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Hundreds march in Vancouver to mark the day slaves were freed in Canada

Hundreds mark Emancipation day in Vancouver
Hundreds mark Emancipation day in Vancouver

Hundreds of people marched through downtown Vancouver on Sunday to mark Emancipation Day.

Emancipation Day, which falls on Aug. 1, commemorates the day slavery was outlawed in the British Empire — including Canada — in 1834.

When the Abolition of Slavery Act came into force, it freed an estimated 800,000 slaves of African descent across British-controlled territories.

Read more: The history of Canadian slavery goes back 400 years, except we’re blind to it

Organizers of Saturday’s rally unveiled a proclamation bearing Mayor Kennedy Stewart’s signature declaring Aug. 1 Emancipation Day in the city.

Nova Stevens
Nova Stevens. Nova Stevens

“When we learn about black history its always about slavery in America,” said Black Freedom March organizer Nova Stevens.

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“Unfortunately a lot of people in Canada are unaware that Canada too has a past of slavery and segregation. We’ve all heard about residential schools, but we don’t really talk about slavery.”

Stevens said she wants to see emancipation day declared a national holiday.

Organizer Shamika Mitchell said she was pleased with the momentum of the movement in recent months.

“I’m proud that conversations are happening, but we have so much to do.”

“If we can keep going I feel like we will consistent change.”

Anyone who attended was asked to wear a mask or face covering, and to try and maintain physical distance from other people.

Freedom March draws thousands to downtown Vancouver on ‘Juneteenth’
Freedom March draws thousands to downtown Vancouver on ‘Juneteenth’

Last month, provincial health officials said they had not linked any cases of COVID-19 to large anti-racism protests in Vancouver in June.

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Read more: Thousands join Vancouver Freedom March against racism

The demonstration began at Jack Pool Plaza at 1 p.m., then marched down Thurlow Street to Beach Avenue and finishing at Sunset Beach Park for Black artists and speakers.