Today is an important day. Emancipation Day in Canada recognizes when slavery was abolished here and enslaved people were freed. Now, Parks Canada has introduced four new official historical designations to commemorate black history in our country.
This day acknowledges when the British Empire abolished slavery throughout its colonies back on August 1, 1834.
While people recognize, commemorate and celebrate Emancipation Day, it's actually not officially marked by the government of Canada.
However, Canada's National Program of Historical Commemoration that designates places, people and events that have marked and shaped the country as having historical significance nationally is doing something special to mark the day.
There are four new designations now, two people and two events, that Parks Canada said show "the collective and personal experiences of black Canadians and their struggles for freedom, equality and justice."
Richard Pierpoint, Larry Gains, The Enslavement of African People in Canada and the West Indian Domestic Scheme are all now officially designated for commemoration in Canada.
Pierpoint was born in present-day Senegal and forcibly transported across the Atlantic. He was sold into slavery and was enslaved for 20 years.
He got his freedom by fighting for the British and the settling in Upper Canada in 1791. Then he helped create "the Colour Corps", a group of men of African descent who helped protect Upper Canada during the War of 1812.
Gains was a boxer born in Toronto. He won multiple heavyweight titles in the '20s and '30s.
He left Canada for Europe to pursue professional boxing but his career was limited because non-white athletes were barred from competing in some matches.
Between c.1629-1834, approx. 4,000 people of African descent were enslaved across Canada. This left a legacy of dis… https://t.co/O3BzKGSUXu— Parks Canada (@Parks Canada)1596211228.0
Between 1629 and 1834, more than 4,000 people of African descent were enslaved in the British and French colonies that later became Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and New Brunswick.
As of August 1, 1834, slavery was abolished and people of African descent were legally free in Canada but they were not seen or treated as equals.
The West Indian Domestic Scheme was launched in 1955 and was a targeted immigration program that let about 3,000 women from the Caribbean come to Canada to be domestic servants.
That was a path to citizenship that happened during a time when there were discriminatory policies that restricted non-white immigrants from settling here.
One of the most notable women who participated in the scheme is Jean Augustine. She is the first black Canadian woman to be elected to the House of Commons.
She's also the one who introduced a motion to make February Black History Month.
As we mark the 186th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, I invite you to pause, to reflect, to remember, and c… https://t.co/4XLLm9cU4W— Wanda Thomas Bernard (@Wanda Thomas Bernard)1596285869.0
Currently, Emancipation Day is only officially recognized in Ontario.
Nova Scotia Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard wants the federal government to mark the day each year.
There is House of Commons petition that people can sign online until August 28 at 9:04 a.m. ET that calls on the House to recognize Emancipation Day annually.
It also calls on the government to apologize for Canada's role in slavery.