Canadian Council of Churches

International Decade for People of African Descent

Emancipation Day

Emancipation Day Ecumenical Worship

A downloadable video resource to use in local contexts: worship service, prayers, music, and sermon. View here

A downloadable video resource to use in local contexts: worship service, prayers, music, and sermon. View here

Download text of the Emancipation Day Prayers of the People from the service.


August 1st is Emancipation Day in Canada. People of all faith backgrounds are encouraged to join in a virtual ecumenical celebration of Emancipation Day.

Emancipation Day marks the anniversary of the Slavery Abolition Act which came into effect August 1st, 1834, freeing approximately 800,000 enslaved people in British colonies including Canada. For over 180 years, Black communities across Canada have celebrated Emancipation Day every August 1st with church services, parades, outdoor festivities, protests, speeches, entertainment, and more, seeing an opportunity for celebration and a time of reflection on the struggle for freedom and justice, past and present. This year marks the first official recognition of Emancipation Day by the Government of Canada, following a unanimous vote in the House of Commons in March 2021.

Government of Canada Emancipation Day Resources

Download here

On March 24, Members of Parliament voted unanimously to legislate the acknowledgement of Emancipation Day to be on August 1st across Canada. The date commemorates the abolishment of slavery throughout the British colonies, including Canada, by British Parliament on August 1, 1834.

The designated day is meant to celebrate the strength and perseverance of Black and Indigenous people while also challenging individual and institutional racism. On this day, Canadians will be invited to reflect, educate and engage in the ongoing fight against prejudice and discrimination.

For nearly 400 years, an estimated 12 million African children, women, and men were abducted and trafficked to the Caribbean, North America and South America to work as slaves. The transatlantic slave trade caused the deaths of millions of Africans. Many lost their lives as resistance fighters, during long marches to slave ships, or from mistreatment and malnourishment while traveling across the Atlantic. It’s estimated over 2 million Africans died during transport alone. Those who arrived were forced to change their names, faiths, and to stop speaking their native tongues. Forced to do field-work, general labour and domestic duties, Black slaves were instrumental in building the economies of the colonies that enslaved them.

Emancipation Day also marks the end of the enslavement of Indigenous peoples, who represented two-thirds of Canada’s enslaved population until 1750. French colonies relied heavily on Indigenous slaves to harvest food, build the trading economy and to survive Canada’s harsh climate. After British settlers established Upper Canada, the number of Black slaves increased significantly and eventually outnumbered Indigenous slaves.

In 1834, the Slavery Abolition Act received royal assent, banning slavery throughout the British colonies. Although slavery was abolished in Canada, it continued in the United States until the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865, ending the practice throughout all North America. [Source: Public Service Alliance of Canada]

Resources for the International Decade for People of African Descent

“A Cross-Canada Conversation:‘Recognition, Justice, and Development: Peoples of African Descent and Canadian Churches’”

Hosted by The IDPAD Ecumenical Conversation

The evening featured:

  • A keynote presentation by Dr. Afua Cooper on the realities of current systemic anti-Black racism in the Canadian context and challenges to the Canadian church.
  • Christian voices from across Canada and from several traditions reflecting on the importance of the decade.
  • Opened and closing prayer shaped by the experiences of people of African descent in Canada and by traditions originating in the African continent.

Videos of key moments from this event are now available as a playlist on our Youtube channel.

A new companion study guide to the videos of “Recognition, Justice, and Development: Peoples of African Descent and Canadian Churches” is now available in English and French.

The guide suggests questions to encourage further reflection and conversation among those who view the videos, a group process for conversation, and additional resources.

One Pager: The themes of the decade: “recognition”, “justice” and “development” Download here

United Nations Video: International Decade for People of African Descent (2021-2024) Download here

United Nations webpages International Decade for People of African Descent Download here

Forum for Intercultural Leadership and Learning “Resources for Ending Anti-Black Racism in Canada.” Download Here

Canadian Ecumenical Anti-Racism Network Info-sheet: The International Decade for People of African Descent. Download here

Canadian Ecumenical Anti-Racism Network Resources for March 21 UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Download here

Canadian Council of Churches one page summary of  IDPAD initiatives in Canadian churches (June 2021) Download here

For Black History Month 2021, The Canadian Ecumenical Anti-Racism Network (CEARN) is highlighting its 2007 resource, “From Chains to Freedom: Journeying Towards Reconciliation”

One of the contributors to the resource, Dr. Afua Cooper writes,  “Slavery was a racist system predicated upon Black inferiority and White supremacy. Institutional racist practice, the colour line, colonialism, duplicity of Western governments, economic disadvantages, racialization of Black peoples, and psychic distance between Black and Whites have all been identified as legacies of the slave trade and slavery.”

Published on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade by the British, this is a packet of materials on the slave trade and the practice of slavery in Canada for parishes, congregations and study groups including worship materials, biblical reflection, educational materials, children’s resources and much more.

This resource is no less relevant 14 years later as we recognize even more clearly the role of the Canadian churches in this historical legacy and how profoundly it is at the root of deeply damaged relationship and the ongoing harm to peoples of African descent. In the 2007 words of the CEARN Steering Committee, “It is urgent for us and our churches to acknowledge our complicity and participation on the perpetuation of racism, slavery and colonialism, or we are not credible.”

This publication can be downloaded for free:

CEARN is a part of the Forum for Intercultural Leadership and Learning, a reference group of The Canadian Council of Churches. The genesis of CEARN can be found in 2001, part of a Canadian response to the United Nations World Conference Against Racism held in Durban, South Africa, that year. At that major conference, the Canadian church delegates resolved to act on some of the recommendations to the churches made by an ecumenical caucus. The first of these recommendations was “to educate church members, and to be educated, on crimes of racism and racial discrimination and the role of the churches”.

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