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AfriGeneas Canada Research Forum

Re: Slavery in Canada
In Response To: Re: Slavery in Canada ()


I respect your opinions and I suppose we will continue to disagree. As a descendant of an African Canadian (who came into Upper Canada in the 1700s), I must take exception with many of your comments and I welcome this opportunity to set the record straight.

Prior to 1763, what we now refer to as "Canada" was originally referred to as "New France," and from 1763 - 1841, it was referred to as "Upper Canada" (Ontario) and "Lower Canada" (Quebec). Between 1841 and 1867, what we now know as "Ontario" was referred to as "Canada West," and what we know know as "Quebec" was refereed to as "Canada East." Collectively, they were called, "The Canadas."

That said, slavery exited in New France, and Upper and Lower Canada going back all the way to 1628 and ending, finally, in 1834 when slavery ended in all British territories. It's true that the Canadian government had started phasing out slavery in 1794, but what that meant was that any black slaves currently living in the country at that time had to serve an additional 25 years, and would finally be freed in 1834, but any blacks who entered the country after 1794 would be automatically free. During that 25 year phase-in, many private slave owners began to free their slaves and some even gave them land. By 1834 there were few enslaved blacks left to free.

Slavery had been practiced in New France since the 1600s but was formally legalized there in 1709, outlawed in 1834, much longer than the 20 year height of slavery to which you refer. Slaves were continually transported into New France and during the time period that Canada was still a French colony (prior to 1763), there were approximately 1,000 black slaves living in Canada, as compared to the nearly 500,000 living in the United States. Yes, many slaves in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean were sold by black Africans.

Slavery aside, blacks continued to suffer at the hands of Canadians for generations. During the Revolutionary War, more than 5,000 blacks who sided with the British and fought to defend the Crown, moved to Quebec and Ontario (Upper and Lower Canada), and were promised land by the British in return for their loyalty to the Crown.

But many of these land claims were denied, many of the former slaves who had fought to defend England were returned to their former masters in the U.S., while others were given land of the very worst sort, in remote areas, with no resources or support whatsoever. In most of those cases, the former slaves simply abandoned the land they were granted, unable to access property dozens of miles away from the nearest town.

But it gets better. Blacks were discriminated against, forced to move from their homes in Ontario and Nova Scotia (some were burned out of their homes), while many more were prevented from immigrating into Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba during the "Land Best West" program of the early 20th century.

If Canada were as blameless as you suggest, then why are so many Black Canadians interested in a reparations program for Canada, similar to the movement started in the U.S.? Regardless of how you feel about reparations in general, Canada (like the U.S.) has yet to acknowledge its role in enslaving blacks for over two hundred years. If you wish to continue to believe what you believe, I respect that.

But the AfriGeneas community knows better, and I am so honored to be able to share this information.

Wishing you only the best.

- Lisa B. Lee

Oakland, CA

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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