Family wants answers after Quebec woman posts video begging for help in hospital, dies 2 days later

Article from CBC:

In video, Mireille Ndjomouo claims hospital staff were giving her penicillin despite allergy

Mireille Ndjomouo posted a video in visible distress from a hospital bed in Longueuil two days before her death. (Justice Pour Mireille Ndjomouo/Facebook)

The Quebec coroner is investigating the death of Mireille Ndjomouo, who posted a video on social media two days before she died claiming staff at a hospital on Montreal’s South Shore had ignored her allergies.

Ndjomouo, a 44-year-old single mother of three from Cameroon, posted a video to social media last Sunday.

She repeatedly said staff at Charles-Le Moyne Hospital in Longueuil had treated her with penicillin, even though she said they knew that she was allergic.

In the video, Ndjomouo begged anyone watching to help her get transferred to another hospital.

“Help me, I don’t want to die and leave my kids. I’m suffocating. I’m allergic to penicillin but then they injected me with penicillin, knowing full well that I’m allergic,” she said.

Ndjomouo repeatedly said in the video that she was having trouble breathing, had pain all through her body and that her stomach was swollen.

She also said she was injected with penicillin over the course of three days.

Ndjomouo said the injections stopped when a nurse noticed that her lips were swollen and said the reaction wasn’t normal.

After seeing the video online, members of the Cameroonian community in Montreal went to the hospital with Ndjomouo’s sister and arranged to have her transferred to the Jewish General Hospital.

Ndjomouo died there on Tuesday. The cause of her death is not yet known.

The regional health authority that oversees the Charles-Le Moyne Hospital, the CISSS de la Montérégie-Centre, told CBC in an email that it can’t comment on the case due to confidentiality, but did say that the quality department is looking into it.

The Jewish General Hospital would not give details about Ndjomouo, citing patient confidentiality.

On Saturday, friends of Mireille Ndjomouo held a demonstration outside the Charles-Le Moyne Hospital, demanding answers about what happened to her. (CBC)

On Saturday, friends and family of Ndjomouo held a demonstration outside of Charles-Le Moyne Hospital, demanding answers.

“She’s gone, but many questions still remain about what happened to her,” said Christine Ndjomouo, Mireille’s sister.

“I keep hearing her voice saying, ‘Come and save me. Come and save me, they’re going to kill me. I’m all puffed up. Get me out of here.’ That’s what I hear every day since it happened,” she said.

Christine said her sister lost faith in the personnel at the hospital and wanted to leave. She said it took five hours of negotiation before the hospital agreed to transfer her sister.

Friends have started an online fundraiser for the family, to help support Ndjomouo’s children and repatriate her body to Cameroon.


Thoughts:

I’ve been meaning to post this for awhile. Weeks later there are still no answers, although a coroner is investigating. Canadians are often racist, but the Quebecois are notoriously racist/xenophobic.

If I had to venture a guess, I’d say this woman was deemed incompetent or an idiot because she had an accent, “funny” name, dark skin, and possibly wasn’t dressed in a western style. They therefore assumed they could disregard her claims about her own health since they knew better. The disregard is shocking, but unfortunately all too common.

Perspective: II

As Canadians watch events unfold down south regarding the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement and overall discussions about race, they pay lip service to these topics without looking inward. So here I am to point out the obvious.

Let’s start with slavery:

Canada had slavery for two centuries. While enslaving any person is an abhorrent act, enslaving Black people strikes me as particularly egregious.

Why? Down south the enslavement of Blacks was the driving force of the whole economy and building of a nation, while here in the north enslaving Aboriginals was part of the Boreal economy and sustaining the fur trade. So why enslave Blacks in Canada? Simply put: because they wanted to. Again, I must emphasize: they went out of their way to enslave Blacks when the economy didn’t depend on it.

It’s a disturbing, sobering fact which makes the enslavement all the more revolting. You might think if Blacks were down south and in short supply locally, and Aboriginals were enslaved for the Boreal economy – there should be very few Black slaves, right? Wrong. Stunningly, Black slaves still made up at least a third of all slaves! And this is despite the fact they cost double the price!

To have a Black slave was to confer prestige upon yourself, and of course to keep up with the American neighbors. Canadian slavery never reached the heights it did in the United States or South America, but this is only because Canada was a poor, sparsely populated colony which no slavers felt could finance the cost of transport and purchase. (Even France refused to send shipments.)

Canada did try however: it legalized slavery as an institution in 1709, and three authorizations to ship slaves were given upon request in 1689, 1701, and 1721. In 1733, a legal precedent was set: even though a slave was ‘Christian’, he could still be sold and purchased as a commodity. Slavery wasn’t abolished until 1834, and even then it was done through a British mandate and not the mandate of the Canadian people.

We’ll move along to the cover-up:

I will compare the ensuing denial to the best analogy I can conjure: imagine a wife who denies her husband has been sexually abusing their daughter. Is the denial worse than the crime itself? No. Is it as bad as the crime? Perhaps not. But is it heinous, cruel and sickening? Absolutely!

So it is here as well: enslaving Blacks purely for ego was already evil enough, but then to hide and deny the truth afterwards is heinous and repulsive! I cannot stress this point enough, it truly sickens me.

Slavery in Canada was not taught in schools. I didn’t learn of it until I was in my thirties, much to my shock. Even then it was only because I read an article about a historian’s book on the subject. The book pointed out that “generations of historians maintained a virtual conspiracy of silence about slaves owned and exploited, bought and sold, by Canadians themselves.” From the end of slavery until the 20th century … Canada simply pretended it never happened.

I’d only learned about the “Underground Railroad” and how Canada had been a safe harbor for runaway slaves (despite slavery still existing here legally).

For generations, Canadians have sanctimoniously looked down their noses at Americans because of the slave trade, Civil War, Jim Crow and racism. While Americans enslaved Blacks for economic gain, Canadians did it for prestige and ego. While Americans fought a civil war to end slavery, Canadians did it when the British Empire abolished it. While Americans celebrated heroes such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, Canadians hid from the truth and lied to generations of the nation’s children. Then they had the gall to proclaim themselves superior!

And the racism carried on. In 1870, Hiram Revels was the first Black member of the Senate and Joseph Rainey was the first Black member of the House of Representatives (during the Reconstruction Era). In contrast, Canada’s first Black member of Parliament was Lincoln Alexander in 1968. The first “Black” (biracial) U.S. President was elected in 2009, while Canada has never had a biracial or non-white Prime Minister.

And the racism carried on. The Ku Klux Klan was openly acknowledged as a part of American history, but Canada’s KKK was never acknowledged: hidden and whitewashed out of existence until only recently by mainstream media, authors and the nation.

While everyone here knows about segregation in the American south, fewer know of segregation in Canada’s east coast provinces. Fewer still know that Canada was also segregated in law and/or practice; the last segregated school in Ontario closed in 1965, the last one in Nova Scotia closed in 1983.

And the racism carried on: through racist laws which were effected because Canadians considered Blacks inferior and undesirable. There was: Section 38 of the 1910 Immigration Act, the Black Immigration Ban in 1911, various court rulings in favor of segregation, all among other things.

Why are they so racist? A curious question …

Racism cannot be justified, but there’s usually some historical context for bigotry and prejudice. For example in the United States – due to marginalization and deprivation – many Black people became associated with ghettos, the drug trade and gang culture. Although being forced into these situations wasn’t their fault, the general context became justification for present bigoted views and continued racist sentiments.

Going back to an earlier time: slavery and its aftermath created a societal hierarchy in which Black Americans were viewed as inferior to generations of white citizens.

