Slavery in Canada

Slavery in Canada

Slavery in Canada was practiced for millennia by aboriginal nations, who routinely captured slaves from neighbouring tribes. However, chattel slavery (that form of hereditary slavery in which humans are regarded as the private property of an individual) started with the European settlement of Canada, appearing soon after the colonies were founded in the early 1600s. Most of the slaves were used as domestic house servants, although some performed agricultural labour. Some were of African descent, while others were aboriginal (typically called "panis", likely a corruption of Pawnee).

Under indigenous rule

Slave-owning tribes of what became Canada were, for example, the fishing societies, such as the Yurok, that lived along the coast from what is now Alaska to California. [ [ Slavery in the New World] ] Many of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast, such as the Haida and Tlingit, were traditionally known as fierce warriors and slave-traders, raiding as far as California. Slavery was hereditary, the slaves being prisoners of war. Among some Pacific Northwest tribes about a quarter of the population were slaves. [ [ Digital History African American Voices] ] [ [ Haida Warfare] ] One slave narrative was composed by an Englishman, John R. Jewitt, who had been taken alive when his ship was captured in 1802; his memoir provides a detailed look at life as a slave, and asserts that a large number were held.

Under French rule

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

The citizens of New France received slaves as gifts from their allies among native peoples. Many of these slaves were prisoners taken in raids against the villages of the Fox nation, a tribe that was an ancient rival of the Miami people and their Algonquian allies. [Brett Rushforth, [ "Slavery, the Fox Wars, and the Limits of Alliance,"] William and Mary Quarterly 63 (January 2005), No.1, para. 32. Rushforth confuses the two Vincennes explorers. François-Marie was 12 years old during the First Fox War.]

By the early 1700s, Africans began arriving in greater numbers in New France, mainly as slaves of the French aristocracy. At the time of the British conquest, there were more than 1,000 slaves living in Quebec.

Native ("pani") slaves were easier to obtain and thus more numerous than African slaves in New France, but were less valued. The average native slave died at 18, and the average African slave died at 25.cite book |last=Cooper |first=Afua |title=The Hanging of Angélique |publisher=Harper Collins |date=2006 |isbn=0002005530]

Under British rule

Slavery continued in Canada after the British conquest of 1760 much as before. The 1763 Treaty of Paris explicitly stated that the status of all slaves would remain as under the French, stating "The Negroes and Panis of both sexes shall remain, in their quality of slaves, in the possession of the French and Canadians to whom they belong; they shall be at liberty to keep them in their service in the colony or sell them." The Quebec Act of 1774, which returned the colony to French civil law, reaffirmed the right of colonists to own, buy, and sell slaves.

The British brought printing presses to the colony and with them the first newspapers were published in Canada. These contain frequent mention of slaves that were for sale or had run away, from which historians have learnt that slaves were often bilingual, typically worked as domestics, farm workers, or skilled labourers, and were often described as "mulatto". This shows that all descendants of slaves, even if one parent was a free, white man (generally the mother's owner), were also condemned to slavery. It is also clear from these ads that slaves were not content with their lot, and often insulted their owners, deliberately broke items or worked slowly, ran away, or even committed suicide. Slaves also rose up against their owners; a Native slave named Charles was deported to Martinique after leading a slave revolt in Niagara.

Just after the American Revolution ended in 1783, British Loyalists brought over 2,000 African American slaves [James W. ST. G. Walker, [ "Blacks"] , in The Canadian Encyclopedia] to British Canada. A few others were taken to Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton Island, and Newfoundland. This was encouraged by the British colonial government, who in the Imperial Act of 1790 waived import duties of all "Negros, household furniture, utensils of husbandry, or clothing" to encourage the immigration of English speakers.

Historian Marcel Trudel has recorded 4,092 slaves throughout Canadian history, of which 2,692 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 2,077 slaves, compared to 1,059 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, the administration of Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe passed the Act Against Slavery 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 legal rule ensured the eventual end of slavery in Upper Canada, although as it diminished the sale value of slaves within the province it also resulted in slaves being sold to the United States. Some slaves in Upper Canada also ran away south to the free states, thus gaining their liberty.

By 1797, courts began to rule in favour of slaves who complained of poor treatment from their owners. These developments were resisted in Lower Canada until 1803, when Chief Justice William Osgoode ruled that slavery was not compatible with British law.

This historic judgment, while it did not abolish slavery, set free 300 slaves and resulted in the rapid decline of the practice of slavery. However, slavery remained in Upper and Lower Canada until 1834 when the British Parliament's Slavery Abolition Act finally abolished slavery in all parts of the British Empire.

Most of the emancipated slaves of African descent in Canada were then sent to settle Freetown in Sierra Leone and those that remained primarily ended up in segregated communities such as Africville outside Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Today there are four remaining slave cemeteries in Canada: in St.-Armand, Quebec, Shelburne, Nova Scotia and Priceville and Dresden in Ontario.

Around the time of the Emancipation, the Underground Railroad network was established in the United States, particularly Ohio, where slaves would cross into the Northern States over the Ohio River en route to various settlements and towns in Upper Canada (known as Canada West from 1841 to 1867).

ee also

* Black Canadian
* Marie-Joseph Angélique
* History of Slavery
*Human rights in Canada


External links

* [ Black Canada and the Journey to Freedom]

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