Sunday, April 09, 2006

Slavery in Canada

Of course mon ami.

Slavery in Canada was first practised by some aboriginal nations, who routinely captured slaves from neighbouring tribes as part of their accepted laws of war. However, chattel slavery (where slaves were the private property of their owners and their children were born into slavery as well) started with the European settlements, appearing soon after the colonies were founded in the early 1600s. Most of their slaves were used as domestic house servants, although some performed agricultural labour. Some of the slaves held by Europeans in Canada were of African descent, while others were aboriginal (typically called "panis.")

In fact several of the Beatified Catholic Nuns from Quebec were slaveholders. This is not unusual since the Catholic Church in New France was a large land holder.

Canadians did not refer to the term "slave", as it was potentially controversial with the United States, and therefore referred to the term "servant." A popular impression that the first slaves in Canada were introduced into the Maritimes Provinces by the Loyalists, in 1783, is false. Historical records indicated that slavery was established in Quebec, by the French, through a royal mandate issued by Louis XIV in 1689. The history of SLAVERY

Our labour laws are based on the Master Servant Act of this era, and the term wage-slave reflects this still historical reality.

We are not free from the history of Slavery even if we did open up our doors to 'illegal immigrants' from the U.S. who came up here on the underground railroad in the 1850's.

The reason the British Loyalists wanted to leave the U.S. during the revolution had more to do with their ensuring their property rights, including their right to have slaves, as it was over any loyalty to the British Crown.

Black slaves lived in the British regions of Canada in the 17th and 18th centuries — 104 were listed in a 1767 census of Nova Scotia — but their numbers were small until the Loyalist influx after 1783. As white Loyalists fled the new American Republic, they took with them about 2000 black slaves: 1200 to the Maritimes (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island), 300 to Lower Canada (Quebec), and 500 to Upper Canada (Ontario). As in New France, Loyalist slaves were held in small numbers and were employed as domestic servants, farm hands, and skilled artisans.

Slaves were freed in Quebec, 1736, two years after this historic incident. Slaves in British/Tory controled Canada were not freed until 1799.

Slave honoured after 272 years

'The RACISM of today is an extension of the lingering racism of yesterday. If we forget this, then we risk perpetuating an unacceptable situation,' governor-general says

Maire-Joseph Angelique
MARIE-JOSEPH ANGELIQUE, the slave of a wealthy Montreal merchant, de Francheville, carried out one of the most dramatic acts of resistance on April 17, 1734. After learning she was going to be sold, Marie-Joseph set fire to her owner's house in order to cover her escape. The fire engulfed and destroyed 46 buildings including the Hotel Dieu. In June of 1734 she was captured, tortured, paraded through the streets, then hanged and her body burned.
From: The Black Studies Centre; Montreal, Quebec

Story of execution evokes many tears

Sharing a podium with Governor-General Michaelle Jean, Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay was in tears yesterday after hearing a historian read an account of the execution of slave woman Marie-Josephe Angelique in 1734.

Struggling to contain himself, Tremblay told guests at the Maison Parent-Roback in Old Montreal that Angelique's story is something that should be better known to Montrealers and other Canadians.

"For too long, history has remained silent about women and men who contributed in a significant way to the development of our city," Tremblay told the dignitaries.

"From now on, we must reclaim this past as our past. This will allow us to express our gratitude to pioneers of the black community and honour the memory of individuals like Marie-Josephe Angelique."

Her history is shared by the almost 160,000 people of African heritage, mostly descended from slaves in the Caribbean, who now live in Montreal, Tremblay added.

"They are all major assets, because they help enrich Montreal's cultural diversity and ensure our city remains open to the world."

Provincial Immigration Minister Lise Theriault, her eyes also teary, said the government has declared its intention to adopt an official policy to combat racism, and to employ other measures to help blacks overcome discrimination and unemployment.

Angelique's life is a lesson for everyone, she added.

"I believe sincerely that it's time for us to fight so that all our citizens - from the black community but also the other communities - can have their place as well in our society," Theriault said.

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