JIS News

Jamaican-born historian, Dr. Afua Cooper, has been named as chairman of the Committee to Commemorate and Memorialize the Abolition of the Slave Trade (CMAST), which has been set up in Canada, to plan activities to observe the bicentenary anniversary.
The award-winning author and poet, who is a sociology professor at Ryerson University, said she took on the role of coordinator because she noticed that “things were quiet on the Canadian front regarding this important occasion.”
She said it was very important for Canada to join in commemorating the anniversary, not only to indicate its support of the United Nations resolution declaring March 25 as the International Day for the Commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, but also because as a colony of Britain, Canada “participated in the slave trade and also practised institutional enslavement of African people”.
She noted also that late Governor of Upper Canada, Lord Simcoe, played an influential role in bringing about the abolition of slavery in the province.
“He was able to prohibit the importation of new slaves into the colony. Simcoe’s work laid the foundation for the eventual abolition of slavery in Upper Canada, and the rest of the British Empire,” she informed.
Dr. Cooper noted that there was a lot of ignorance around the issues of slavery and the slave trade because there was “so little information and discussion on those topics, and this is why it was critical to bring knowledge of the slave trade, slavery and its abolition to the Canadian public”.
CMAST has planned several events throughout the year to raise public awareness through lectures, performances, exhibits, symposia and teach-ins, starting with the cultural launch yesterday (Feb. 11) at Toronto City Hall under the patronage of Mayor David Miller. A panel discussion on March 24 and an all-day teach-in on March 25, at the University of Toronto, are other activities planned to mark the anniversary.