Dozens march in Toronto to commemorate Emancipation Day

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Dozens mark Emancipation Day with march in Toronto
About 100 people took to the streets in downtown Toronto on Saturday to mark Emancipation Day. – Aug 1, 2020

Calls to eliminate anti-Black racism could be heard throughout downtown Toronto on Saturday as demonstrators took to the streets to mark Emancipation Day.

Beginning on Isabella Street and heading down Yonge Street, about 100 people marched to commemorate Emancipation Day, the day paying tribute to when more than 800,000 people of African descent across the British Empire were freed from slavery in 1834.

“There are many issues to address,” said Dave D’Oyen, who organized the march.

D’Oyen works for Corus Entertainment, Global News’ parent company, as the lead of Diversity and Inclusion.

“If we’re serious about our human rights, if we’re serious about Black people being treated equally and fairly, then the whole community should be here,” he said.

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The Emancipation Day march calls for an end to anti-Black racism, specifically in areas such as child welfare, policing, justice, arts and culture, education and health care.

“By being here on Emancipation Day is to say we need to look structurally into the frameworks of discrimination and racism that are impacting us across the board,” said Yvette Blackburn of the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council.

Ransford James, a bishop at Destiny Gospel Centre in Markham, Ont., told Global News he participated in the demonstration in part to see systemic and institutional racism dismantled.

“I have two young children, a young girl and a young boy — and I want to ensure that they can live in a society that is fair and free and equitable,” he said.

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Re-thinking the country’s systems and institutions should be a key focus, according to Irwin Elman, the former Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth for the Ontario government.

“We have to understand that it’s not about whether we’re good people or bad people,” Elman said.

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“It’s about the institutions that my ancestors set up and that I continue to benefit from and others don’t.”

Hugh Simmonds, a professor at Ryerson University, said he hopes to see a stronger and more equitable future for the country.

“What we want to truly embrace is the opportunity to have dialogue, to have conversation on our collective futures and how we can make our home and native land truly a place that is inclusive and a model for the world.”

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