Question Period: Legacy of Slavery

By: The Hon. Wanda Thomas Bernard

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Canadian Museum of History, Gatineau, Quebec

Hon. Wanda Thomas Bernard: Senator Gold, while there have been a number of very positive initiatives under the three pillars of the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent — which are recognition, justice and development — there is still much work to be done. I am pleased to see that the government has committed to continuing the work of the UN Decade for another three years, since we were late signing on to that work; however, I hear from many Black Canadians who are descendants of enslaved Canadians due to Canada’s role in the transatlantic slave trade that there is unfinished business. Despite two petitions over the past few years, the federal government has not issued an apology for this historic injustice, which is crucial to advancing work on these three pillars. Can we anticipate an apology from the federal government for Canada’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question and for reminding us that our history is blemished in this regard, as it is in others. It’s a mark of a mature country that it is willing to face its past and subject it to honest and transparent criticism.

I’m unaware of what the government’s plans are with regard to your question, but I will certainly raise it with the relevant minister at the first opportunity.

Senator Bernard: Senator Gold, thank you for your commitment to raising this. When you do so, it would be really good for Black Canadians to know why there is such resistance to issuing an apology to Black Canadians for the transatlantic slave trade. Thank you.

Senator Gold: I certainly will raise the issue, though I really am not in a position to opine as to whether there is resistance, as you said or as others may fear. I will certainly raise this issue at the earliest opportunity.

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