Canada commemorates national historic significance of Black Militia Units in Upper Canada

From: Parks Canada

May 11, 2019 Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario Parks Canada Agency

In both the War of 1812 and the Upper Canada Rebellion, Black militia units established a tradition of military service that demonstrated the determination of Black people to fulfill the duties and defend the rights of British subjects in Canada.

Today, Chris Bittle, Member of Parliament for St. Catharines, commemorated the national historic significance of Black Militia Units in Upper Canada, 1812-1850 on behalf of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, the Honourable Catherine McKenna. A special ceremony was held at Fort George National Historic Site to mark the occasion.

Serving in numbers that were disproportionate to their percentage of the Canadian population, Black soldiers demonstrated their belief in the importance of Canada as a haven for former slaves.

With the outbreak of the War of 1812, many militiamen of African descent joined integrated units. In August 1812, a segregated company (numbering 38 men at one point) was formed as a unit in the 1st Lincoln Militia and participated in the final charge at the Battle of Queenston Heights. In early 1813, the company became known by several different names, including the Colored Corps, and became part of Upper Canada’s militia.

Black militiamen also served in the Upper Canada Rebellion in 1837-38. Throughout the rebellion, the Black population in Upper Canada overwhelmingly supported the government as a result of the 1793 Act Against Slavery, which limited slavery in Upper Canada, along with the act which abolished slavery throughout the British Empire in 1834.These decisions had made Upper Canada a relatively safe refuge for those fleeing slavery in the American South.

The Government of Canada is committed to connecting Canadians to the significant people, places, and events that contributed to our country’s diverse heritage. The commemoration process is largely driven by public nominations and to date, more than 2,150 designations have been made.

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