Early Black Settlement in Canada

People of African descent have lived in what is now called Canada since the 1600s. They came as explorers, as enslaved labourers, as migrants, as freedom-seekers, as refugees, and most recently as immigrants under Canada’s points system.

The shared history between Canada and the United States intricately ties the histories of Black Canadians and African Americans. Throughout the 1700s and into the early 1800s, the majority of people of African descent in Canada came from the United States. In the middle of the 19th century a large wave of African Americans sought freedom in Canada from slavery. At the same time free Blacks, men and women who were born free or received their freedom from enslavement, also decided to settle in Canada. ;xNLx; ;xNLx;While thousands of Blacks from the U.S. came to Canada seeking freedom and equality, they also faced racism in Canada. In many parts of Canada Black people were forced to live in segregated communities, given the poorest farm land, limited to service sector jobs, and in some provinces educated in segregated schools. In the early 1900s, Canada also brought in immigration policies to restrict migration of African Americans. ;xNLx; ;xNLx;Despite these obstacles, many Black communities survived and thrived. Today, Black communities in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario trace their roots back to these early settlements in Canada. This timeline covers 300 years of migration of people of African descent into Canada and some of the communities they established.;xNLx;

Anti-Slavery Act

Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe passes the Anti-Slavery Act which bans the importation of slaves. It also frees the children of current slaves once they reach age 25.

War of 1812 (1812-1815)

Americans declare war on Britain and attack its closest colony - British North America.

Mifflin Wistar Gibbs (1823-1915)

City Councillor, Victoria, B.C. 1866-1869

Birchtown founded by Black Loyalists

Birchtown was founded in 1783 by Black Loyalists.

Amber Valley, Alberta

Amber Valley settlement was established by African Americans fleeing racism and oppression in the United States.

North American Convention of Colored Freemen (September 10, 1851)

The meeting of the North American Convention of Colored Freemen is held in Toronto.

Hogan's Alley, British Columbia (1900 to 1960)

Vancouver's Black community was concentrated around Hogan's Alley.

Black Californians, British Columbia

Invited by Sir James Douglas, governor of Vancouver Island, more than 800 Black settlers arrive in British Columbia from San Francisco in 1858.

Exodusters, Alberta & Saskatchewan

Canadian Minister of the Interior actively recruits Americans to settle in the prairies.

Black Oklahomans, Alberta & Saskatchewan

By 1909, hundreds of African Americans move to the Canadian Prairies, fleeing racism and the Ku Klux Klan in Oklahoma.

John Ware (1845-1905)

John Ware is a cowboy who helps establish ranching in Alberta.

Oro, Ontario

In 1815, Lieutenant Governor Peregrine Maitland of Upper Canada began to offer Black veterans of the War of 1812 grants of land in the Township of Oro.

Niagara, Ontario

When the soldiers of Butler's Rangers are disbanded in 1783, Richard Pierpoint and other Black soldiers begin farming near Niagara, making them some of the first Black settlers in the Niagara Region.

Amherstburg, Ontario

Amherstburg is settled by Black veterans of the War of 1812 who grow tobacco.

Dawn Settlement, Ontario

In 1841, the former slave Josiah Henson buys 200 acres to found the Dawn Settlement, near present-day Dresden, Ontario.

Abraham Doras Shadd (1801-1882)

Shoemaker. Abolitionist. Conductor on the Underground Railroad. City Councillor, Raleigh, Ontario 1859.

Montreal, Quebec

Most of the slaves in Canada resided in Montreal.

Maroons, Nova Scotia

On July 22, 1796, a group of 600 Maroons, from the Jamaican community of escaped slaves, arrive in Halifax.

Black Loyalists

After the American Revolutionary War, at least 3,500 Black Loyalists come to Canada.

Africville, Nova Scotia (1761-1970)

The first official record of Africville is 1761. The population is increased after the War of 1812 when Black Loyalists and Refugees arrive.

Loch Lomond, New Brunswick

In 1815, after escaping the war in Virginia and Maryland, three hundred Black Refugees arrive in Saint John harbour on the H.M.S Regulus. They eventually settle near Loch Lomond and Willow Grove.

