British Columbia

Anti-racism demonstrators march in Vancouver to mark Emancipation Day

Anti-racism protesters marched through the streets of Vancouver to mark Emancipation Day — a date commemorating the abolition of slavery across the British Empire.

August 1, 1834 — known as Emancipation Day — commemorates the end of slavery across the British Empire

Hundreds of people marched in Vancouver Saturday to mark Emancipation Day and show support for the Black Lives Matter movement. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Anti-racism protesters marched through the streets of Vancouver to mark Emancipation Day — a date commemorating the abolition of slavery across the British Empire.

"We want to highlight our culture and showcase our contributions to the world," said the event's co-organizer, Nova Stevens.

"For us, it's more than just talking about it and educating, you also want to celebrate," she said.

The event, which began at Jack Poole Plaza, is also intended to show support for and unity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Earlier in the summer, large crowds gathered across B.C. and the rest of the country to draw attention to anti-Black racism in Canada and beyond.

A man sits on a patio outside a restaurant in Vancouver as people participating in the Emancipation Day march pass by on Saturday. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

"We just need everybody to be on the same page and wake them up to understanding that certain things are not right, and they hurt," said Shamika Mitchell, co-organizer of the event.

Organizers of the event asked participants to take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by wearing masks, adhering to physical distancing guidelines, and monitoring for possible symptoms for two weeks following the march. 

Nova Scotia Sen. Wanda Thomas Bernard says Canada must confront its role in slavery by officially recognizing Emancipation Day each Aug. 1. 9:31

The event concludes at Sunset Beach Park, where Black artists and Black-owned businesses will be gathered for a celebration of Black culture.

The Slavery Abolition Act received royal assent on Aug. 28, 1833 and the legislation came into force across the empire and its colonies on Aug. 1, 1834.

Since that time, Canadian communities have staged events to celebrate the abolition of slavery. 

Emancipation Day was recognized officially only in Ontario until Saturday, when the City of Vancouver officially declared Aug. 1 Emancipation Day. 

There is a growing movement for broader recognition across provinces. 

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