NUPGE celebrates Emancipation Day and commits to addressing the history of slavery and contemporary racism in Canada

Up raised fist made of slogans for Emancipation Day

August 1 2023

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is taking time this Emancipation Day to reflect on the history of slavery and anti-Black racism in Canada.

“On August 1, we are reminded that the struggle against racism is not complete. As a union we must commit to being a strong voice against racism, to call for the implementation of measures to address past and current crimes committed, and for building a future with full inclusion within our workplaces and all of society,” said Bert Blundon, NUPGE President.

August 1st an important date in our history

Members of Canada’s Parliament voted unanimously in 2021 to recognize August 1 as Emancipation Day. August 1 marks the day in 1834 when the Slavery Abolition Act came into effect, after being passed by the British Parliament.

With the Act came the legal ending of centuries of British slavery that saw more than 800,000 people of African descent enslaved around the world – including in Canada.

2023 is the first year that Emancipation Day is being recognized in all provinces in Canada.

Recognizing the past, present, and creating a better future

In recognizing Emancipation Day, NUPGE acknowledges the vile history of slavery in Canada and recognizes the role it played, and continues to play, in our society.

Prior to the legislation, there were at least 3,500 enslaved people in New France (present-day Quebec), many of whom were Indigenous. In addition, more than 3,000 enslaved people of African descent were brought into British North America (present-day Canada).

Jason MacLean, NUPGE Secretary-Treasurer explained that, “few Canadians know about our history of slavery and segregation. Many try to deny how it created many of the examples of anti-Black racism we still experience today.”

“We see it with racial profiling by the police that results in both over-policing and over-surveillance of Black communities. We see it in the egregious racial inequities that continue in housing, education, health, and child welfare.”

Blundon summed it up with, “I am proud of the work my union has done to address racism but recognize that so much more needs to be done. Emancipation Day serves as a strong reminder of the importance of remembering the past, learning from it, and building a better future!”