Enjoying your August long weekend holiday?
In a way should you thank black (Canadian) people for that day off from work.
It's because of people that look like me that you can enjoy Canadiana sipping beer on a Muskoka chair at your cottage in Muskoka.
You are welcome, Canada.
The link between black people and the first Monday off in August may seem a bit bizarre; however, there's the (big) little known black Canadian history of Simcoe Day.
In 1793, Ontario's (Upper Canada's) first Lieutenant Governor, John Graves Simcoe, passed the Anti-Slavery Act that officially barred the importation of slaves to the province. While slavery was not officially abolished in Canada and the British Empire until 1834, Simcoe's move would have effectively ended slavery in Upper Canada, with or without the consent of the British.
Simcoe did this before the British abolished the Slave Trade in 1807.
Simcoe did this before the British abolished the institution of slavery in its colonies in 1834.
All of this in what was to become Canada. Not the United States, but Canada.
(Somewhere out there Drake needs to stand up and write a song about this fact for people to understand that his OVO concert takes place on a weekend made possible by a person that fought for the freedom of his ancestors. Well, at least the black half of his ancestors.)
Furthermore, the significance of "Black August" pulls to the official abolition of slavery in Canada (which was still a British colony until 1867), on August 1st, 1834. Exactly 180 years ago, Black people across the British world -- including Canada -- were set free from centuries of enslavement.
Emancipation Day may be non-existent in Canada; however, it is a big deal particularly in the West Indies.
I remember going to Barbados' Emancipation Day celebrations back in 1998 where Fidel Castro addressed the crowd. I don't know how many people have had the opportunity to hear Castro speak, but considering he is one of the most influential individuals of the 20th century, it's a pretty big deal.
Emancipation Day is a big deal. And whether we know it or not, it's a fundamental feature of Canadian history.
Then we have Caribana.
They may have changed the name and the parade route, but the month-long festivities with the culmination of the parade in Toronto, brings over a million people to celebrate black and West Indian culture in Canada.
Considering in the last census Canada's Black population was not even one million people, I think that's a pretty big deal.
For once, let's stop lumping black Canadian history and black American history as one common thing. Black History Month in February was adopted in the U.S. by an African American, for African Americans.
How about we as black Canadians adopt August for black Canadians?
As I chipped down the Lakeshore during the Caribana parade near Fort York, on the shores of Lake Ontario, in the capital of Ontario, I remembered that my freedom was all made possible 180 years ago.
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