Black Islanders, P.E.I.

Sixteen enslaved Africans arrive with the United Empire Loyalists.

Black Pioneers, Yukon

Blacks have lived in the Yukon since 1848, when Perro Lenoire worked for the Hudson's Bay Company as a hunter and labourer. By 1901, a community of 99 Blacks had settled in the Yukon Territory during the Klondike Gold Rush.

First enslaved Africans arrive in British North America (August 20, 1619)

The first shipload of enslaved Africans arrives in British North America through Jamestown, in what is now Virginia.

American Revolutionary War (1775-1783)

The Thirteen Colonies fight against Britain for independence.

War of 1812 (1812-1815)

Americans declare war on Britain and attack the closest English colony – British North America.

Fugitive Slave Act (September 18, 1850)

The Fugitive Slave Act requires the return of all escaped slaves that are recaptured.

American Civil War (1861-1865)

Over the issue of slavery, seven southern states with slave-based economies declare their secession from the United States and form the Confederate States of America.

Emancipation Proclamation (January 1, 1863)

President Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation which frees the slaves held in the states that had seceded from the Union.

Thirteenth Amendment (January 31, 1865)

The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution formally ends slavery.

State of Oklahoma created

The Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory are united by the federal government to form the state of Oklahoma.

Mathieu de Costa to accompany Samuel de Champlain

An African, Mathieu de Costa, is contracted to accompany Samuel de Champlain on an excursion to Acadia (Nova Scotia) in 1605.

First enslaved African arrives in New France

The first recorded African slave is purchased in New France.

Slavery Abolished (August 1, 1834)

The British Imperial Act abolishes slavery across the British Empire. It is passed in 1833 and becomes effective August 1, 1834. The Act frees those who remained enslaved in British North America.

Canada formed (July 1, 1867)

The British colonies in what is now Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia join to form Canada.

Oliver's restrictive immigration policy

By 1909, hundreds of Black Oklahomans had moved to the Canadian Prairies, where they met the same discrimination they experienced in the United States.

Sir James Douglas (1803-1877)

Governor, Colony of Vancouver Island 1851-1864; Governor, Colony of British Columbia 1858-1864

Burr Plato (1844-1905)

City Councillor, Niagara Falls, Ontario 1886-1901

Town of York (Toronto), Ontario

In 1799 in the town of York fifteen Blacks were enumerated by the Census.

William Peyton Hubbard (1842-1935)

Baker. Taxi driver. City Alderman, Toronto, Ontario 1894-1914.

Importation of slaves prohibited

President Thomas Jefferson signs a bill approved by Congress the day before “to prohibit the importation of slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States.” It becomes effective January 1, 1808.

Anti-Slavery Society of Canada

Blacks and Whites in Toronto establish the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada in 1851 to "aid in the extinction of slavery all over the world."

The Provincial Freeman (Windsor, Toronto, Chatham,1853-1857)

Canada's second Black newspaper is founded by Mary Ann Shadd and her brother Isaac in 1853.

The Voice of the Fugitive (Sandwich, 1851-1854)

The first Black newspaper in Canada is founded by Henry and Mary Bibb in Windsor, Ontario. It reported on issues of concern to the Black community, including the Underground Railroad.

Steelworkers in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

In the early 1900’s many Black immigrants come to Cape Breton as laborers to work for the Dominion Iron and Steel Company.

Oakville, Ontario

As early as 1830s, the Town of Oakville becomes one of the gateways to Canada for many African Americans. Ship captains assist stowaway African Americans escape to freedom aboard their ships.

Code Noir (March 1685)

Code Noir is decreed by France's King Louis XIV. This defines the conditions of slavery in the French colonial empire.

King Louis XIV Gives Slavery Limited Approval in New France (May 1, 1689)

King Louis XIV of France gave limited permission for the colonists of New France to keep African and Pawnee slaves.

King Louis XIV Formally Authorizes Slavery in New France

King Louis XIV formally authorizes slavery in New France.

Marie-Joseph Angélique (c 1705-1734)

Marie-Joseph Angélique was an enslaved Black woman owned by Thérèse de Couagne de Francheville in Montréal.

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