In Canada, the case was paralleled by Aboriginals: originally slaves then segregated from society, confined to tiny reserves, ‘educated’ at residential schools and left in poverty and dysfunction. Being forced into these situations wasn’t their fault, but overall dysfunction from generational trauma became the context for present bigoted views. Canadians (like their American counterparts) label their undesired group as ‘welfare bums, degenerates, lazy, uneducated, criminals, thugs, moochers’ and so on.

If Canadian Aboriginals are akin to Black Americans, then so it’s reversed in another parallel: Black Canadians and their history are conveniently ignored and forgotten, much like Native Americans in the U.S. This was my working theory, however it doesn’t hold up under scrutiny …

Some Americans admire and respect their Indigenous nations, others with racist views may sneer at them, but mostly they are forgotten and ignored – especially in comparison to African Americans. Generally speaking, it can be said hatred is not present.

Year after year, decade after decade – Black Canadians have been the number one target of hate crimes. This is astonishing when you take into consideration the fact they represent only 3% of the Canadian population. Also consider the context: a third of slaves (a reduced history of slavery), small numbers, no real large immigration influxes, and a lack of criminality which is usually associated with Aboriginals.

In fact it looked so bad that Statistics Canada has stopped taking down the relevant information on individual races. It has never compiled federal statistical data on other issues (police shootings, murders, crime data, etc) so as to avoid the topic completely. One could never compare Black issues in Canada against the United States because the nation collectively refused to compile any data which could prove its racism.

Some can be gleaned from localized records, media reports and so on. One news study showed that Black Canadians made up 9% of police shootings despite being 3% of the population. Only this year (2020) has discussion taken place about compiling race-based data on police shootings and other subjects.

In the United States there is a long history of injustice and searing pain, which remains raw. Canada has always looked on with hypocritical disdain while not even admitting the truth about its own history and racism. Now it begins to confront it – only thanks to the United States.

It would have been great if Canada had taken the initiative, but as usual it waited until the Black Lives Matter movement erupted in the United States and then copied the protests and self-reflection so as not to be left behind. NOW the government releases a statement, NOW the media saturates with news stories and programs, NOW people begin inquiring into the past and the cover-ups. (I guess better late than never.)

And Canadians wring their hands; the media admonishes us “there is racism in Canada too!” Individuals and groups proclaim and exclaim; while doing so they also congratulate themselves on their ‘voluntary’ introspection. Swallowed down is the sanctimony and schadenfreude they usually indulge in while looking south … at least for now.

The questions remain: Why are they so racist? And what will they really do about it?

What I would like to see from the Canadian government, media and people, an acknowledgement:

That you are as racist as Americans.

That there has been less violence because there has been less immigration and fewer minorities generally throughout Canada’s existence.

That Black Canadians are particularly singled out for hatred with little historical context as a back drop.

That you have purposefully refused to compile data which proves the disparity and racism.

That ignoring slavery, your history and the past has been a heinous act which merits an apology by the state.

That there is no greater act of contempt than to refuse to admit past crimes: in this sense you minimize wrongdoing, negate the suffering, disallow survivors to become heroes, and most importantly preempt future change.

That you understand and admit all these things openly, and not simply pay lip service to change while making empty gestures and pronouncements.

Truly look inward instead of putting on a show (feeding the ego, starving the soul).


Post Script: More Thoughts

Crime and violence against African Americans is often used in comparison with Canada, the obvious inference being that Canadians are by and large less violent and being Black in Canada would’ve been better. I’m not sure I buy this argument.

Generally speaking, Aboriginals can expect worse treatment and living conditions than Black Americans. The murder rate of Black Americans is significantly higher, but this can be attributed mainly to the drug trade in inner cities.

The United States is one of the most populated nations in the world, and is also linked by land to Mexico. Both these factors contribute to the national drug trade, and historic impoverishment of Black communities explains their connection.

As of 2016, Canada’s Aboriginal population sat at nearly 5%. Despite this low percentage (at a historic high) their overall conditions are as bad or worse than Black Americans – who account for 13% of the American population. Also include the fact that half of Aboriginals live in remote areas and on reserves.

If it’s this bad now, what would it be like if they were 13% and lived in cities?* And if Black Canadians are treated this way now, how would they fare at 13% and if slavery had been a larger industry historically?

There’s no doubt that violence against Black Americans has been worse overall than Black Canadians, but I feel it’s due to context. If the situations were reversed I don’t believe Canadians would have been any better – most likely worse.

*Look at Winnipeg and Thunder Bay as examples.

Recommended Reading

Here are some books I recommend reading (if you can be bothered to read about Canada) mentioned in this blog and elsewhere.


(My favorite on this list) Black Ice by Darril & George Fosty.

“In 1895, The Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes was formed in Halifax, Nova Scotia … The Colored League would emerge as a premier force in Canadian hockey and supply the resilience necessary to preserve a unique culture which exists to this day. Unfortunately their contributions were conveniently ignored, or simply stolen, as white teams and hockey officials, influenced by the black league, copied elements of the black style or sought to take self-credit for black hockey innovations. Black Ice is the first written record of the Colored Hockey League in the Maritimes.”

This book is about so much more than hockey: the Maritimes, slavery and Black history in Canada, and interesting, worthwhile people.


Keeping Canada British: The Ku Klux Klan in 1920’s Saskatchewan by James M. Pistula.

“The Ku Klux Klan had its origins in the American South. It was suppressed but rose again in the 1920s, spreading into Canada, especially Saskatchewan. This book offers a new interpretation for the appeal of the Klan in 1920s Saskatchewan. It argues that the Klan should not be portrayed merely as an irrational outburst of intolerance but as a populist aftershock of the Great War – and a slightly more extreme version of mainstream opinion that wanted to keep Canada British. Through its meticulous exploration of a controversial issue central to the history of Saskatchewan and the formation of national identity, this book shines light upon a dark corner of Canada’s past.”

It can be a bit of a dry read at times, and the bumbling characters of Saskatchewan aren’t too exciting, but it’s educational regarding Canadian racism and the Klan.


Canada’s Forgotten Slaves: Two Hundred Years of Bondage by Marcel Trudel and George Tombs.

“… By painstakingly combing through unpublished archival records of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Marcel Trudel gives a human face to the over 4,000 Aboriginal and Black slaves bought, sold and exploited in colonial Canada. He reveals the identities of the slave owners, who ranged from governors, seigneurs, and military officers to bishops, priests, nuns, judges, and merchants. Trudel describes the plight of slaves–the joys and sorrows of their daily existence. Trudel also recounts how some slaves struggled to gain their liberty. He documents Canadian politicians, historians and ecclesiastics who deliberately falsified the record, glorifying their own colonial-era heroes, in order to remove any trace of the thousands of Aboriginal and Black slaves held in bondage for two centuries in Canada.”

An eye-opening history of slavery in Canada and the best place to start on the subject.


Murder City: The Untold Story of Canada’s Serial Killer Capital, 1959-1984 by Michael Arntfield.

” … From the earliest documented case of homicidal copycatting in Canada, to the fact that at any given time up to six serial killers were operating at once in the deceivingly serene “Forest City,” London was once a place that on the surface presented a veneer of normality when beneath that surface dark things would whisper and stir. Through it all, a lone detective would go on to spend the rest of his life fighting against impossible odds to protect the city against a tidal wave of violence that few ever saw coming, and which to this day even fewer choose to remember… Murder City is an explosive book over fifty years in the making, and is the history of London, Ontario as never told before. Stranger than fiction, tragic, ironic, horrifying, yet also inspiring, this is the true story of one city under siege, and a book that marks a game changer for the true crime genre.”

There’s a lot of information here and it does jump around a bit. It’s a horrifying, disturbing look at serial killers and unsolved crime in Canada.


Loss of Faith: How The Air India Bombers Got Away With Murder by Kim Bolan.

