The Black Liberation flag was raised to mark the start of Emanicipation Month
The Black Liberation flag was raised to mark the start of Emancipation Month. Credit: City of Toronto photographer

Emancipation Month recognizes the struggle for human rights and the rich contributions made by Peoples of African descent. Recognizing Emancipation Month in August acknowledges an abhorrent period in our history and our ongoing commitment to eliminate discrimination in all forms. August 1, 1834 marks the day that the Slavery Abolition Act, 1833 came into effect emancipating more than 800,000 enslaved Africans across the British Empire, including Canada. Here in Toronto, we recognize the entire month of August as Emancipation Month and celebrate the rich contributions that Peoples of African descent have made to our city and country.

Underground Freedom Train Ride 2023

July 31, 2023

10:30 p.m. to 12:45 a.m.

Join us for the 10th Annual Emancipation Day Underground Freedom Train Ride on July 31st! Organized by the Blackhurst Cultural Centre, in collaboration with the TTC, this event honors the Underground Railroad’s role in Canadian history. Experience the symbolic journey through Toronto’s subway system from 10:30 p.m. at Union Station to 12:45 a.m. at Downsview Station.

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Official Black Liberation Flag Raising

August 1, 2023

12:30 p.m. to 1:15 p.m.

Podium Rooftop, Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto City Hall, 100 Queen St. W. Toronto, ON M5H 2N1

Join the City of Toronto’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism (CABR) Unit as we commemorate Emancipation Month by raising the Black Liberation Flag. The Black Liberation flag will also be raised at Civic Centres across the city and the Toronto Sign will be illuminated in pan-African colors in red, black, and green.

Emancipation on Bloor

August 1st, 2023

12:00 p.m. to  2:30 p.m.

From Spadina Avenue and Bloor St. West to Christie St. and Bloor St. West

Hosted by the Blackhurst Cultural Centre, this is an animation of Bloor Street in recognition of National Emancipation Day and commemorates an important milestone for descendants of enslaved Africans. This day marks the abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and honors the many contributions and resilience of African peoples throughout the Diaspora. Co-sponsored by the CABR Unit.

Emancipation Day at Fort York

August 1, 2023

4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Hosted by the Ontario Black History Society, Emancipation Day celebrates Toronto’s diverse Black communities with performances, food, music, art, and presentations.

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Black Liberation Flag Celebration

August 4, 2023

Flag Raising from 1:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Courtesy Flagpole, Mel Lastman Square, North York Civic Centre, 5100 Yonge St. North York, ON M2N 5V7

A Conversation with Dr. Garvey from 2:20 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Concourse Event Space, North York Central Library, 5150 Yonge St. North York, ON M2N 5N9

The City’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism (CABR) Unit in partnership with the Global African Communities Network (GACN), Afro-Caribbean Farmers’ Market, and the Network for the Advancement of Black Communities (NABC) have invited Dr. Julius Garvey, the son of 20th century Civil Rights leader Marcus Garvey, to raise the red, black, and green Liberation Flag that was designed by his father. Dr. Garvey will then be hosted by the Toronto Public Library at a community engagement event where he will present his thoughts on the International Decade for People of African Descent in conversation with Spiritual Liberation Activist and ancient wisdom teacher, Aina-Nia Ayo’dele.

To attend the discussion with Dr. Julius Garvey following the flag raising, an RSVP is necessary.

For more information, contact

Girl Power’d

August 6, 13 and 21, 2023

2 p.m.

The Colborne Lodge celebrates West African and Caribbean cultures through dance from youth performers. August 6, 13, and 20 at 2 p.m. Plus, a drum circle on August 27.

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Artist Mentorship Showcase: Gélédé Queens by Destinie Adélakun

11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The Market Gallery, 95 Front Street East, 2nd Floor

The work showcases a multi-media experience inspired by the West African festival “Gélédé.” Free from Wednesday to Saturday in August.

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The R.I.S.E Event

August 14, 2023

7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

45 Thermos Road, Scarborough, ON M1L 0E6

Scarborough’s premier performance organization, hosted by Poet Laureate of Ontario Randell Adjei, is providing an evening of entertainment dedicated to the theme of Emancipation. Talented artists will share linguistic artistry through raps, poems, songs and discuss thoughts around Emancipation.

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Black Culinary Culture in Early Toronto Neighbourhood Tour

August 19 and August 20, 2023

10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Mackenzie House explores the influence of the Black community on food culture from the 1830s to 1860s.

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Spoken Word

August 19, 2023

2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Workshop at Zion Schoolhouse led by R.I.S.E. Edutainment artist David Delisca.

Advanced Registration Required

Freedom Market

August 26, 2023

11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Fort York National Historic Site 250 Fort York Blvd, Toronto, ON M5V 3K9

In celebration and support of Black entrepreneurialism and economics, the Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit has partnered with Black Owned Toronto to culminate Emancipation Month with the Freedom Market. The market will include Black owned businesses, artisans, food, entertainment, and more.

