At the end of a raucous fall sitting of the legislature, one thing every MLA could agree on was proclaiming Aug. 1 Emancipation Day in Manitoba.
Bill 232 (the Emancipation Day Act) passed unanimously Thursday. It marks the day in 1834 that the Slavery Abolition Act took effect in the British Empire, which included much of what is now Canada.
It's historically significant for another reason: it's the first bill passed in Manitoba that was introduced by a Black man. The private member's bill was introduced by St. Vital NDP MLA Jamie Moses, who alongside NDP health critic Uzoma Asagwara and Progressive Conservative health minister Audrey Gordon, was one of the first three Black MLAs elected to the Manitoba legislature in 2019.
On Friday, Moses was joined at the legislature by Nadia Thompson, chair of Black History Month Manitoba and Nigerian-born educator Segun Olunde to celebrate the proclamation of the Emancipation Day Act.
"To recognize what our past is and how we are going forward in the future, education is key," said Thompson.
Just as the trauma caused by Indian Residential Schools has affected generations of Indigenous Canadians, the negative effects of slavery are still being felt, said Olunde.
"To get to healing, we have to get together — all of us in one place," Olunde said.
"It's so beautiful that we can set aside one day to do this," he said of Emancipation Day. "It's going to be about hope. It's going to be about education, enhancing multiculturalism and creating a broader path to reconciliation for all of us in Manitoba."
Moses said it will be a day to celebrate and recognize the heritage and contributions of Black Manitobans, while recognizing that more work needs to be done.
The Slavery Abolition Act laid a pathway to freedom for more than 800,000 enslaved Africans and their descendants in the Caribbean, Africa, South America as well as Canada, which recognizes Aug. 1 as Emancipation Day. The act abolishing slavery confirmed Canada as a free territory for enslaved African Americans, thousands of whom arrived on Canadian soil between 1834 and the early 1860s.
Emancipation Day is observed in many former European colonies in the Caribbean and areas of the United States on various dates to commemorate the emancipation of those of African descent who were enslaved.
On Aug. 1, 1985, Trinidad and Tobago became the first country to declare a national holiday to commemorate the abolition of slavery.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.