Simcoe Day: Celebrating Canada’s Anti-Slavery Past

Written By Daniel Bordman, Posted on August 3, 2020

Canadians love long weekends, but very few of us ever look into the history behind the figures we celebrate.  Mostly we tend to be afraid that we will unearth something about them that will not jive with the morality of the current year.  This is not the Case with John Graves Simcoe.

John Graves Simcoe was the founder of the city of Toronto and the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada.  He was also a staunch abolitionist. 


Upper Canada was established in 1792, and in 1793 Simcoe put forward The Act Against slavery, which was the first major legislative attempt at banning slavery in the British Empire.  Although he was not successful at the total emancipation of the slaves and the abolition of the practice the bill did effectively kill most of the slave trading practice in Canada.

Because of the work of John Graves Simcoe, no new slaves were allowed to come into Canada and those born into it would be free by age 25.

It was also Simcoe’s unfortunate death at sea which spurred on the abolitionist movement in the British empire as his passing garnered great sympathy for the cause back in England.

History is not perfect, and the men and women who populate its archives less so, and to that extent Simcoe is no exception. However, when we come across a day set aside for a man who even by modern standards complies mostly with the morality of the day it is important to educate ourselves and celebrate the aspects of Canadian history that helped build the kind and tolerant society we live in today. 

Daniel Bordman

Daniel is the host of political satire show Uninterrupted, runs multiple podcasts and has written for a variety of publications. Daniel is also the communications coordinator of the Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation. You can find him on Twitter here. Uninterrupted on YouTube

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