Education a priority for Emancipation Day activities in Yellowknife

·2 min read
Education a priority for Emancipation Day activities in Yellowknife

Dozens gathered in Yellowknife's Somba K'e park on Monday to celebrate the strength and diversity of the area's Black community and to educate themselves on what emancipation means.

On Aug. 1, 1834, the Slavery Abolition Act came into effect, marking the end of slavery in the British Empire and freeing more 800,000 enslaved people in most British colonies, including Canada. In March 2021, the House of Commons in this country voted unanimously to designate the date as Emancipation Day.

According to Ambe Chenemu, the president of the non-profit Black Advocacy Coalition (BACupNorth), many people don't know what it means to be emancipated.

"So we're bringing out a couple of folks within our community to talk about what it means to them personally and to share short messages," he told CBC News before Monday's event.

One those speakers at the event in Yellowknife was Jason Snaggs.

"Systemic racism exists within our society. We see it in our government. We see it throughout our corporate cultures," Snaggs told the crowd.

"We see it in everyday life. We must identify and must stamp it out immediately."

Luke Carroll/CBC
Luke Carroll/CBC

Snaggs talked about the need for more education on the African presence in both Canada and the Northwest Territories.

Johnelle Joseph was one of the attendees. She was born in Jamaica which commemorates Emancipation Day and was surprised to learn that Canada does as well.

"I know that for a lot of other countries, individual countries across Africa and the Caribbean that was enslaved, each of us have our own Emancipation Day," she said.

"So I didn't know that Canada has it. So this was an eye-opener for us, and that's why we came out to just see what it's all about."


The government of Canada website notes that in the book Canada's Forgotten Slaves: Two Hundred Years of Bondage Quebec historian Marcel Trudel estimated that approximately 4,200 people who were Indigenous and Black were enslaved between 1671 and 1831 in the area of Canada known as Nouvelle France, and later in Upper and Lower Canada.

Luke Carroll/CBC
Luke Carroll/CBC

Education still necessary 

Chenemu said it's important to explain the significance of the day, especially because the federal government only recently recognized the date.

"There's a lot of education that still needs to happen, not just here in the North, as well across Canada," he said.

"And I think what we're doing here as a Black advocacy group is to do our own part and play our own role in spreading the message and also finding those opportunities to discuss."

The event included a barbecue, music and performances by local artists.

WATCH | The FreeUp! 2022 Emancipation Day Special streaming on CBC Gem

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