Black community celebrates Emancipation Day, pushes for national holiday
MONTREAL -- Over 100 Montrealers gathered on Saturday to celebrate Emancipation Day, the anniversary of the end of slavery in the British Empire.
Among those present was Marlene Jennings, the first Black Quebecer ever elected to Parliament.
“It's a day that should be a statutory national holiday in Canada and here in Quebec, o recognize the history of people of African origin in this country,” she said.
Greg Fergus, MP for the Hull-Aylmer riding, said that could soon be a reality.
“Unfortunately, because of COVID, we weren't able to present the bill in the House,” he said. “But next year, we'll be here.”
This year's Emancipation Day comes not only as the Black Lives Matter movement has gained steam across North America, but also as a movement forms to reestablish Montreal's old Negro Community Centre, which was demolished in 2014 after years of neglect.
Music and speeches marked the occasion at Place D'Youville, the place where Victor Paris, a member of the Revive the Negro Community Centre committee, said former slaves gathered in 1834 to discuss their futures. A march was then held to the centre's old site in Little Burgundy.
“It underlines our current efforts to regain that space and build our monument and cultural centre there,” said David Shelton.
The push to re-build the NCC has run into roadblocks, as the land is currently marked for development but members of the Black community remain optimistic.
“We've garnered enough attention and support that we can find means to assert that the committee would like,” said Tiffany Callendar of the Cote-des-Neiges Black Community Association.