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Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs Tony Ince says a bill he tabled in the legislature on Tuesday will introduce residents to the unknown history of slavery in the province.

Ince’s bill would officially designate Aug. 1 as Emancipation Day, which is the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. The British Parliament outlawed the owning, buying and selling of humans as property throughout its colonies on that day in 1834.

“Nova Scotia is the birthplace of African presence in Canada,” Ince told reporters Tuesday. “People of African descent have been in this province for more than 400 years. We honour and offer gratitude to those ancestors who came before us.”

The historic act freed about 800,000 enslaved people of African descent across the colonies, including in Upper and Lower Canada and in the territory that became Nova Scotia.

Ince said commemorating the day with a non-statutory holiday gives residents an opportunity to educate themselves on the history of slavery in the province.

“We have not always fully recognized or reckoned with how that grim past includes Nova Scotia,” Ince said, adding that from the 1600s until the early 1800s, Black people in the province were enslaved.

The day will serve to reflect on the history of slavery and its part in modern anti-Black racism, he said.

Nova Scotia Sen. Wanda Thomas Bernard echoed that sentiment and said in an interview Tuesday she was “delighted” with the bill.

“It’s a signalling to the province of the importance of recognizing the full history, the full story, the full experience of people of African descent in our country and in our province,” she said.

The announcement came weeks after MPs in the House of Commons voted unanimously to designate Aug. 1 as Emancipation Day across Canada.

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