Communities planning 'powerful celebrations' to mark Emancipation Day

Black and Indigenous peoples were once enslaved in the British Empire, including Canada, and not free until the Slavery Abolition Act nearly 200 years ago.

This past March, the House of Commons designated Aug. 1 as a day to reflect, educate and engage in the fight against anti-Black racism.

Many community groups in the Maritimes are marking Emancipation Day this weekend.

The Pan-African flag was raised at CFB Halifax Friday morning as the Stadacona band performed an original piece composed by band member Petty Officer Second Class Nevawn Patrick.

His compassion in honour of the black men who gave their lives in service to Canada as members of the No. 2 Construction Battalion.

"You know, it's amazing that the base has acknowledged Emancipation Day to begin with, I think this is the only base in the country that is participating in this event," he says. "It feels absolutely phenomenal that my music has been chosen."

The executive director of the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia says Emancipation Day is a time to educate.

"The question always is, is there or was there slavery in Canada? And the answer to that is 'yes,'" explains Executive Director Russell Grosse. "Was it in Halifax, Nova Scotia? Yes. There was slavery and so it wasn't an American thing, it wasn't something that just happened south of the border. It's something that happened here in our backyard. But today we can look back at it, and we can learn from it."

Educators in Yarmouth have organized an event for Sunday.

They say it will be a powerful celebration – the first of its kind in the town.

"By doing this, we're acting on our own power and privilege to bring the community together, to open up that conversation that otherwise may not happen on our relationship between communities and specifically in support of the Black communities in our local area," explains event co-organizer Joe Bishara.

Meanwhile, Grosse asks everyone to reflect on the greater understanding on Emancipation Day this weekend.

"Awareness of the past hurt that's happened and through that struggle, through those chains of oppression, some successful communities were developed," Grosse explains. "Contributions have been made to Canada's greater society."

A powerful message of adversity and triumph that will be celebrated on Aug. 1.