Editor’s note: Doğan D. Akman bravely puts slavery under the microscope in the Canadian context and challenges misleading information that underpins related calls for repentance and reparations. Is it past time for Canadians to demand the unconstrained and respectful debate that this subject matter deserves?
By Doğan D. Akman
Here we are once again on the latest fad doing the rounds: Slavery
Keen to do one better than the Americans at this juncture, the self-righteous crusaders are now demanding that Prime Minister Trudeau apologise to the descendants of the black slaves in Canada for the historical abusive practices against them. Some are also suggesting that the government pay the descendants reparations for these alleged abusive practices. Slaves in Canada? Apologise to their descendants? Paying them reparations for the abusive practices?
As a reader of the Globe and Mail pointed out the well-established historical fact, slavery in British North America was abolished by the British Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 enacted by the British Parliament.
The legislation freed more than 800,000 enslaved Africans in the Caribbean and South Africa as well as a small number about 500, in the territory that became Canada. The legislation received Royal Assent on August 28, 1833, and took effect on August 1, 1834. Self-evidently, country Canada did not exist prior to 1833.
Consequently, by the time Canada was established 34 years later there were no slaves in the country and, in the circumstances, Canadians could not have engaged in abusive practices towards slaves.
And that is not the end of the matter. There is more to the story that does honour to Canada, some provincial governments and Canadians in general. After all, they provided American slaves with a destination that promised self- liberation and self-emancipation and made good on their promises to all who managed to find their way into Canada.
This is not to say that, after Confederation, provincial and local governments, institutions and Caucasian Canadians in Nova Scotia, and possibly other locations, did discriminate against the former slaves and their communities by reason of their race. But that is another story.
About the treatment of the new free men and women and children, I take the liberty to refer the folks who demand the Prime Minister to apologise for slavery to the following two sources for starters:
Let knowledge save us all from making and agitating for ignorant political demands.
About the author: Doğan D. Akman is retired from the Federal Department of Justice where he worked as a Crown Prosecutor and then as civil litigator specialising in aboriginal law. In addition to his publications in criminology and on socio-ethnological subjects , he writes for his “Times of Israel” blog that can be found at https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/author/dogan-akman/