“On June 23, 1985, Canada found itself on the international terrorism map when two bombs built in B.C. detonated within an hour of each other on opposite sides of the world, killing 329 men, women, and children… When charges were finally laid against three Sikh separatists, the families believed justice was almost theirs. But their faith was shaken when one suspect pleaded guilty to manslaughter and got a five-year sentence for more than three hundred deaths.”

A disturbing look at terrorism in Canada and the men who got away with mass murder. It’s difficult to read about the incompetence of Canadian law enforcement and its judicial system.


The Hanging of Angelique by Afua Cooper.

“Writer, historian and poet Afua Cooper tells the astonishing story of Marie-Joseph Angélique, a slave woman convicted of starting a fire that destroyed a large part of Montréal in April 1734 and condemned to die a brutal death. In a powerful retelling of Angélique’s story—now supported by archival illustrations—Cooper builds on 15 years of research to shed new light on a rebellious Portuguese-born black woman who refused to accept her indentured servitude. At the same time, Cooper completely demolishes the myth of a benign, slave-free Canada, revealing a damning 200- year-old record of legally and culturally endorsed slavery.”

This book is not just the story of one condemned slave, but a sweeping history of slavery and early Canada.


This list will be updated periodically.

Remember When? … #hangingofangelique

Remember When is a new series of posts where we take a look back at some of the funny, bizarre and downright disturbing incidents in Canada’s past.

Since cakers like to judge everyone else (particularly Americans) and point out their historic wrong-doings, it’s time to take a mirror to these incompetent hypocrites. Enjoy!


Marie-Joseph Angelique

Marie was a badass forgotten by virtually everyone in Canada until only recently; remembered vaguely by a few historians and celebrated as a figure of Black resistance by Canada’s Black population (at less than 3%).

She was born in 1705 in Portugal, enslaved and later brought to North America. After arriving in New England she was purchased by a Montreal man, who brought her back to his hometown to work as his slave. After he died, Marie-Joseph carried on in service to his widow who gave her the name “Angelique”. She took a white indentured laborer named Claude Thibault as her lover.

She asked her owner for freedom and was denied, so she started raising hell: talking back, threatening death, fighting with other servants and claiming she’d burn shit down. Being a nuisance, she was sold to a Quebec City man in exchange for 600 pounds of gun powder. But before she could be relocated she set fire to her bed and ran away with Thibault. They were caught and returned.

One evening a portion of Montreal caught fire and Angelique was blamed for setting it.

“Angélique was accused of starting the fire and arrested by police on 11 April. She was taken to court the following morning, where she was charged with arson, a capital crime punishable by death, torture or banishment.

In the French legal system of the 18th century, the accused was presumed guilty, and in New France, there were no trials by jury, only inquisitorial tribunals in which the defendant was meant to prove her innocence. Lawyers were banned from practicing in the colony by Louis XIV.”

She was brought before the tribunal where witnesses testified she’d previously threatened to burn things. After six weeks she was found guilty and sentenced to death.

She was to have her hands cut off and be burned alive. The sentence was appealed to the superior court in Québec City, where the death penalty was upheld and the gruesome aspects of the sentencing lessened. Angélique would be tortured, hanged, and then her body burned. She returned to Montréal to await her death.

In June of 1734, the twenty-nine year old woman was tortured in her jail cell. She broke down and “confessed” to the crime but refused to name her lover as a co-conspirator. Afterwards she was taken by garbage cart to the down town church, forced to make a public apology and beg for forgiveness; she was then hanged.

Slavery would last for over 200 years in Canada, its history intentionally hidden and forgotten for generations. If there is one person who puts a face, name, and story to all the Blacks who were enslaved, it is Marie-Joseph Angelique. She did not roll over and endure her slavery with resignation, but demanded her freedom and attempted to take it.


The Hanging of Angelique

“Writer, historian and poet Afua Cooper tells the astonishing story of Marie-Joseph Angélique, a slave woman convicted of starting a fire that destroyed a large part of Montréal in April 1734 and condemned to die a brutal death.

In a powerful retelling of Angélique’s story—now supported by archival illustrations—Cooper builds on 15 years of research to shed new light on a rebellious Portuguese-born black woman who refused to accept her indentured servitude. At the same time, Cooper completely demolishes the myth of a benign, slave-free Canada, revealing a damning 200- year-old record of legally and culturally endorsed slavery.”


Of course in Canada we learn all about the crusty, old, racist white men who helped found this nation, but not the freedom-loving bad asses who tried to escape it!

Post Script:

The majority of the book provides historical context for Angelique’s time and the events which led up to it. Her story compromises the ending, and details are scarce due to minimal records. I’m glad that I know it. There is also a great list of slavery narratives in the epilogue (and an introduction to Fado music).

Foreword (quoting George Elliot Clarke)

I wanted to share this Foreword to the book The Hanging of Angelique, written by George Elliot Clarke. I only recently discovered this book, and the summary in the beginning perfectly captures everything I’ve been saying, only with more eloquence than my rantings.

I find Canada worse than the United States in the same way I find a corrupt police officer worse than a criminal: it is the complete betrayal of trust based on false imagery and misrepresentation; the total base hypocrisy which is abominable and beyond contempt.

So, to quote:

“As I WRITE THIS FOREWORD, Mme. Michaelle Jean, born in Haiti in 1957 and a resident of Montreal, Quebec, since 1968, is being sworn in as Her Excellency, the governor general of Canada, the nation’s twenty-seventh head of state. Mme. Jean is, culturally, Haitian-Quebecoise-French; historically, she is like the vast majority of Black people in the western hemisphere– a descendant of African slaves. While performing her viceregal duties, this savvy intellectual– a socially oriented broadcast journalist by trade, a student of Haitian and Quebecois history, and a speaker of five languages– may reflect on the irony that she is queen in all but name of a society, Canada, that was established just as Haiti was, on the economic basis of African servitude. Not surprisingly, European-Canadian commentators on Mme. Jean’s ascension have noted that she is a “descendant of Hatian slaves” and some have applauded Canada’s blindness concerning “race” and “gender”– that is to say, it’s supposed liberality– in selecting a Black woman for the post of head of state and commander-in-chief of the Canadian Armed Forces.

But forgotten (in fact, repressed) amid all the analyses of Mme. Jean’s elevation is Canada’s own practice of slavery, Aboriginal and African, its emancipation of slaves only by imperial fiat (from London), and its continued conjoining of labour needs and “race” in its immigration practices. Forgotten too, are the two salient anniversaries that 2005 represents for African Canadians: the arrival of the first African person in Canada, namely, Mathieu de Coste, in 1605; and the relaxation of anti-Black immigration laws with the 1955 promulgation of the West Indian Domestic Scheme.

The avoidance of Canada’s sorry history of slavery and racism is natural. It is how Canadians prefer to understand themselves: we are a nation of good, Nordic, “pure”, mainly White folks, as opposed to the lawless, hot-tempered, impure, mongrel Americans, with their messy history of slavery, civil war, segregation, assassinations, lynchings, riots, and constant social turmoil. Key to this propaganda–and that is what it is– is the Manichaean portrayal of two nations: Canada, the land of “Peace, Order, and Good Government,” of evolution within the traditional constraints of monarchy and authority, where racism was not and is not tolerated, versus the United States of America, the land of guns, cockroaches, and garbage, of criminal sedition confronted by aggressive policing (and jailing), where racism was and is the arbiter of class (im)mobility.

Indeed, in Canada, “race” and racism are concepts used to refight the American Revolution, to establish that the Yankee Revolt against the Crown was wrong, while Canada’s loyalty to the monarchy, heirarchy, and public order fostered a more harmonious and, ironically, rouge-tinted society.