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Think Like a Champion (TLAC)

August 6 to August 27, 2023

2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The program combines Jully Black’s The Power of Step with discussions on empowerment and freedom. Offered every Sunday in August at various Toronto History Museum sites.

Reserve Tickets

Exploring Emancipation

August 2 to August 31, 2023

11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Todmorden Mills Heritage Site and the East York Historical Society hosts a community display. Visitors to this intimate exhibit will learn about the history of Emancipation through images, artifacts and essays. Free every Saturday in August.

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The month of August marks many significant milestones in the struggles and successes faced by people of African descent on a journey that led to the abolition of slavery.

1608 – First Black person in Canada
The first Black person thought to have set foot on land now referred to as Canada, was Mathieu Da Costa, a free man who was hired as an interpreter for Samuel de Champlain’s 1605 excursion.

1628 – First known enslaved person recorded in historical records
Olivier LeJeune, who was 6 years old, was the first recorded enslaved person, from the country now known as Madagascar.

1689 – Louis XIV authorizes slavery in New France
King Louis XIV formally authorized slavery in New France.

Spring 1734 – Marie-Joseph Angelique is tortured and hanged
Enslaved Black woman Marie- Josephe Angélique was accused of setting fire to the house of her “owner” in Montréal. Although it remains unclear whether Angélique actually set the fire, she was tortured and hanged for her “crime.”

1776 – Black Loyalists reach Nova Scotia
The British promised freedom, land and rights to enslaved persons and free Black people who settle in Nova Scotia, in exchange for service during the American Revolution, 1775–1783.

July 26-27, 1784 – Canada’s first race riot rocks Nova Scotia
The Black Loyalists were among the first settlers in Shelburne, Nova Scotia. They established their own community, Birchtown. Hundreds of White, disbanded soldiers started a riot when they found themselves competing for jobs with Black neighbours who were paid less for the same work.

1790 – Imperial Statute
The Imperial Statute of 1790 effectively allowed settlers to bring enslaved persons to Upper Canada. Under the statute, those enslaved only needed to be fed and clothed.

January 15, 1792 – The Black Loyalist exodus
In the face of widespread discrimination and due to difficulty in supporting themselves, almost 1,200 Black Loyalists left Halifax and relocated to Africa (Sierra Leone).

June 19, 1793 – Upper Canada’s Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe’s Anti-Slave Trade Bill
Attorney General White introduced Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe’s anti-slavery measure and it passed. While the bill did not ban slavery completely, it marked its gradual prohibition.

1794 – The Petition of Free Negroes
Richard Pierpoint and other Black veterans petitioned the government of Upper Canada to grant them land adjacent to each other rather than disperse it amongst White settlers. The Petition of Free Negroes, as it was known, aimed to create a Black community where members would help and support each other. The petition was rejected for unknown reasons.

July 22, 1796 – The Maroons land at Halifax
A group of almost 600 freedom fighters called Maroons landed in Halifax. They came from the Jamaican community of escaped enslaved people, who guarded their freedom for more than a century and fought off countless attempts to re-enslave them. Once in Nova Scotia, they helped build Citadel Hill, were part of a militia unit, cleared woods for roads, and were employed as general labourers.

1800 – Canada’s second Back to Africa Movement
After several years of neglect, poor conditions and intolerance, several hundred Jamaican Maroons abandoned Nova Scotia and set sail for Freetown, Sierra Leone.

1812-1815 – The ‘Coloured Troops’ and the War of 1812
Thousands of Black volunteers fought for the British during the War of 1812.

1825 – Prince Edward Island abolishes slavery

1815-1860 – The Underground Railroad
Canada’s reputation as a safe haven for Black people grew during and after the War of 1812. Between 1815 and 1860, tens of thousands of African- Americans bravely sought refuge in Canada via the legendary Underground Railroad.

August 28, 1833 – British Parliament abolishes slavery
Slavery was abolished throughout the British colonies by an Imperial Act that took effect on August 1, 1834. Many Canadians continue to celebrate August 1 as Emancipation Day.

1850 – Fugitive Slave Act
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was enacted by the United States Congress on September 18, 1850. It greatly influenced the migration of African- Americans into Canada. It was repealed on June 28, 1864.

February 26, 1851 – Formation of the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada
The number of abolitionist sympathizers grew in Canada in the 1850s–1860s. The Anti- Slavery Society of Canada was formed “to aid in the extinction of Slavery all over the world.”

1861 – The Victoria Pioneer Rifles
In 1851, James Douglas became the first appointed Black politician in Canada and then took over as governor of the colony of British Columbia. He invited African-Americans to emigrate from California to Victoria to establish Canada’s first and only all-Black police force.

