This is true, and we should be proud. But let’s not be too proud — after all, the colonies that became Canada also had slavery for more than two centuries, ending only 30 years before U.S. President Abraham Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.
When Britain took over New France, about 7 per cent of the colony was enslaved, or around 4,000 out of a population of 60,000. Two-thirds were indigenous slaves, known as Panis, and the other third African, who cost twice as much and were a status symbol. The British did not set them free.
“We don’t know about what happened before the Underground Railroad, which is that indigenous and black Canadians endured slavery.”
— Afua Cooper, historian
Unlike our American cousins, Canada did not itself end its slavery — in fact, in 1777 slaves began fleeing Canada for Vermont, which had just abolished slavery. It took Britain to finally outlaw the practice across their entire empire in 1834.