MPs unanimously vote to declare Aug. 1 Emancipation Day

MPs in the House of Commons have voted unanimously to designate Aug. 1 as Emancipation Day across Canada.

Marks anniversary of British Parliament abolishing slavery in the empire in 1834

A person raises their fist in the air while attending a rally before an Emancipation Day March, in Vancouver, on Aug. 1. MPs from all parties on Wednesday united to pass a motion declaring Aug. 1 Emancipation Day across Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

MPs in the House of Commons have voted unanimously to designate Aug. 1 as Emancipation Day across Canada.

The motion drew 335 votes in favour on Wednesday, with no abstentions or nay votes.

The date marks the anniversary of when Britain's Parliament abolished slavery in the British Empire in 1834.

"Recognizing Emancipation Day at the federal level is a step forward in acknowledging the multi-generational harms caused by slavery and recognizing the heritage of people of African descent in Canada and the many contributions they have made and continue to make," said Emelyana Titarenko, the spokesperson for Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth Bardish Chagger.

The motion was introduced by the Liberal MP for Richmond Hill, Majid Jowhari. It also called on the federal government to recognize "the heritage of Canada's people of African descent and the contributions they have made and continue to make to Canada."

Jowhari told CBC News the motion's aim is reconciliation.

"It's about being an informed and inclusive society that is willing to listen to the experience of various ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, and acknowledging the wrongs done in the past," Jowhari told CBC Radio's The House

Jowhari's motion was seconded by Alex Ruff, a Conservative MP who represents Owen Sound, where Emancipation Day has been celebrated consistently since before Confederation.

"The root advantage of bringing this motion forward is to make sure we never forget, and at the same time that we educate," Ruff said.

The Green Party of Canada welcomed the vote, saying it would provide an opportunity for members of Black and Indigenous communities to celebrate their achievements, cultures and traditions.

"I'm very pleased that there has been overwhelming support," said Green Party Leader Annamie Paul. 

"For almost 200 years Emancipation Day has gone generally uncommemorated, and untaught, though people of African descent have lived in Canada since the transatlantic slave trade and the Indigenous Peoples of these territories predate the colonialists."

With files from the CBC's Joanne Stassen


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