1911 – Anti-Black Campaign
By 1909, hundreds of Black people from Oklahoma moved to the Canadian Prairies, where they were met with severe discrimination. In 1911, a few newspapers in Winnipeg even predicted that the Dominion government would move to exclude “Negro immigrants.”

1914-1918 – Black Canadian involvement in the First World War
In 1916, military officials authorized the creation of the No. 2 Construction Battalion. This battalion made up of exclusively Black soldiers was not permitted to fight. Instead, they served in France with the Canadian Forestry Corps.

1939-1945 – Black Canadian involvement in the Second World War
The Canadian military initially rejected Black volunteers, but many were later accepted into the Regular Army and officer corps. On the home front, the all-Black Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, was one of the greatest success stories of the war years.

March 14, 1944 – Ontario passes Racial Discrimination Act
Ontario was the first province to respond to the battle against oppression when it passed the Racial Discrimination Act of 1944. It was landmark legislation prohibiting the publication and display of any symbol, sign, or notice that expressed ethnic, racial, or religious discrimination. On April 1 1947, The Saskatchewan Bill of Rights Act passed under Tommy Douglas, marking Canada’s first general law prohibiting discrimination.

April 6, 1954 – Ontario Government passes Fair Accommodation Practices Act
The Act declared, “no one can deny to any person or class of persons the accommodation, services or facilities usually available to members of the public.” The Act also precluded anyone from posting discriminatory signs.

January 19, 1962 – Fairclough Dismantles Discriminatory Policy
Ellen Fairclough served as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and radically reformed the country’s “White Canada” immigration policy, helping to reduce racial discrimination in Canada’s policies.

September 25, 1963 – First Black Person Elected to a Canadian Parliament
Leonard Braithwaite became the first Black person in a provincial legislature when he was elected the Liberal member for Etobicoke, Ontario, in 1963. In 1964, Braithwaite introduced legislation to remove the law that allowed segregated schools to exist.

October 1971 – Prime Minister Trudeau introduces Canada’s Multicultural Policy
Canada’s multiculturalism policy grew partly in reaction to the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism.

1993 – The first Black Woman is elected to Parliament
Jean Augustine was the first Black woman to be elected to the House of Commons in a federal Cabinet.

1995 – Canadian Sprinter becomes the “World’s fastest Human”
Donovan Bailey assumed the title of “World’s Fastest Human” by winning the 100-metre sprint at the World Track Championships in Göteborg, Sweden.

February 24, 2010 – Reparations paid following demolition of Africville
In 1962, the City of Halifax decided to demolish Africville, the historic Black neighbourhood of Halifax. Anti-Black racism combined with a drive for “urban renewal” led the city to threaten eviction of the neighbourhood’s property-owning Black residents if they did not voluntarily sell their properties and relocate. In 2010, the mayor of Halifax apologized for the destruction of Africville and provided compensation, on behalf of the City of Halifax.

2014 – Lincoln Alexander Day celebrated annually throughout Canada on January 21
Lincoln Alexander was elected Canada’s first Black MP representing Hamilton West, Ontario, from 1968 to 1980. In 1979, he was appointed Minister of Labour, becoming the country’s first Black federal Cabinet minister. Lincoln Alexander made history again by becoming the province’s first Black Lieutenant-Governor, serving from 1985 to 1991.

April 2016 – Launch of the City of Toronto’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism
The City of Toronto’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism initiatives is launched, following protests of Black Lives Matter Toronto and responding to decades of organizing, advocacy and government reports on anti-Black racism’s impacts on the well-being of Black Torontonians.

December 5, 2017 – Toronto City Council votes unanimously to adopt the Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism

May 2018 – The Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit’s first staff members begin working for the City to support the City of Toronto in implementing the Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism.

September 2018The City of Toronto launches the Black Staff Network which seeks to promote an inclusive workplace that provides professional development and mentorship for Black City staff, forums for members to meet and share knowledge, and provide coaching and networking opportunities.

March 25, 2019The City of Toronto declares official recognition of the United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent.

March 2020The City of Toronto declares the first Monday in March Black Mental Health Day.
This serves as an annual day to confront the effects and legacies of trauma from anti-Black racism on the mental health of Black communities.

June 2020 – The Toronto Board of Health (TBH) recognizes anti-Black racism as a public health crisis.
The TBH affirms its commitment to continuing to address the social determinants of health by supporting policies and programs that address the inequities that marginalized groups continue to face, with a focus on Black communities and residents, including in the following areas: employment, education, housing, child care, policing and law enforcement, the criminal justice system, and access to health and mental health services.

September 30, 2020 – Toronto City Council establishes the first Confronting Anti-Black Racism Advisory Committee (CABRAC).
The CABRC will provide expert advice to City Council on strategic and emerging issues to ensure City policies, programs and initiatives adequately serve people of African descent in Toronto.

Source: Historica Canada