But the price of this flattering self-portrait is public lying, falsified history, and self-destructive blindness. It means that we can forget about a Canadian-led expedition to the Congo in the 1880s, which resulted in Africans’ heads being cut off and stuck on fence posts– a scene that may have inspired Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. We can guiltlessly commemorate, with a single plaque, an entire Black community– Africville– which had been in existence for almost 150 years when, in 1962, the city of Halifax decided to relocate its citizens, razing and burying all signs of Africville’s former life. We can ignore the contributions of nineteenth-century Black settlers who cleared and tilled parts of this land until “official” settlers arrived from Ireland and England and claimed the title. Think, for instance, of Priceville, Ontario, where, in 1989, grave markers of the town’s first inhabitants turned up in a farmer’s field. Only then did the townspeople “discover” that the Black cemetery had been ploughed under, the Black presence buried and all but forgotten.

Our refusal to embrace the facts of our history means that we, as a people, can commit atrocities such as the one that occurred in Somalia in 1992, when “our boys,” part of a taxpayer-funded, elite paratrooper regiment, shot three Somalis and lynched one, a child. It means that we make liars out of our “coloured”– that is, “visible minority”– citizens, as our federal government did in 2003. In that year, when the United Nations released a report stating that Africans and Aboriginals suffer racism in Canada, the response of the Liberal government of Canada was that the UN was wrong…

… Unlike American literature and society, in which rebels, Black and White, are celebrated, canonized with folk songs, and given “star billing,” even if they were silenced by officially sanctioned bullets or state executions, Canadian literature boasts very, very few such figures. The Manitoban mystic Louis Riel, hanged for insurrection in 1885, is one vaunted rebel, especially for Metis and francophones. In African-Canadian circles, no such celebrity exists; our “criminals” are seldom martyrs…

… The reader will notice, no doubt, that, while I claim that Mme. Angelique is the best-known African-Canadian slave, she appears in only a handful of texts (excluding histories). Here we address the nub of the problem that Dr. Cooper’s research challenges: the repression of the history of Canadian slavery necessitates the oblivion of actors such as Mme. Angelique. The recovery of that history mandates the remembering of representative and extraordinary slaves…

Some may object that, because colonial Canadian slavery was not as extensive as the Southern U.S. version, Dr. Cooper’s research is academic and inconsequential. However, we must recognize that slavery was practiced in a solid third of what is now Canada– in Upper Canada (Ontario), New France (Quebec), New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia; that it numbered in thousands of slaves (with the greatest number in New France), held “legally” under various colonial regimes and traded globally; that it lasted for more than two hundred years; and that it ended only because it was not vital to the boreal economy.

As historian James Walker has argued, because colonial Canada held African slaves, its society fostered anti-Black racism-Negrophobia that persists in Canada today. Furthermore, because slavery was all about extracting free–and hard– labour from understandably recalcitrant persons, it sanctioned torture, even in Canada. Thus, one reads that a Loyalist kept his slaves chained to his basement walls in Fredericton, New Brunswick; or that a Nova Scotian bachelor minister owned two teenage female slaves, thus exciting public controversy; or that a Nova Scotian mistress bludgeoned a boy slave to death with a hammer; or that “a slave of Judge Upham” was hanged, on flimsy grounds, for the murder of a White woman in New Brunswick; or that Jean-Baptiste Thomas was hanged in the Montreal market, for theft, in the summer of 1735 (just a year after Mme. Angelique was executed); or that Josiah Cutten was hanged, in Ontario, in 1789, but was likened to animals that “go about at Night for their prey”. Ah, the records of Canadian slavery are every bit as vicious as those we Canadians know so much better– those of the Great Republic…

… “Four hundred years after the first African landed on Canadian shores (in Nova Scotia), 270 years after the grisly execution of Mme. Angelique, 170 years after the British Empire abolished slavery in Canada, and 50 years after Blacks were once again permitted to immigrate to Canada (specifically, from the Caribbean), one watches a brilliant irony unfold: the Jamaican-Canadian Dr. Cooper, a native of a society of slave revolts, presents her governor general, the Haitian-Canadian Mme. Jean, a native of a country established in rebellion and revolution, with a document about another Black woman, who was a martyr for liberty in colonial Canada.”

I now finish off with a quote from Afua Cooper in her Preface:

“The story of Angelique provides an opportunity for us to reclaim a hidden past. Since much of the Black past has been deliberately buried, covered over, and demolished, it is our task to unearth, uncover and piece it together again. This we are called to do, because the dead speak to us.

Canada’s Forgotten Slaves: Two Hundred Years of Bondage

To help elaborate on the topic of slavery in Canada, I am quoting some excerpts from Marcel Trudel’s book ‘Canada’s Forgotten Slaves: Two Hundred Years of Bondage’. It’s an interesting book and worth reading. (The topic has been virtually ignored and suppressed in Canada.)

Points to note:

Between 1632 and 1834 there were over 4000 slaves in New France/Canada. They were both black and aboriginal. A black was worth 900 livres, and an Amerindian slave worth 400 livres. There were more Amerindian slaves than blacks: this tended to be because they were cheaper, which was in part a result of the fact they were nearby and easier to obtain. (Amerindian slaves were known as ‘Panis’ – a generic term to describe a slave of any tribe.)

Slavery here never reached the heights of the southern colonies or Caribbean – but not through lack of effort. Citizens attempted to import shipments of slaves but were prevented by wars, transportation costs, company changes and a lack of interest from slavers.

While slavery was an economic imperative for southern colonies, slavery here had no real economic basis and was merely a status symbol, conveying wealth and prestige. While attempts to ship slaves were requested for “cost effective” measures, and assistance in “working the land” (agriculture), in fact very few slaves were rural and most existed in the city, purchased by the upper classes.

Timeline:

The slavery timeline begins in ‘New France’ (a colony of France), and continues under the British military regime (after the conquest of 1760). It carries on in the province of Quebec (1774-1791) and Lower Canada (1791 – 1834).


Introduction

“Canadians have long seen slavery in terms, above all, of the Underground Railway, that clandestine network of forest and waterside paths by which Quakers, black freedmen and other human rights advocates smuggled runaway American slaves northwards to liberty in the early nineteenth century. As many as a hundred thousand slaves escaped to Canada. But for some strange reason, while congratulating Canadians for offering refuge to these fugitives, generations of historians maintained a virtual conspiracy of silence about slaves owned and exploited, bought and sold, by Canadians themselves.”

p 7

“… when did slavery begin here? The first slaves were few and far between, and the practice of slave-holding only became a common practice starting in the 1680s. A few individual slaves appeared first of all. Gradually servitude became a recognized institution in the society of New France, and it remained so up to the first quarter of the nineteenth century.”

p 15

“The first slave we can positively identify in New France was a Negro boy brought here by David Kirke in 1629 … ” 

p 15, 16

 “When the Negro Olivier Le Jeune died in 1654, we believe he was the only one of his kind in Canada, and the next black slave only turned up a quarter of a century later. Elsewhere in the Americas, however, slave traders preyed on native Amerindians…”

p 18

This was ‘justified’ by the fact that Native American tribes practiced slavery themselves, by taking war captives.

“But starting in 1671, the French settlers of Canada began to acquire Amerindian slaves. It is true that once the French acquired these Amerindians, they do not always seem to have formally regarded them as slaves. What matters is that these slaves were given to the French as slaves, and that the French accepted them as such, at least for a time.”

p 21

The first two Amerindian slaves to come to Quebec were Pottawatomie girls in 1671,  who were later given to nuns and raised. Some would come from as far as Mississippi. (p 22, 23)

“Trafficking of Amerindian slaves truly began in earnest in 1687: it was on a modest scale at first, but then became more and more generalized and continued until the early nineteenth century.   

