Statement from the CBA President Stephen Rotstein on Emancipation Day

  • July 29, 2022

Last year, the House of Commons adopted a motion to recognize Emancipation Day on August 1. On this date 188 years ago, the Slavery Abolition Act, an Act of British Parliament, came into effect officially abolishing slavery in most of the British Empire, including what is now Canada.

Vivene Salmon, CBA President in 2019-2020 and first Black CBA President, reminded us two years ago that Emancipation Day is an opportunity to “reflect on how the law was complicit in upholding slavery, and to think critically about how the legacy of slavery lingers in our legal, social and economic systems”.

I also wanted to share these words from my colleague Susan Johnson, Chair of the Policy Committee: “I invite you to reflect, educate and engage with the many historical resources available and consider how anti-Black racism is still entrenched in our institutions, organizations and communities today. I also encourage you take some time to celebrate the vast and ongoing social, economic and political contributions of people of African descent in Canada. Let us renew our commitment to creating a more equitable Canada for all. The fight for justice is not over.”

I couldn’t agree more. For true reconciliation, it is important to remind ourselves of our history, but also to recognise how it is linked to the systemic racism that Black Canadians still experience today. The time is now to redouble our anti-racism efforts as Canadians, and Emancipation Day helps create further space for reflection and action for all of us.

At the Canadian Bar Association, we believe that when we know better, we can do better. We remain committed to cultivating an equitable, diverse and inclusive professional community.