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Slavery in Canada existed and systemic racism against Black people in this country remains

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August 1 is Emancipation Day in Ontario – a day that commemorates the 1834 abolition of the Slavery Act throughout the British Empire that freed hundreds of thousands of people of African descent. It’s a day for remembering the past and celebrating a shift in the Commonwealth’s mindset towards Africans and human bondage.  

But it could be so much more.  

Canadians can create a new level of awareness, starting with a recognition that our country participated in the enslavement of Africans. There was only a 30-year period when Canada did not enslave Blacks while the United States did. Before that, the practice was legal in both countries.   

Today, a complete celebration of freedom, one that includes mental, economic, and social health, still eludes Blacks everywhere. Fortunately, 2020 has brought about a new shift in mindset. Tragic and hateful events have collided with our rapidly-evolving digital world. This new world quickly shares information and instantly creates movements that have helped to open our eyes once again.  

OPSEU is embracing this movement and wants to be an active player in bringing inclusive change. From our Coalition of Racialized Workers, which for years has demanded equality and dignity for all Black workers, to our recent Anti-Black Racism Teletown Hall, we want to be a part of that change.  

OPSEU pledges to keep up the fight for justice, and equality for all – to look at every day as a good day to learn a little more, to rethink our practices and beliefs, and to constantly remind ourselves that solidarity means all of us!  

OPSEU calls on everyone to emancipate their minds and do the things that were perhaps locked away in our consciousness: Don’t stay on the sidelines in the face of racism, be an active listener. Let’s educate ourselves to historical, current, and systemic truths and always remember that just because you don’t experience something, it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening or that others aren’t affected.