Black Canada: A brief history



haitiMichelleJean Governor General of Canada, Michaelle Jean, hugs Maile Alphonse, March 9th 2010 in Jacmel, Haiti. Alphonse lost her mother Magali in the earthquake who was the godmother of Jean’s daughter Marie-Eden. (Paul Chiasson / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Disclaimer: This post presents an overview of what I know in 500 words or less. I do not pretend to be an expert! I mostly use present-day place names. Corrections welcomed.


Mathieu Da Costa was the first black person known to set foot in what is now Canada, probably sometime before 1603 with Portuguese explorers. He was from the Benin Empire (Nigeria) and could speak Edo, Portuguese, Dutch, English, French, pidgin Basque and Eastern Algonquin. He later served as an interpreter for Champlain and other French explorers.

Unlike the Caribbean and America, slavery was never big in Canada. Instead:

Blacks came to Canada in four main waves:


1. Black Loyalists (1780s, 1810s): The…

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