Emancipation Day (August 1)

A reflection by Archbishop and Primate Linda Nicholls, Anglican Church of Canada.

On August 1, Canada marks Emancipation Day. This is the day in 1834 when the Abolition of Slavery Act was enacted by the British parliament and became law across all the colonial territories claimed by Great Britain, including lands that today are commonly referred to as Canada. For nearly 400 years, approximately 12 million African children, women and men were abducted and trafficked to the Caribbean, North America and South America. Millions more of their descendants continued to be enslaved for generations, experiencing extreme violence, family separation, and the suppression of religious beliefs and practices. Enslavement denied the dignity of every person, often with the theological support of Christian churches.

Emancipation Day in 1834 marked an important step in a long and continuing journey toward freedom and the dismantling of embedded systemic racism and anti-Black racism that continues in different forms even today. We mark Emancipation Day even as it invites us to ask how that legacy still lives in our midst. The joy of emancipation is tempered by the racial injustice that continues for Black people, Indigenous peoples and people of colour in our communities.

To honour Emancipation Day is to honour those whose resistance, perseverance, and solidarity brought slavery to an end in these lands of Canada and in many other places around the world in 1834. We must also honour those whose resilience continues to call for an end to the legacy of racism and discrimination that denies the full human dignity of every person.

As Anglicans, we are committed to the Marks of Mission including “To seek to transform unjust structures of society.” Emancipation Day calls us all to action.

We must act to address the realities of racism, discrimination, and exclusion in our parishes, in our communities, and in our country.

As a Church, we look forward to the recommendations of the Dismantling Racism Task Force, calling us to specific action to move along our journey to true emancipation for all.

As we recognize Emancipation Day together this year, I invite you to pray with me:

God of Liberation, we offer our prayers of thanksgiving and praise. You have heard the cries of the oppressed and given us freedom. May we remember all of the ancestors who longed for liberty and may we have the courage, strength, and fortitude to continue striving for social justice and equity in the present day. Amen.

From “Prayers of the People”, Canadian Council of Churches Virtual Ecumenical Emancipation Day Service, August 1, 2021 created by Irene Moore Davis — final petition.

Learn more about Emancipation Day.

Written by Archbishop and Primate Linda Nicholls. Originally published on July 22, 2022 on Medium: Ministry Matters.


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