The British Empire Slavery Abolition Act came into effect throughout the British Empire on August 1, 1834. Earlier this year, Canada’s House of Commons voted unanimously to designate August 1 as Emancipation Day. And today, we will celebrate the first official Emancipation Day in Nova Scotia.
Freeing slaves in 1834 was an important moment in time for Canada. It put a stop to an immoral practice, but it didn’t put an end to racism. In the same way, recognizing Emancipation Day, while significant, means nothing if we do not learn from history, recognize the continuing legacy of slavery, and take meaningful action against racism and discrimination.
Personally, I am distraught when I encounter the dehumanizing legacy of slavery, which continues today through acts of systemic racism and anti-Black sentiment. A year ago, I announced the formation of the President’s Anti-Racism Task Force for Acadia (PART), to accelerate our contribution to ending that legacy and ensuring that our students, regardless of their ethnic and cultural background, will create and live in a better world.
I am thankful to the members of the Task Force for being open, honest, and direct about how Acadia, as an institution, and each of us as individuals, can strengthen and support the Black community and combat racism in all its forms. I am pleased to say that I have received their report and will be meeting with the Task Force to discuss the findings and recommendations. Together, we can take action and put an end to racism. We will be sharing results and planning from our work together in the near future.
On August 1, Acadia University will mark Emancipation Day by flying the Pan-African Flag above University Hall. While we contemplate the day, I encourage you to seek opportunities to learn more about past and present problems.
Education is essential for combatting racism. Let us all do our part to know better and do better.