by an act of Parliament of the United Kingdom, and so abolished in Canada.
For more than 20 years, in a remarkable display of parliamentary perseverance, William Wilberforce introduced bill after bill in the House of Commons to end the scourge of slavery in the British empire. His goal was finally realized in 1833, with the passage of the Slavery Abolition Act. Sadly, Wilberforce died one month later, not living to see his bill come into force on August 1, 1834.
Today, August 1 is recognized in Ontario as Emancipation Day, the day when slavery here was abolished for all time, turning Ontario into an important destination of the Underground Railroad for slaves who had escaped the US south.
Bill 111, the Emancipation Day Act, 2008, was the very first private member’s bill introduced in the history of this House that was co-sponsored by two MPPs from different parties, showing that we can work together across party lines to get things done and recognize with pride an important part of Ontario’s heritage and history.