Prince Edward Island to formally recognize Emancipation Day


Date marks end of legal slavery in most British colonies

Gord McNeilly, Tamara Steel and Chijioke Amadi

August 1st will now officially be known as Emancipation Day in P.E.I.

Last Wednesday, the Prince Edward Island Legislature unanimously passed a bill calling for the Island to commemorate August 1, 1834, the date when legal slavery ended throughout most British colonies.

Tamara Steele, executive director of the Black Cultural Society, was at the Legislature to witness the occasion. She said the enactment of the law shows a commitment between P.E.I. and the Island’s Black community.

“It shows a commitment to our freedom, our freedom to move here and be here and exist here and learn here and work here and raise our families here,” she said.

“I know that we’ve been able to choose to do that for a long time. But a lot of us didn’t choose to be here in the first place.”

Emancipation Day is observed in many countries of the Commonwealth. In Canada, the federal government officially recognized the day for the first time last year.

Liberal MLA Gord McNeilly brought forward the bill. He said that while Premier Dennis King had proclaimed that P.E.I. would observe the date in 2021, it was important to enact it into law.

“This is a way to say, ‘Hey you know what? We see what happened. We understand our history,'” he said.

“It’s how the Black community wants to bring and to open up conversations moving forward. Let’s celebrate, let’s have Emancipation Day together. Everybody is welcome, and that’s what was important today.”

The Slavery Abolition Act came into effect in Aug. 1, 1834. The act lay the foundation for the liberation of over 800,000 enslaved people in the British Empire.

The date won’t be a working holiday in P.E.I.