Today, the Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) marks Emancipation Day -- the first Emancipation Day in Canada since Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard’s Motion 83, which called on the government of Canada to officially recognize Emancipation Day each August 1, was passed in the Senate in late June 2021.
August 1st 1834 marks the historic day the Slavery Abolition Act came into effect, impacting 800,000 enslaved Africans across the British colonies. Since then, August 1st has been marked by many people and communities as a day of both celebration and reflection.
“We applaud the work of advocates and elected officials who contributed to the official recognition of this historic day,” said CASW President Joan Davis-Whelan. “Knowing that we cannot move forward without recognizing and learning from the mistakes of our past, this is such an important step.”
Indeed, Emancipation Day will serve as a chance for Black Canadians to celebrate and honour the past, support further teaching on racist, colonial histories and ongoing realities, and highlight the amazing contributions of Black Canadians throughout society in curriculums and other forums across Canada.
“While there is so much work left to do, official federal recognition of Emancipation Day in Canada is deeply encouraging, and symbolic of a larger societal shift,” said CASW President Joan Davis-Whelan. “The time is now to redouble our anti-racism efforts as Canadians, and Emancipation Day will help create further space for contemplation and action for all Canadians.”