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.

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