… How long had these slaves been living among the French? It is impossible to say. It is clear however that they only appeared in the civil registry after arriving in the colony. The Panis Louis, for example, must have been living in French society for a fairly long time because he could not be confirmed before learning adequate French as well as the catechism.   

By the end of the seventeenth century, Amerindian slaves turn up almost each year in historical records.”

p 23, 24

“If we bring together a list of the Amerindian slaves who lived among the French population at the end of the seventeenth century, we find twenty-nine Amerindian slaves over a twenty-nine year period …

Our list of seventeenth-century slave owners in Canada thus includes colonial officials, military officers, explorers and fur traders: indeed, these are the key groups that defined the heyday of slave-owning, and they were also the groups most intimately involved with Native Amerindian nations.  

We are talking about slaves. Aside from men, women, and children explicitly identified as slaves or said to belong to an owner, it is not certain that the other Amerindians who entered New France as slaves actually appear as such in historical documents.”

p 26

“For example, before 1790, when Intendant Raudot intervened to provide a legal basis for slavery, civil registries rarely used the word “slave”; in the fifteen civil acts of this period relating to slaves, only one directly used the word “slave” … This was the first time prior to 1700 that civil registries used the word slave; up till then, those maintaining records had usually written “savage belonging to …” a specific free person.”

p 27, 28


“Give Us Negroes!”  (Chapter One)

“Blacks were needed to harvest sugar cane in the Carribbean, and the labour supply argument was also put forward in Canada. In 1688, the governor of New France Brisay de Denonville and Intendant Bochart de Champigny wrote to the king that workers and servants were so hard to find in the colony, and so expensive, that they ruined anyone engaged in any enterprise: the best way to remedy this situation would be to introduce black slaves.”

p 29

In 1689 the king would grant authorization for slave shipments, but wrote of his concerns about blacks and their sustainability in the “climate” of Canada.

On May 17, 1689 war broke out between France and England. Under the League of Augsburg, [a coalition of countries and colonies against France and Louis XIV] slaves could only be sent to Quebec from trading posts in Guinea when the war was over. (p 33)

The war would last eight years, preventing black slaves from coming to Canada; only four are confirmed during that period.

“With the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697, the war came to an end after eight long years. Did this mean prospective slave owners could finally take advantage of the royal authorization granted in 1689? The next mention in the royal mail of the problem of sending blacks to Canada was in 1701 … “His Majesty has no objection to granting the people of Canada permission to own Blacks, but as the only way to effect this is to bring in a ship laden with Blacks, they must give assurances they will pay the costs of transportation…”

p 34

“To minimize any losses, it had to be made clear first of all whether Canadians were actually in a position to pay for goods from abroad, and the authorities of New France had to ensure “that precautions are taken to make this happen.” There was no question of a ship bearing Negroes to Quebec for the time being. In any case, war broke out again … This incurred further delays, and it would be eleven years before a new peace treaty was signed.”

p 34

“Given the uncertain supply of black slaves, prospective owners naturally turned to Amerindians, who continued arriving in the country as slaves, slowly at first, but then at an even greater pace from 1700 …  

Amerindian slavery stood at a relatively high level from 1710 onwards, largely because of an ordinance issued by Intendant Raudot in 1709, to the effect that people who bought Panis and blacks as slaves owned them outright. Given the proximity to the Amerindian slave market, this ordinance was likely to encourage people who needed slaves, but it could do nothing for the prospective owners who preferred blacks. Canadians who preferred ebony slaves had to wait till the war was over: added delays came when metropolitan authorities in France had to figure out how to ship slaves to Quebec.” 

p 35, 36

Generally speaking, most average citizens couldn’t afford slaves personally, or the colony as a whole to pay for shipments outright. 

“Taking up the same arguments that had worked in the past, he wrote: “There are few inhabitants in Canada, and many enterprises suffer from the difficulty of finding workers and day laborers whose wages are excessively high.” Importing blacks would “lead to an increase in the colony and its trade.” Why not use this resource profitably, the way the English colonies did? …  

Word from the French government came back: “it does not seem appropriate at present to send Negroes to Canada.” … it is worth noting that the government refused to send a shipment of blacks to Canada, while continuing to allow Canadians to own slaves.”

p 38

The Regent demanded full payment from Canadians before any slaves were sent. Intendant Begon then compiled a list of proposed purchasers and their requests. He continued to urge for black slaves citing many reasons, including: working the land, as well as caring for widows and the elderly.

Begon submitted his arguments in January 1721, and a shipment of black slaves was agreed to. The shipment was postponed for a year, and then never fulfilled (due to the company’s loss of its monopoly among other factors). (p 38 – 41)

Despite receiving authorizations in 1689, 1701, and 1721, no slave shipment could be bothered to make the longer and more expensive trip to Quebec, so the wholesale buying of black slaves was avoided. (p 42)


Legalization  (Chapter Two)

Prior to 1709, there was no document outlining the legality of slavery.

“However, starting in 1689, owners of blacks could rest easy: Louis XIV had authorized Canadians to import blacks for the purposes of working and clearing the land. This royal authorization served as a guarantee of ownership of blacks, but could not be applied to Amerindians held in bondage, even though most slaves in New France were actually Amerindians.”

p 44

On April 13, 1709 – Intendant Raudot issued an ordinance, which included in part:

“We, at His Majesty’s pleasure, order that all Panis and Negroes who have been bought and who shall be bought hereafter shall belong in full ownership to those who bought them as their slaves; and we hereby forbid the said Panis and Negroes to leave their masters, and anyone else to tempt them away, under a penalty of a fine of fifty livres.”

p 46

The tribes allied with the French (Algonquins, Montagnais, Abenakis, Iroquois) were left alone and for the most part not seized as slaves.

In 1733 a civil lawsuit brought up a dispute: a slave had been obtained as ‘payment’ for owed debts; the first owner argued that as his slave had been baptized the seizure of a “Christian” was unlawful, but the judge ruled against him and upheld the sale. (p 48, 49)

The King was petitioned to clarify statutes on Amerindian slaves, but refused to do so, simply recommending that colonists follow “customary practice”. This seems to have been a way to sidestep delicate issues regarding alliances with certain Amerindian tribes; and France’s hopes for further expansion and cooperation.  (p 50, 51)

When contacted regarding the sale of Amerindian slaves outside the colony (to the Carribean for example), Intendant Raudot decided they could not be transported elsewhere, since their slavery was to “benefit” the colony itself. (p 52)

However this ordinance was ignored, and slaves that proved troublesome or were needed for cash were in fact sent to the Caribbean. Amerindians particularly were noted for running away and being disobedient.

“This practice of sending slaves of unhappy masters to the Carribbean became so popular that… proposed to the king that it be done systemically.   

… In 1747, Canadian authorities therefore proposed to the king that owners should not keep these Amerindians beyond the age of sixteen or seventeen years, after which they should be sold in the Caribbean, where they obviously had no means of escape.”

p 54

There is no further record regarding the matter; no formal dictates, it was simply done in practice. Some slaves were transported to France, where they could legally be brought over on certain conditions, despite slavery being “illegal” in the country itself (while legal in its colonies).

According to English and French custom: “A black is a slave wherever he may be found.” Black slaves could not be “free” in France or its colonies, nor having fled from another nation, unless they had been formally emancipated. (p 56, 57)

So while slavery was illegal in France, slaves could be sent there or could travel there with their masters, provided they were from the colonies. Slaves which escaped to France hoping for emancipation by reaching it, were not entitled to their freedom by virtue of living in the country proper. 

After the British takeover:

“When the Articles of Capitulation were signed in Montreal in September 1760, they reasserted the legal character of Amerindian and black slavery, and extended it under British rule. Governor Vaudreuil-Cavagnial made a special request relating to slavery which became Article 47:   

The Negroes and Panis of both sexes shall remain in their qualify 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 to sell them; and they may also continue to bring them up in the Roman Religion.  

