Rachna Singh, Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives, has released the following statement to mark Emancipation Day on Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021:
“For the first time in its history, B.C. is proclaiming Aug. 1 as Emancipation Day to mark the date on which slavery was abolished across Canada in 1834.
“The Black community has been part of British Columbia since April 1858, when more than 800 members of the community came to traditional territories of the First Nations and the Métis fleeing brutality and exploitation.
“Yet the experience of Black British Columbians continues to be marginalized, their histories and contributions to this province little known or celebrated. This proclamation reaffirms our commitment to recognize the historical and present wrongs of exclusion, segregation, displacement, surveillance and over-incarceration that Black communities have experienced. We must and can do better.
“I am so grateful to the many Black Canadians and community organizations who continue to push for social justice and equity for all, and to commemorate key initiatives, such as the International Decade for People of African Descent. We’re working closely with the community to recognize this important decade in a way that is respectful and appropriate.
“Our race or the colour of skin should never limit our potential, but for racialized and Indigenous communities, systemic racism has put up barriers that repeatedly prevent them from reaching their goals.
“Our government is committed to dismantling systemic racism. We’re currently working in partnership with communities across the province to draft anti-racism data legislation, which will help us to provide better and more equitable services.
“We are also working to introduce B.C.’s first anti-racism act, to make B.C. a safer, more welcoming and equitable province for everyone, regardless of their race, skin colour or faith.
“As Canadians, we often see ourselves as a kind and tolerant society. Yet, too many racialized communities continue to be targeted and scapegoated by the ignorant and bigoted among us.
“As we reflect on the past 18 months, it’s clear that we cannot return to ‘business as usual.’ We must do more to challenge the status quo, to speak out when we hear and see examples of racism and fundamentally shift our institutions. It’s time to commit to do the work needed to be anti-racist.
“On this day, I encourage all British Columbians to take some time to listen to the stories and experiences of Black Canadians, and learn about how the history of this province has been shaped – and continues to be shaped – by their contributions.”
For more information about B.C.’s Black history, visit: https://bcblackhistory.ca/learning-centre/
For French, Arabic, Somali and Swahili translations, visit: http://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2021AG0118-001494#translations