On Aug. 1, we again recognized Emancipation Day in Ontario.
On this day in 1834, slavery was outlawed across the British Empire. As a result, Canada became a beacon of freedom to enslaved African-Americans in the U.S. South.
Many risked their lives to come here, via the “Underground Railroad.” They became Canadians. Their descendants strengthen our country today. The Ontario Legislature held a special event to acknowledge Emancipation Day. I was glad to join Toronto Mayor John Tory, and represent our Ontario PC Caucus.
The following is an abbreviated version of my remarks that day:
“Over the course of my 26 years of service in the Ontario Legislature, I’ve proposed many Private Member’s Bills and resolutions.
“But today, the one that gives me the greatest sense of satisfaction is Bill 111, the Emancipation Day Act, which was co-sponsored by Maria Van Bommel, who was the MPP for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, a Liberal Member, and strongly supported by the late Peter Kormos, who was the MPP for Welland, and the NDP’s House Leader.
“We worked together across party lines, and introduced Bill 111, which turned out to be the very first Private Member’s Bill introduced in the history of the Ontario Legislature, that was co-sponsored by MPPs from different parties. We worked across party lines, to provide legal recognition of this very important day in the history of Ontario.
“We worked across party lines to recognize the extraordinary fortitude and courage of so many, who had escaped the chains of slavery, and made their way through the Underground Railroad to Ontario.
“And, we worked across party lines to celebrate Ontario’s rich heritage as a place of tolerance, compassion, equality and a beacon of freedom.
“We’re still not there yet. While we have made great progress, we still see too often examples of intolerance, indifference, inequality and servitude.
“In spite of the gains we’ve made, there is still prejudice. That is why our efforts must continue.
“Let us leave this place reminded of Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous exhortation: ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?’ And let us answer that question, in the affirmative, with enthusiastic commitment and say: ‘we embrace this challenge and we will all do our part.’”
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The Ontario Legislature is scheduled to resume sitting on Sept. 12. I look forward to actively participating in the debates and discussions, and working with my colleagues to help build a better Ontario.
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Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott can be reached at 1-800-265-2366. His website is tedarnottmpp.com.