Nova Scotia to begin marking Emancipation Day on Aug. 1

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African Affairs Minister Tony Ince tabled the legislation on Tuesday. (CBC - image credit)
African Affairs Minister Tony Ince tabled the legislation on Tuesday. (CBC - image credit)

Nova Scotia will begin marking Aug. 1 of each year as Emancipation Day in an effort to recognize the history of slavery in the province and the legacy stemming from it that continues today.

African Nova Scotian Affairs Minister Tony Ince tabled legislation at Province House on Tuesday that will allow the official recognition of the anniversary of the abolition of slavery by the British parliament.

Ince said that for him and other Black people, the anniversary has deep significance.

"I feel a deep sense of pain and sadness when we encounter dehumanizing legacies of slavery, which are carried through in the acts of systemic racism and anti-Black racisim currently faced by many people of African descent," he said.

The minister said his hope is that by officially recognizing the anniversary, it will help improve education on the history of slavery, a history with roots just as deep in Nova Scotia as other parts of Canada and other countries.

Didn't eradicate racism

It's important for people to learn about that history, he said, because things didn't simply change for the good on Aug. 1, 1834, when about 800,000 people of African descent were freed from enslavement throughout the British colonies, including in Upper and Lower Canada.

"It didn't eradicate slavery or that thought of racism," Ince told reporters at Province House. "It didn't eradicate any of that, and we are seeing today all the aspects and the outcomes of that because it is a part of our history that has been neglected."

Last month, MPs in the House of Commons also voted unanimously to designate Aug. 1 as Emancipation Day across Canada.

Ince oversees the new provincial office of equity and anti-racism initiatives and he said officials would be working with other government departments as well as community groups to look for ways to increase awareness about anti-Black racism and the inequities that flow from it.

But the minister also said it is important for people not to wait for the government to do all the work and instead seek out education opportunities to learn more about past and present problems.

"There are health outcomes that are affecting us because of that trauma we've faced and endured for the past 400 years," he said.

Even with that history, Ince said there are too many people who think the issue is in the past or perhaps does not exist. Education is particularly important for confronting those perspectives, he said.

The bill is certain to get unanimous support in the House, given that both the Progressive Conservative and NDP caucuses have tabled similar pieces of legislation.

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