Mr. Speaker, the presence of people of African descent in Canada can be traced back to the early 1600s. Black History Month provides an opportunity for all Canadians to reflect on the many achievements of black Canadians and their part in the building of Canada.
Upper Canada was the first jurisdiction in the Empire to move toward the abolition of slavery. Between 1800 and 1865, approximately 30,000 black American slaves from the United States escaped to Canada and freedom via the Underground Railroad in which the most northern terminal was the city of Owen Sound.
Every summer people of African descent flock to Harrison Park for the Emancipation Day Picnic and to view the beautiful monument erected there to honour the end of the freedom trail. Last summer I personally attended the 145th annual Emancipation Day Picnic.
By celebrating Black History Month and the 175th anniversary of the Act for the Abolition of Slavery, we honour the bravery of the many black Loyalists and others who strove to bring an end to slavery.