… And so the institution of slavery in Canada was first recognized and amply protected by French law, and was then extended under the British regime by another statute, the Articles of Capitulation of 1760.”

p 57

Nearly 4200 Slaves in Quebec  (Chapter Three)

The author had issues with finding full records and documentation. His slave sourcing came from Catholic and Protestant records: civil registries, patient and death records, census roles, notarial records, wills, inventories, etc. They counted only the slaves they could formally confirm, 2700 of which were Amerindians, and 1443 blacks.

“But of 4200 slaves, we found that only 456 Amerindians and 228 blacks were either indicated as slaves or were subject to a commercial transaction. In Quebec, people were reluctant to use the term “slavery” although the reality was there for all to see. The priest making entries in the civil registry hesitated to use the word “slave” or could not be bothered to use it. We repeatedly found cases where an Amerindian or black was baptized and had been acquired by purchase, but was nonetheless still not specifically referred to as a slave. In most cases, the record-keeper merely noted that a given Amerindian or black belonged to a given owner.”

p 61

“There had been petitions in New France calling for shiploads of black slaves, but nothing of the sort ever took place. Instead, black slaves were obtained in the Thirteen Colonies as war booty or through smuggling.”   

p 73

“The number of new slaves appearing in the historical record only begins to be significant after 1709, the year in which Intendant Raudot legalized slavery. Then, in the last two decades of French rule, the total number of slaves reached 400 and 500, due to the importance of the fur trade, which made it easier to acquire Amerindian slaves. With the decline of the fur trade, the number of Amerindian slaves then quickly fell off, whereas the number of blacks rose suddenly to well over 600 as Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution brought their black slaves up to Canada.”

p 76

“Of this grand total of 4185 slaves, 2683 Amerindians make up 65.1% or two-thirds of the 4124 slaves whose origins are known, whereas 1443 blacks account for 34.9% or just over a third.  

We are convinced that our seventeenth-and eighteenth-century Canadian ancestors had more slaves than the 4185 identified in the Dictionnaire. We say this because, from the eighteenth-century onwards, owners complained how hard it was to hold onto their Amerindian slaves; moreover, given that Amerindian slaves were often baptized later in life … it follows that many of these slaves died before being baptized and therefore do not appear in the civil registry.”

p 77


The Slave Market  (Chapter Four)

“There was practically an equal number of male and female slaves: males represented 1973 slaves (47.8%), while females represented 2151 slaves (52.2%). However, if we break down each of these two groups separately, the result is not so evenly matched. There were more women than men among Amerindian slaves (1543 or 57.7% were women), whereas there were fewer women than men among black slaves (608 or 42.2% were women).”

p 84

“Was there a public slave market in Canada the way there was in the Thirteen Colonies and Caribbean? And if there was such a market, was it in continuous operation, or only occasionally? The historical record does not enable us to provide a satisfactory answer to these questions …  

Public sales of slaves at auction definitely occurred in Canada. We only know of one such case under the French regime, when in 1733 the merchant … bought a Paducah on the market square … Several more public slave sales took place under the British regime. In Quebec City in 1778, Captain Thomas VEnture offered his mulatto slave Isabella at auction …”

p 90, 91

“Moreover, these public sales and auctions were regularly advertised in newspapers. Between 1767, when the first slave sale ad appeared, and 1798, when the last such ad came out, there were at least 137 advertisements for thirty different slaves…”

p 91

“It is clear that slaves were indeed put up for auction in Quebec and Montreal, and sold to the highest bidder. Slavery was legal in Canada, so why would slaves not have been sold at auction here, as they were in other colonies?  

We know of an oral tradition concerning the slave market. In his memoirs … Dandurand wrote: “I can state quite definitely that in my early childhood, a full-fledged slave market existed in Montreal…”

p 92

“The average Amerindian cost only 400 livres, whereas the average black cost 900. Another way of putting this is to say a black slave was worth twice as much as an Amerindian slave. This should come as no surprise, since New France was close to the market in “savages”, but far from the market in black ebony, and the additional cost of acquiring black slaves was passed on to the purchaser.”

p 97

While most owners were wealthy or relatively well off, some citizens went into debt to purchase slaves. 


Owners at All Levels of Society  (Chapter Five)

“Our history of slavery can conveniently be divided into two traditional periods, the French regime and the British regime.   

… Our study of Quebec slavery … has enabled us to establish that owners of French origin were the leading slave owners, given that they accounted for 2858 or 86.6% of all known owners. Even more significant is the fact that these slave owners of French origin owned 79.1% of all Amerindian slaves. Evidently, once the British settled in Quebec following the Conquest, it was much harder for them to acquire Amerindian slaves than it had been for the French prior to 1760, given the rapid decline of the fur trade.  

During the colonial period, French-speaking owners held almost all the Amerindian slaves we have identified in official records, and they even held 596 black slaves, far outnumbering the 301 black slaves held by English-speaking owners.” 

p 103, 104)

Slaves were held by the highest authorities of the French regime, and senior British officials. Generally speaking however, French Canadians had more slaves than British Canadians.

“It cost an average of 900 livres to buy a black slave, and 400 livres to buy an Amerindian one…” Merchants were leading slave owners, then military officers; other owners included physicians, surgeons, followed by notaries and then tradesmen.

“Printers also owned slaves. The first printers operating in Quebec were William Brown and Thomas Gilmore, who printed the Quebec Gazette: they owned black slaves, at least from 1767.  

… Fleury Mesplet had at least one black slave when he published the Gazette de Montreal (now the Montreal Gazette).”

p 110

Other owners included: bishops, priests, religious orders (including nuns) and the State itself.

“In fact, slavery in Quebec was not some economic imperative, but rather a form of public extravagance which conferred prestige on to members of high society but also on to all other levels of society indulging in it.”

p 118

The Living Conditions of Slaves  (Chapter Six)

In March 1685, Louis XIV issued an edict of sixty articles, the Code Noir, instructing on issues dealing with ‘the condition and quality’ of slaves. These included stipulations on marriage, religion, cohabitation, slave children, penalties and punishments, etc. One example:

“… the slave who has drawn the blood of his master, mistress or their children, shall be punished by death; slaves who assault free persons, and also some cases of robbery, shall be subject to severe penalties or even the death penalty. The fugitive slave shall have his ears cut off, and shall be branded with the fleur de lys on the shoulder; if he commits the same infraction a second time, he shall have his hamstring cut; the third time, he shall be put to death.”

p 121


The Code did have some “humane provisions” such as: demanding minimum living conditions, instruction in religion, families could not be separated by sale, and old slaves could not be abandoned.

The Code Noir was specifically written for the Caribbean, and later amended slightly to apply to Louisiana. No specific code was ever written for, or legally binding in Canada, although colonists followed the Code generally in most matters.

“As a result, we do not need to ask whether a slave owner was complying with a law of Canada, in granting a particular privilege to his slave, or in imposing a condition: in fact, no such law existed in Canada. It is interesting to note however that slave owners generally complied with provisions of the Code Noir of the Caribbean or Louisiana, even when not required to do so.”

p 122


Punishments in the colony appear to have been ‘lighter’ than suggested (by the Code) in most cases. Main punishments (confirmed) included: flogging, imprisonment, hanging, branding with fleur de lys, deportation to the galleys, and in the case of Marie-Joseph-Angelique – torture. This can be attributed to the relatively small percentage of slaves: limiting fear of an uprising or reprisals, which could take place in areas such as the Caribbean. (Chapter 8: p 161 – 178)

Some slaves were able to take part in civil cases and legal proceedings, since the Code Noir  was not followed to the letter or formally implemented. (Chapter 9: p 179-200)

Canadian men slept with both Amerindian and black female slaves, having many illegitimate children out of wedlock. Children of female slaves were automatically considered slaves, even when the father was a free man.

