Remembering August 1st

Racism is a global problem, and we in Canada are NOT immune.

Slavery existed in Canada too and it was abolished on August 1st 1834.

United Against Racism

Racism is a global problem. And we in Canada are NOT immune. Slavery existed in Canada too and it was abolished on August 1st 1834.

August 1st 1834 - The Abolition of Slavery in Canada

Slavery ended in Canada on August 1, 1834.

Many Canadians view slavery as something that happened in the United States of America from the arrival of the first slave ships in 1619 until the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, but fail to understand that the buying, selling, and enslavement of Black and Indigenous people went on for about 200 years in our own country (beginning with the arrival of Olivier le Jeune in 1628 to New France and ending with the Slavery Abolition Act, August 1, 1834). 

Canada’s slave trade was dramatically different than what one would find in the southern US, tropical European colonies, and South and Central America due to Canada having no large plantations. 

Even though slavery was prohibited in France, King Louis XIV allowed for the importation of Black slaves to its colonies, including New France (modern-day Quebec), from West Africa. The main purpose in New France for these slaves was to clear land and construct buildings, while some were also servants in households. Marcel Trudel, historian, puts the number of slaves in New France at 4000 by 1759 – 2472 Aboriginal people and 1132 Black people.
After New France was conquered by the British in 1763, Black Africans began to replace Indigenous enslaved people as the norm.

On August 1, 1834, the Abolition of Slavery Act came into effect in the British Empire, which included British North America (as Canada was then known). It is estimated that on that day, 800,000 enslaved Black people were freed as it became illegal for anyone to be a slave in the British Empire.
August 1 is the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Canada. It is a day for us to reflect and have honest dialogue about the deconstructing of racism in our country.


6 Reasons to
Remember August 1st

Slavery was formally abolished in Canada on August 1, 1834 but the injustices persisted long after that. Here are some reasons why we should remember this historic date today.

1. It was a landmark human rights victory

August 1 and the Abolition of Slavery Act meant that no one could be enslaved in Canada again, marking an important human rights victory in Canada.

This was a major turning point in the history of African peoples, and their descendants, who were colonized and enslaved under the rule of the British Empire.

2. It helped break biased thinking

Slavery caused a false association of attributes of subservience, criminality, lack of intelligence, and dangerous with Black people.

August 1st marks the beginning of the end of that association.

3. It acknowledges the existence of Systemic Racism

The belief that White people are superior to Black people and more deserving of privileges in society, has its roots in slavery.

Commemorating the ending of slavery reminds us that racism is systemic in our society and needs to be rooted out.

4. It affirms that all persons are made in God's image

Commemorating August 1 is one way we can show support for the fair treatment of all humans and affirm that all persons are made in the image of God.

5. It renews our desire to work towards a more just society

Although slavery has ended, discrimination of Black people continued other acts of injustice such as "Canada's Jim Crow Laws" which allowed racial segregation to occur in public education, immigration, employment, and housing in formal and informal ways.

The commemoration of August 1st reminds us that the battle is not over and is a time to renew our work for the creation of a more just society.

6. It was the original proclamation that Black Lives Matter

The slave trade and the enslavement of African/Black People was one of the major movements of people in the quest for profit.

To commemorate the ending of slavery is a celebration that Black Lives Matter, not just in the past but in the present day as well.

How can you help commemorate this date?

Become a Silent Witness

To bring awareness to the significance of the day, you are invited to join in a “Silent Witness” activity on August 1st.

A witness tells what he/she knows. To be a silent witness is to proclaim what you know without speaking a word, unless asked.

What is involved?

You are invited to wear a T-shirt that calls attention to the importance of August 1.

You do not need to say anything.

But if someone does ask, you can explain to them what you are doing, if you feel comfortable doing so.

How do I do this?

Step 1. Get educated using the information on this site.
Step 2. Download either Version 1 or Version 2 of our logo.
Step 3. Transfer the image onto a T-shirt that you might have (You do not need to buy a new T-shirt)
Step 4. Wear the T-shirt on August 1st and educate anyone who asks you about it.

As an additional step, you can take a selfie wearing your new shirt and share it to your social media with the hashtags: #rememberaugust1st and #unitedagainstracism

Other ways you can help

  • If you are unable to print the T-shirt you can also share this website on your social media with the hashtags: #rememberaugust1st and #unitedagainstracism to show your support, educate those in your social circle and help make a bigger systemic change in Canada and the world.
  • Invite your congregation to remember the significance of the day in your worship services during the week of August 1st. 
  • Talk about the importance of the day with your friends and family.
  • Discuss: “How can we become an anti-racist church?” with your congregation.
  • Consider ways that we can continue to remove racism from our country.