Slavery in Canada

From Academic Kids

Slavery in Canada was first practised by some aboriginal nations, who routinely captured slaves from neighbouring tribes as part of their accepted laws of war. Among the European settlements, slavery appeared soon after the colonies were founded in the early 1600s. Most of their slaves were used as domestic house servants, although some performed agricultural labour. Some of the slaves held by Europeans in Canada were of African descent, while others were aboriginal (typically called "panis.")

Under French rule

The first recorded slave purchase occurred in New France in the region known today as Quebec; the year was 1628. The purchase was of a young boy from Madagascar, who was given the name Olivier Le Jeune.

By the early 1700s, Africans began arriving in greater numbers to New France, mainly as slaves of the French aristocracy. When the British took over in 1759, there were more than 1,000 slaves living in Quebec.

Under British rule

The British aristocracy also brought African slaves. Just after the American Revolution ended in 1783, British Loyalists brought over 2,000 African slaves to British Canada. Approximately 1,200 of the African slaves were taken to Nova Scotia, 300 to Quebec (Lower Canada) and 500 to Ontario (Upper Canada). A few others were taken to Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton Island, and Newfoundland.

Historian Marcel Trudel has recorded 4092 slaves throughout Canadian history, of which 2692 were aboriginal people, owned mostly by the French, and 1400 blacks owned mostly by the British, together owned by approximately 1400 masters.

The region of Montreal dominated with 2077 slaves, compared to 1059 for Quebec City overall and 114 for Trois-Rivières. Several marriages took place between French colonists and slaves: 31 unions with aboriginal slaves and 8 with black slaves.

In 1793, under the leadership of Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe, legislation was passed in Upper Canada that allowed for gradual abolition: slaves already in the province would remain enslaved until death, no new slaves could be brought into Upper Canada, and children born to female slaves would be freed at age 25. This effectively ended all slavery by 1810. The act remained in force until 1833 when the Emancipation Act abolished slavery in all British colonies. In the other North American colonies, slavery was ended through what today would be called judicial activism, with the courts deliberately misinterpreting the existing laws to free slaves.

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