Slaves were allowed to marry, on the condition they had the permission of their owners. (Chapter 10: p 201 – 219)


Marriages (Chapter Eleven)

“Charlevoix noted that many white Canadian men had a pronounced liking for “savage women”, and while many such men were quite content to have sexual relations with “savage women”, some nonetheless felt the need to marry such women before God; some Amerindian men also formed permanent unions with white Canadian women.”

p 220

 In 1648, Jesuit Pierre de Semaisons recommended to the Pope that the men of New France be allowed to marry ‘savage women’:

“This will diminish the number of savages while increasing the number of Christians… These marriages will greatly promote the peopling of this great country where God is not [currently] well served, since French men will marry here, and will no longer return to France in order to take wives, which in turn hinders them shortly afterwards from coming back to the colony … These reasons seem pressing enough to incite His Holiness to allow the French who live in New France to marry savage girls …” 

p 220, 221


 The minister Colbert advocated a policy of mixing. In a letter to Intendant Talon in 1667:

“You have started to address this long-standing neglect, and you must try to attract these [Amerindian] people to those who have embraced Christianity in the vicinity of our homes, and if possible to mix them together so that over time, living under only one master and one system of law, they will form only one people and one blood.”

p 221

“But these marriages were not without serious drawbacks … French men were likelier to become “savage” than “savage” women to become French. Husbands had to be prevented from giving themselves up to the savage lifestyle …”

p 222


In 1706 Governor Vaudreuil ordered that French men be prevented from marrying Amerindian women:

“as he is convinced that bad blood should never be mixed with good, given the experience we have in this country, where all French men who married savage women have become lazy libertines, and unbearably independent, and the resulting children have proved just as lazy as the Amerindians themselves, and we must not allow these kinds of marriages to take place.”

p 223


Slaves Disappeared One by One  (Chapter Twelve)

“Already by 1787, it was clear owners feared the more or less imminent abolition of slavery. Was the Legislative Council of Quebec serious about abolishing slavery or was it only rumored to be concerned about the matter? We found no documentary evidence either in or before 1787 that would help answer this question… By 1787, there had been no public campaign in Quebec against slavery: newspapers were silent on the issue.”

p 233


In April 1791 a debate was held in the British House of Commons, but the majority of MPs voted against abolition. The next year on April 2, 1792 MPs in the House of Commons voted for gradual abolition of the slave trade.

“… but the Canadian press campaign was of an episodic character. Coverage depended on events taking place in Europe: the subject of slavery could disappear from the press for months, then suddenly regain importance before retreating from public view once again. We should note there was nothing original about the anti-slavery press campaign, nothing relating explicitly to slavery in Canada: newspapers reprinted the text of debates taking place in London as foreign news, without any accompanying comment relating these debates to the practice of slavery in Canada itself.”

p 235


On January 28, 1793  Pierre-Louis Panet asked to bring in a bill to abolish slavery in Lower Canada, which was approved, but later killed off by Debonne and McBeath.

“The vote on April 19, 1793 showed that a large majority of members of the House of Assembly favored maintaining slavery. Of these proponents of slavery, we know that at least twelve were then, or were about to become, slave owners …”

p 237

“The Consitutional Act of 1791 divided Canada into two distinct provinces: Upper Canada and Lower Canada. Upper Canada, which eventually became Ontario, was the first of these provinces to adopt legislation specifically on slavery…”

p 238


Upper Canada adopted The Act Against Slavery bill in 1793 ‘to prevent the importation of slaves to the province, and to determine the conditions needed to bring an end to slavery‘. Slaves already in the province would continue to be enslaved, and children of slave mothers would continue in enslavement until the age of twenty-five. Those born before the Act had passed would continue to be slaves indefinitely. (p 239)

“But the Act also had the longer-term effect of turning Upper Canada into a “land of liberty” for runaway slaves. Indeed, the Act of 1793 prohibited that any black or Indian slave entering the province of Upper Canada should be treated as a slave: as a result, any fugitive slave seeking asylum in the province would be released from bondage….  

Fugitive slaves reaching the province saw Upper Canada as an international place of refuge, but slaves already established before 1793 continued to toil in servitude.”

p 239, 240


Meanwhile in Lower Canada, the status quo continued. By 1794, a Court Justice in Montreal would set precedent by allowing runaway slaves seeking refuge to not be prosecuted or returned. “Still no law in Lower Canada explicitly prohibited slavery: existing legislation remained in force.” (p 244)


In April 1799, a group of Montrealers had Joseph Papineau (House Assembly member) put forth a petition on their behalf extolling the legality of slavery as according to French and British laws previously established. Since opinions varied by judge and citizen, they asked that a clear decision be applied: either the continuation of slavery, or formal abolition so that the legal limbo many found themselves in would be halted.

A second petition was put forth on April 18, 1800 which quoted the Raudot Ordinance of 1709 which was “never altered or repealed”. This resulted in the creation of a five member committee to oversee the matter. Yet nothing was accomplished and decisions were deferred several times.

“Indeed, after all these unsuccessful attempts to get the House of Assembly of Lower Canada to enact legislation on slavery, nothing further was done: after 1803 the question of slavery never appeared in the agenda of the House of Assembly. Ultimately, no Act specifically addressing the condition of slaves was ever adopted in Lower Canada.”

p 250

“Historical records indicate the presence of a few slaves every year until 1808, but then there is a gap of thirteen years until 1821, when the last historical document mentions an individual slave.”

p 251

“It is hard to say exactly how slavery ended in French Canada … Did the history of slavery in Lower Canada end because of a law enacted in Britain? On August 28, 1833, the British government voted to put an end to slavery throughout the British Empire. The Slavery Abolition Act came into force in 1834 …   

Were there any remaining slaves in Lower Canada to take advantage of this legal emancipation?”… 

It appears there were no Amerindian slaves left to be emancipated by this time, and very few blacks, many of whom were aged. And so:

“Suffice it to say that in Quebec, slavery withered away on its own, and no date can be assigned to its final disappearance.”

p 252, 253


Conclusion

“Throughout this work we have been dealing with a historical territory which does not quite occupy the same space as present-day Canada. Our study establishes that slavery had an official, legal existence over two centuries, that is between 1632 and 1834…  

However, slavery here remained on a relatively small scale… it was not until the last years of the seventeenth century that slave ownership in New France, whether Amerindians or blacks, became a regular feature of society …   

The original colonists of Quebec wanted to import massive numbers of black slaves into the colony…. No massive importation of black slaves took place, but Canadians were able to draw off a few black slaves while warring against the Thirteen Colonies, and to exploit increasing numbers of Amerindian slaves who were brought back from the Midwest to Montreal as a result of the fur trade.” 

p 254, 255

“Slavery was an economic imperative in colonies where sugar and tobacco were grown, whereas in French Canada no economic activity required the presence of slave labour..”

p 257

“How can slavery in Canada have been virtually forgotten? Historians are surely to blame, whether because they did not examine slavery or because they failed to even notice it. Despite the fact the historian Francois-Xavier Garneau was born in 1809, when slavery still existed in Lower Canada, he completely misinformed his readers about slavery … Garneau dug himself deeper into a hole by claiming that “the government and Canadian clergy should be honored for consistently opposing the introduction of Blacks into Canada.”

p 268, 269

Writing about slavery was nearly non-existent, aside from a handful of authors over a century. As a result:

“And yet, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the phenomenon of Quebec slavery seems still relatively unknown … Although we have put a lot of energy into establishing rigorous historical facts about slavery, we are still met with surprise and especially disbelief: “What! Do you mean slavery actually existed in Quebec?” … in point of fact, our colonial past can be likened to the Thirteen Colonies of America.

p 270, 271


There you have it folks … the hidden history of slavery in Canada. This issue is so little known, that I have angry Canadians writing in to me claiming that there WAS NO SLAVERY in Canada!

