A Harrow woman says her repeated requests for Justin Trudeau to apologize for Canada’s history of slavery have been fruitless, despite the prime minister’s track record of apologizing for past injustices to other marginalized groups.
“Canada wants to hold itself out as the multicultural country who respects and takes care of all the people that are part of the Canadian panacea,” said Elise Harding-Davis. “But they leave us out time and time again. We’re one of the four pioneering people of Canada. There have been black people on record in Canada since 1604, and it was a free black man who came with Samuel de Champlain.”
The Liberal party did not respond a request for comment as of deadline.
Harding-Davis said she has sent three letters to Trudeau since late 2018 calling for an apology to African Canadians. It was not until her last letter, which addressed the Trudeau blackface scandal, that the Liberal government acknowledged they received the correspondence.
“It was just a cursory acknowledgment,” said Harding-Davis. “Again, that’s what I’m saying. Nobody is taking this seriously. Nobody’s respecting the fact that that man blacked himself up and went out in public, hanging over women, having a good time, pretending he was something other than he was because he could go home and wash it off. If he had to live with it as his life’s colour, it might be a different process.
We helped make Canada what it is today and we deserve an apology
While it is often overlooked next to the history of racism and slavery in the United States, Canada has its own dark legacy. Slavery was legal throughout the British Empire, including Canadian territory, until the Slavery Abolition Act took effect in 1834.
Harding-Davis sent her first letter in November 2018 after Trudeau apologized for Canada turning away a ship full of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution in 1939. Hundreds of those people were murdered in the Holocaust.
Harding-Davis said the Canadian government has also apologized to Chinese, Italian, and First Nations people for past wrongs — something she wholeheartedly supports — but African Canadians have been repeatedly overlooked.
She sent her third later in the wake of the scandal that engulfed the election campaign when years-old photos surfaced of Trudeau in blackface.
“The most recent bit of foolishness, being in blackface, absolutely connects with apologizing for slavery,” said Harding-Davis. “The connect is that never dignifying or respecting the fact that we had slavery in this country, there are those who do think they’re better and will do blackface, will do other acts of disrespect regarding black people and think that it’s fine.”
Harding-Davis believes she received confirmation her last letter was received because it’s election time.
“They weren’t acknowledging anything in the letter at all,” she said. “They were just acknowledging that the letter came forward. But they were also savvy enough to key into the fact that here’s an issue they better start dealing with.”
Harding-Davis said Trudeau is not the first prime minister she has demanded an apology from.
“I’m not going to quit,” she said. “We still exist. We are here. We are pioneering members of Canada. We helped make Canada what it is today and we deserve an apology.”
Most previous apologies made by prime ministers were for incidents that occurred after Confederation in 1867. However, Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized in 2008 for the injustice of the residential schools’ system, which dates back to the 1840s, and last year Trudeau apologized and exonerated six Tsilhqot’in chiefs who were tried and hanged in British Columbia in 1864.
In 2007 British Prime Minister Tony Blair apologized for his country’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade between Africa and North America and the Caribbean.
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Author: Trevor Wilhelm From: windsorstar.com