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Ethnic Groups, Blacks

opposed slavery, police tactics, major destination, abolitionists, King Louis

Blacks, or African Canadians, have never been a major segment of the population, but their history is interesting. Although King Louis XIV of France in 1689 authorized the importation of slaves from the West Indies, few were brought to Canada or Acadia. Some refugees from the American Revolution (1775-1783) brought slaves north with them, and a greater number of blacks came as free persons, many of them having won their freedom by fighting for the British side in that conflict. Nova Scotia abolished slavery in 1787, as did Upper Canada (Ontario) six years later; their actions set precedents for the British Empire. When British troops burned Washington, the U.S. capital, in the War of 1812 (1812-1815), they brought back to Halifax many slaves who had sought refuge with them. Escape to Canada meant freedom, and thus it was a major destination of the so-called Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes by which U.S. abolitionists (people who actively opposed slavery) spirited slaves out of the American South. They transported many slaves into Canada, particularly to Chatham and Sarnia in Ontario.

Blacks in Canada have generally been equal under the law, although Nova Scotia and Ontario formerly had legally segregated public schools, and the schools for blacks were often poorly funded. Traditionally, blacks have been employed in jobs that pay low wages. They remain among the poorest and worst educated of Canada’s citizens. Since an upsurge of civil rights activism in the 1960s, blacks have pressed for improvement of their condition, and their leadership has been enhanced by the addition of educated black immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa. Recently, urban black communities have protested police tactics in Toronto, Montreal, and Halifax, asserting that the police discriminate against them.

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