Remembering Slavery in Canada

Remembering Slavery in Canada

I mentioned in a recent blog that the great historian of New France, Marcel Trudel, passed away ten years ago this week. I translated his ground-breaking work Canada’s Forgotten Slaves, for Véhicule Press here in Montreal, and provided some information from the book in my blog:

The legacy of slavery is a dark one. It affected many thousands of people in colonial Canada. French and British colonizers took slaves. The record also shows that some Aboriginals took slaves. In my last blog I listed famous people in colonial Canada, from Count Frontenac to Saint Marguerite dYouville and James McGill, who left their mark on this country, but whose ownership of slaves is all but forgotten today.

I would like to see monuments to the memory of the slaves, in public places in Toronto, Montreal, Longueuil, Trois-Rivières, Quebec City and Halifax – that is, in the major cities where slaves were held.

Memorials like this would pay tribute to the many thousands of slaves who were bought and sold in Canada like cattle – to men, women and children who were liable to be bartered, offered as bribes to influence the powerful, whipped, chained, sometimes exploited sexually, their labour unpaid, their human rights denied, their children born into slavery, their lives subject to the whim of their masters and mistresses.

Memorials like this would also draw attention to the diversity of the human family and to the values of justice, dignity and liberty, which as we know are continually under attack in democracies.

What would such monuments look like? The feature image, at the top of this blog, gives an idea. It shows the slavery memorial in Stone Town, next to the Anglican cathedral in Zanzibar, Tanzania.

Feature photo by Pablo Velasquez, care of Shutterstock

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