Contradictions in Canada: Blacks

Canada: land of cognitive dissonance.

Here is one example of Canadian contradiction:


Blacks


Black people have been in Canada since the early 1600’s and unknown to a large segment of Canadians, they were also slaves in early colonial Canada (black history in general is overlooked or completely ignored).

Few enough think about the experience of black Canadians: regular racism, discrimination, lack of empathy and dismissive attitudes about their hardships. Most Canadians flippantly tell them that racism against blacks is a problem in the USA, not here.

Most Canadians know about issues of racism against Aboriginals, but believe that racism against blacks is minimal in Canada. Canadians love to shake their finger at their American neighbors and self-righteously proclaim themselves so superior in issues of race – particularly regarding black people. But as is so often the case with cakers, their self-image and reality are at blunt odds…

The data shows that when it comes to hate crimes, black Canadians are the number one victim! They account for roughly half of all racial hate crimes, which is parallel with American stats.

The USA has 10x the population level of Canada: 35 million vs 318  million. Black Canadians make up 2.9% of Canada’s population while black Americans make up 13.3% of the population. Which begs the question: who has the bigger problem here?

It should be noted that the likely reason hate crimes against Aboriginals are so low is because half their population resides on remote reserves, and a large percentage of the rest live on reserves inside cities or on the outskirts.

What can we conclude from all this? Cakers are no better than their American neighbors, and in fact a whole lot worse in most ways! 

Canada has a problem with racism. In fact, Canada has many problems … all swept under the rug so as to look good in front of the world. 


Note: While re-posting this, I updated it with current stats. I knew they would be no different because Canada never changes. 

Update: since this post, Statistics Canada has stopped compiling hate crimes information on individual groups and has combined them together.


Stats Can: 

2017 https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/181129/t001a-eng.htm

2015/16 https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2018001/article/54915-eng.htm

2014/15 https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2017001/article/14832-eng.htm

2013 https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2015001/article/14191-eng.htm#a11

2012 https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2014001/article/14028-eng.htm

2009/10 https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2012001/article/11635-eng.htm

Slavery in Canada

From Globe & Mail:

“Canadians appalled by the violence in the Oscar-nominated film 12 Years a Slave probably also feel proud that the carpenter who helps Solomon Northup regain his freedom is Canadian (and played by Brad Pitt). We’ve all heard that Canada’s only role in the slave trade was to hasten its end; but long before the underground railroad got started, colonial Canada was a safe place to buy, sell and own slaves.

For about two centuries, slavery was legal in New France, and in Lower Canada under British rule. Captive human beings were owned by people from almost every level of society, including governors, bishops, military officers, merchants, priests, blacksmiths and tailors. James McGill, founder of McGill University, had slaves. So did Marguerite d’Youville, the Grey Nuns founder who was canonized in 1990.

The shocking details are all laid out in a book by Quebec historian Marcel Trudel that has just appeared in an English-language paperback as Canada’s Forgotten Slaves: Two Hundred Years of Bondage. Mr. Trudel, who died in 2011, shreds our national myth about slavery by naming hundreds of eminent and ordinary Quebeckers who were eager to get slaves and proud to flaunt them before their neighbours. People went into debt to buy them.


“Slavery in Quebec was not some economic imperative, but rather a form of public extravagance which conferred prestige,” Mr. Trudel writes. In 18th-century Quebec, whose boundaries reached into parts of what is now the United States, a slave was a status symbol, more often found in town than in the country, more likely to be a domestic servant than a field labourer.

Mr. Trudel provoked a scandal in Quebec in 1960 when he first published his revelations as  L’esclavage au Canada français. Generations of historians and church leaders had nurtured the myth that slavery, if it had existed at all, had been imported into the province by the English after the conquest of 1760. In fact, 85 per cent of Mr. Trudel’s confirmed owners were francophones, and the Quebec slave trade was well established before Wolfe met Montcalm. Nobody could refute Mr. Trudel’s careful research, so he was ostracized professionally, and in 1965 left his post at the University of Laval for a less frosty berth at the University of Ottawa.

The number of slaves Mr. Trudel could confirm from archival records was relatively small – about 4,200 in all, compared with the 250,000 who toiled in the French West Indies in the mid-1700s. Canadians never knew slavery on an industrial scale, only because they never convinced big-time slave traders that it was worth sending African slaves on the longer shipping route to Montreal or Quebec City.


Many in Quebec had to be content with captives stolen or bought from indigenous peoples, some of whom practiced slavery before the Europeans arrived. About two-thirds of the slaves in Quebec were native people, mostly from the Pawnee nations of modern-day Nebraska, whose French Canadian name – Panis – became a synonym for an indigenous slave of any origin. Black slaves were known as bois d’ébène (ebony wood), or pièce d’Inde if they were in prime condition. Blacks, being harder to get, were about double the cost of indigenous merchandise. Slaves of all kinds were sold at auctions and advertised in newspapers, including the Montreal Gazette, which had slaves in its print shop.

The House of Assembly in Lower Canada dithered for years in the late 1700s over motions to abolish slavery, probably because several members would have been directly inconvenienced. But the last recorded slave sale in Quebec occurred in 1797, and Britain abolished slavery in most of its empire in 1833, just as traffic on the underground railroad to Canada was nearing its peak.

In the decades since Mr. Trudel’s book first appeared, a secular form of Quebec nationalism has found its own reasons to forget the province’s slave-trading history. Montreal historian and journalist George Tombs, translator of the revised edition of Mr. Trudel’s book into English, got a good demonstration of the new amnesia when he mentioned his project to an acquaintance who happened to be a former Parti Québécois cabinet minister.

“He got quite annoyed, and said ‘You shouldn’t be translating that book!’” Mr. Tombs recalls. “His problem basically was that it would give a bad image of Quebec. Pauline Marois has been saying that we have to make sure that everyone knows national history, but there’s a big part of national history they’re not going to learn.”


That doesn’t explain why Mr. Trudel’s pioneering book had to wait more than 50 years to become available in English. Mr. Tombs says it’s partly because Canadians are accustomed to getting our history “in little bits and pieces, depending on which region the historian is from and which political agenda the historian is pursuing.”

Several historians have written more recent papers and books that focus narrowly on slavery in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island or Upper Canada, where loyalists from the American colonies often arrived with their human chattels. What’s still needed, Mr. Tombs says, is a broader telling of the Canadian slavery story that we can all come to grips with. If, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said, Canadians need to know their history better, they should know the bad bits, too.”


“Many enslaved Black people in Upper Canada fled to free regions in the United States, including the former Northwest Territory (which included parts of what is now Michigan and Ohio), Vermont, and New York — states that banned slavery in 1777 and 1799, respectively. Dozens of runaway slave ads were published in newspapers in Canada and the newly formed United States. The ads included detailed descriptions of an escapee’s physical appearance, the clothes they were wearing and the languages he or she spoke.”

Canadian Encyclopedia

More information:

“Canada’s Forgotten Slaves: Two Centuries of Bondage” by Marcel Trudel (Amazon)

Black Enslavement in Canada (The Canadian Encyclopedia)

Chloe Cooley and the Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada (The Canadian Encyclopedia)

Enslaved Africans in Upper Canada (Ontario Archives)

Since Canadian history is white washed to an extended degree, most cakers believe that Canada didn’t allow slavery. Growing up I was taught about the Underground Railroad, but not that any slaves had been permitted in Canada. It’s only in the last few years that more honest discussions have been taking place among the general public.