For the first time, Canada is officially marking the end of slavery on its territory.
Emancipation Day occurred in the British Empire on August 1, 1834 as a result of the Slavery Abolition Act, which passed the previous year.
"For most enslaved people in British North America, the Act resulted only in partial liberation," the government stated on its website. "It only freed children under the age of six. Others were to continue serving their former owners for four to six years as apprentices. The Act did however confirm Canada as a free territory for enslaved African Americans."
That led about 30,000 African Americans to come to Canada via the Underground Railroad prior to the end of the U.S. Civil War in 1865.
In March of this year, the House of Commons voted to officially designate August 1 as Emancipation Day.
It celebrates the strength and perseverance of Black communities in the face of racism and economic discrimination.
"Canadians are not always aware that Black and Indigenous Peoples were once enslaved on the land that is now Canada," the federal government website points out. "Those who fought enslavement were pivotal in shaping our society to be as diverse as it is today.
"Therefore, each August 1, Canadians are invited to reflect, educate and engage in the ongoing fight against anti-Black racism and discrimination."
Quebec historian Marcel Trudel concluded that there were about 4,200 people who were enslaved in Upper Canada and Lower Canada (previously known as Nouvelle France) between 1671 and 1831.
In his book Canada's Forgotten Slaves: Two Hundred Years of Bondage, Trudel noted that initially, two-thirds were Indigenous and one-third was of African ancestry.
"After British colonial settlers established Upper Canada, the number of enslaved Africans and their descendants increased significantly," the government website states. "It is estimated that 3,000 enslaved men, women and children of African descent were brought into British North America and eventually outnumbered enslaved Indigenous Peoples. Many enslaved Black people resisted slavery by fleeing Upper Canada to a territory known as the Northwest Territory, which included Michigan and Ohio, as well as to Vermont and New York, which had banned slavery in the late 18th century."
In 1793, the legislature of Upper Canada voted for gradual abolition of slavery and decreed that anyone arriving in the province was free.