We live in a country where slavery was once legal; women could not vote, and our Japanese population endured internment camps and swaths of Indigenous children taken from their families.
I trust many of you know that yesterday, August 1st, was Emancipation Day in Canada. Oddly enough, I saw more mention of Juneteenth, even within my business ecosystem, than Emancipation Day. In a typically Canadian way, I guess we have allowed American history and politics to overshadow our own. I am not surprised when people are unaware that Canada once legalized slavery. Perhaps it was because we were still a colony and not a country. Or maybe it is because we often don’t look as harshly at ourselves as we should.
We need to.
Any reaction to my statement being sensational is factually correct. Emancipation brought Freedom to my people. Freedom is a special status for any Canadian from new Canadians, non-French speakers living in Quebec, or a family who has been here for generations. Freedom is not a group of protestors waving swastikas and confederate flags and impeding others from living and working in peace.
Our country needs to think long and hard about words such as Freedom.
I can’t but reflect on the Pope’s non-apology tour of Canada that if I were Indigenous and not Black, I might not be here to share these words with you. These are words that I have written and spoken before, but they are worth repeating. I grew up in Orillia, near a reserve, and I am sure I was not taught properly about Indigenous history. Let alone I was a young child running around the same streets that others may have been taken from and sent away.
Why is Emancipation Day important to non-black folks? I think this question should elicit a powerful rejoinder for any person in our country. I think everyone needs to understand that.
I have no time for the oppression Olympics many people play – “My parents came here with nothing,” “I grew up in a rough hood,” “Nobody gave me a chance.” But unfortunately, none of this equates to the legalized persecution Black, Asian, and Indigenous groups have faced in Canada. Emancipation Day should be more than a moment for Black people to celebrate. It should signal for you to educate yourself on what Freedom and fairness mean for the future of so many.
Those groups that have always, and will always, enjoy liberty and protection should work harder to understand those who have not and seek it.