In days of yore when we watched television networks there was the institution called The Heritage Minute. We got a 60 second shot of Canadian history alongside commercials for various and sundry products. One of those minutes was about the Underground Railroad, the clandestine system developed from the Southern United States to Canada which spirited an estimated 30,000 escaped slaves to freedom through the years. In this Heritage Minute anxious Black family members watch as a coffin-like box is opened in a church to reveal their father, as though Lazarus is arising from the grave. It certainly reinforced for me that Canada was the country where Black people were free from the scourge of slavery.
To some degree this was true, and there is a church in the Niagara region where Harriet Tubman, the fearless 19th century"conductor" on the Underground Railroad worshipped while living in St Catherines, along with 700 other escaped slaves. Just the same, slavery had existed in Canada until August 1st 1834 when the Act for the Abolition of Slavery in Canada was enacted. Before this emancipation of slaves several thousand Black and Indigenous persons were chattel, as they were across the border, although never as vital to the economy. The Quebec Gazette of 12 July 1787 had this advertisement:
For sale, a robust Negress, active and with good hearing, about 18 years old, who has had small-pox, has been accustomed to household duties, understands the kitchen, knows how to wash, iron, sew, and very used to caring for children. She can adapt itself equally to an English, French or German family, she speaks all three language
Tomorrow marks the first official Emancipation Day in Canada after the House of Commons voted in March to unanimously designate August 1st for the commemoration. It really is about time, and we can hope that communities of faith and all Canadians will learn to recognize this important day.
Here is a CBC Radio Sunday Morning interview which may be helpful for you: