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'So much to learn': The untold stories of slavery in Canada – CTV News



A pregnant teen escaping captivity in a wintry Quebec. A young woman forced to pose nude for a painter in Montreal. The son of a free man tied up in a Toronto shed.

These are Canadian stories, just a few among hundreds of Black slave narratives from the colonies that became Canada. Stories of enslavement are not unique to the United States, though many Canadian history books would have readers believe that the Underground Railroad was the beginning and end of the country’s link to slavery. In fact, there were thousands of slaves, most of them of Indigenous decent, in the colonies that became Canada.

“If we are going to reckon with the realities and the legacies of racism and anti-Black racism we have to give attention to these experiences,” said Natasha Henry, the president of the Ontario Black History Society, whose doctoral research titled One Too Many: The Enslavement of Africans in Early Ontario, 1760 – 1834 aims to fill gaps in the history of Upper Canada and slavery. “It gets people to really see how connected Canada was to the enslavement of African people that ushered in capitalism and contributed to modernity. It’s a huge gap in our historical narrative.”

In 2020, more than 180 years after the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, there’s a push to right centuries of wrongdoing. A renewed racial reckoning in the U.S. and Canada began earlier this year with the death of George Floyd, a Black man arrested by police in Minneapolis. His death at the hands of a white police officer reignited the “Black Lives Matter” movement as it relates to police reform, but has stretched beyond law enforcement. Statues and names rooted in a history of slavery are being re-examined too. Even prominent American country music groups have rebranded themselves, shedding racial signifiers “Dixie” and “antebellum,” words with Confederate origins.

In Canada too, advocates have called for the renaming of streets and schools dedicated to historic slave owners like Henry Dundas, who tried to delay the end of slavery in the British Empire. Canadian activists have also renewed calls for Emancipation Day in Ontario, Aug. 1, which commemorates the abolition of slavery across the British Empire, to be declared a national holiday.

As monuments to white enslavers are reconsidered, a small group of Canadian scholars are researching the untold stories of Black and Indigenous people who were enslaved in Canada, in hopes that their stories may become more prominent.

Some of their stories have been commemorated in small ways. In Ontario, a plaque pays tribute to Chloe Cooley, a Black enslaved woman whose “violent resistance” as she was sold to a new owner in 1793 is considered to have paved the way for the gradual abolition of slavery in the British Empire. In Montreal, a public square is named for Marie-Joseph Angélique, a Black enslaved woman who was convicted of setting fire to her owner’s home in 1734, burning down much of present-day Old Montreal.

But many more remain untold. Here are just four more stories of many from Canadian archives.


Few enslaved people attempted escapes during Canadian winters.

“It’s going to be so arduous, so dangerous … if you try to escape in the winter and it goes wrong,” said McGill University art history professor Charmaine Nelson in an interview with

But in a compilation of 51 “fugitive slave” ads between 1765-1833 in British Quebec, Canadian scholar Frank Mackey found about five enslaved people who attempted to run away in winter months. One was a Black woman named Bett, owned by Quebec business partners James Johnston and John Purss.

In the March 7, 1787, ad for her recapture, Johnston and Purss describe her as 18 years old, of middle stature, with the ability to speak English, French and German (skills that could aid in her escape). They also noted that she was pregnant and likely within a few days of her due date, said Nelson. “The compounding tragedies here are that Bett, at 18, is running away by herself in the winter in her third trimester,” she said. “Something really horrible is going on in this household for her to attempt this at this moment in this state.”


Nelson said it’s possible that the unborn child was either Johnston or Purss’s as there was a focus on so-called “breeding” since children took on the status of their enslaved mother and ensured more slave labour for the owners. “To lose Bett was also to lose the child in the womb,” she said. “Rape and sexual coercion were endemic in slavery.”

Bett is captured, but shows up later that year in the archives as being charged with the murder of her child. She is acquitted, though court transcripts don’t exist to explain what happened. The same year, Bett appears again, though is unnamed, in a for-sale ad in the Quebec Gazette. The men tout her specific language skills, which historians used to determine it was Bett, as well as her housework skills. And in what Nelson called a “very cruel” note, they add that she is “handy in the care of children.”


Toronto is not often connected to slavery in historical accounts, but its beginnings as the town of York, the centre of the political establishment, have links to the practice.

“The enslavement of Africans was part of that as an emerging urban centre,” said Henry, who was drawn to the archival evidence of an enslaved woman named Peggy and her three children, Amy, Jupiter and Milly, all owned by Upper Canada politician Peter Russell. Peggy’s husband, Pompadour, was a recently freed man after serving in the British Military during the American Revolution. He worked for wages on the Russell property, while the rest of the family were enslaved as “domestics,” performing household tasks or working on the farm.

Peggy sale ad

But historical records, such as Russell’s account books, court records and ads in the Upper Canada Gazette, show that the family may have resisted the system on numerous occasions. Employment records revealed that Pompadour was fired by Russell but later reinstated. Court records show that both Peggy and her son Jupiter were held in jail as a form of discipline that was common in urban centres, said Henry. At the age of 13, Jupiter was tied up in a storehouse as punishment. On more than one occasion, Russell attempted to sell Peggy in efforts to separate her from her children.

In Russell’s sister Elizabeth’s diary, Peggy and her family were described as “insolent,” “pilfering,” and “lying.” Some historians believe that the behaviour may have been deliberate acts of resistance.


Historians learned about enslaved woman Marie-Thérèse Zémire through a 1786 oil portrait by François Malépart de Beaucourt, which is believed to depict her in Saint-Domingue, or what became Haiti. Nelson said that it is likely that Zémire was purchased in the French colony before the slave revolt and was forcibly brought to Quebec, where she was owned by Malépart’s wife.

“If she had lived out the revolution, she would have been a free woman,” said Nelson. “She was taken away into the British Empire that was still enslaving and removed from a space where the Black people were able to secure their freedom. That’s an extreme tragedy.”

The painting is the only fully finished portrait of an enslaved person in Canada. Usually enslaved people were depicted alongside white aristocrats and were positioned as an “appendage,” said Nelson. Instead, Zémire, likely just 15 years old at the time, is painted alone but in a “disturbing” and “hyper sexualized” fashion, said Nelson. She may be smiling in the painting, but wouldn’t have had a choice to pose for the portrait. She smiles, with a breast exposed, holding a plate of tropical fruit, all of which delivers a message: “Take of my body as you take of this fruit.”

“The painting actually helps to do the work of the sexual stigmatization of Black women, which is essential to the so-called proper function of slavery through which then there was a maternal order to slavery,” said Nelson.

Like the story of Bett above, Zémire’s sexualization in the image emphasizes how enslaved women were valuable pieces of property for they could produce enslaved offspring.

“That incentivizes rape and sexual coercion, because to get her pregnant was to have more units of labour,” said Nelson.

Marie-Therese Zemire


While the slavery is long gone from Canadian soil, remnants of the system were felt over the hundreds of years that followed abolition and still today, advocates and historians say.

“The remnants are the racial hierarchy that informs our society today,” said Henry, who earlier this year wrote an online article about demands for an official government apology for slavery. 

An apology is just a “first step,” wrote Henry, as is learning about the untold lives of enslaved Black and Indigenous people in Canada. 

“Look at these people as people, as human beings who had a particular life journey and have stories,” she said. “There’s so much to learn.” 

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Chinese woman illegally crossed Canada-U.S. border with $38K in gold bars: authorities – CTV News



A Chinese woman was arrested after allegedly entering the United States illegally from Canada while carrying more than $38,000 in gold bars, according to border authorities.

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol said in a statement released Thursday that the woman was arrested with 14.25 ounces of gold bars in her possession, valued at over $38,000 (US$28,500). She also had more than $13,500 (US$10,000) in cash.

The 36-year-old woman was apprehended near the town of Amity, Maine on Tuesday, the agency said in the statement.

Officials said the woman admitted to being a Chinese national illegally present in the U.S. The woman told border authorities that she had been legally allowed into Canada as a student and illegally crossed the border to visit a friend in San Francisco, Calif.

Border officials from the Houlton Border Patrol Station determined the spot where the woman illegally crossed the Canada-U.S. border by matching footprints with her shoes, according to the statement.

The woman, who has not been identified, was subsequently sent back to Canada following her arrest.

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Canada reports 220 Coronavirus new cases, 6 more deaths



Canada reported 220 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Saturday, as well as six more deaths.

Saturday’s numbers bring the country’s total COVID-19 infections and fatalities to 119,187 and 8,976, respectively. As of Aug. 8, a further 103,566 — or 86 per cent — of patients infected with the coronavirus have recovered. Over 5.12 million tests have also been administered across the country.

The new numbers, however, do not reflect all regions across the country as several provinces — including British Columbia, Alberta, P.E.I. and all the territories — do not report new COVID-19 data on the weekends.

Quebec, the hardest-hit province in Canada, reported 126 new cases of the virus on Saturday raising its total infections to 60,367. Five more deaths, including one that occurred before July 31, were also announced.

Ontario announced 70 new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, raising its total confirmed cases to 39,967. Saturday marks the sixth day the province has seen daily case counts below the 100 mark. One more death linked to the coronavirus was also reported by the province on Aug. 8, raising its death toll to 2,784.

Manitoba recorded an additional 16 lab-confirmed or “probable” cases of the coronavirus on Saturday. The new numbers were not reflected in Global News’ tally as only lab-confirmed cases are counted. Saturday’s reporting brings the province’s total lab-confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases to 507.

Saskatchewan announced an additional 24 cases of the virus, raising its provincial total to 1,433. No new deaths were reported by the province, with its COVID-19 death toll standing at 20. A further 1,245 patients have also recovered from the virus in Saskatchewan.

No new cases were announced by Nova Scotia on Saturday, with the province only having two active cases of the virus.

New Brunswick also reported zero new cases on Saturday, with the province only grappling with six active cases. The Maritime region has seen a total of 176 cases and two deaths.

Newfoundland and Labrador also recorded zero new cases of the virus on Saturday during its daily briefing. The province has seen 267 cases and three deaths from the virus and currently has one active case.


In a statement Saturday, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that an average of 48,360 people were tested daily over the past week, with one per cent testing positive. According to Tam, there has been an approximate average of 400 new cases reported daily across the country.

Tam’s statement also highlighted her previous remarks on the upcoming school season in September.

“Across the country, jurisdictions are announcing plans for reopening schools, which take into account the local context and epidemiology of COVID-19,” read her statement.


“Now that our collective efforts have flattened the curve and brought COVID-19 spread under manageable control, with increased capacity and public health measures in place to keep it that way, we must now establish a careful balance to keep the infection rate low, while minimizing unintended health and social consequences.”

Worldwide, the novel coronavirus has infected more than 19.4 million people, according to a running tally kept by John Hopkins University. Over 723,000 people have died from COVID-19 as well.

The United States, Brazil, India and Russia continue to be among the countries with the highest amount of coronavirus cases in the world.

Source: – Global News

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Family of Ontario man who died of COVID-19 in U.S. custody are angry with Canadian Embassy –



The family of an Ontario man who died from COVID-19 while in U.S. custody awaiting deportation to Canada is blaming the Canadian Embassy for not doing enough to bring him home. 

“They did not do their job. They did not protect my uncle, who was a free Canadian citizen,” said Jessica Marostega, the man’s niece.

Her uncle, James Hill, died this week after contracting COVID-19 while at a detention facility run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He was scheduled to fly to Toronto on July 9 after being held at the facility in Farmville, Va., since April. A judge ordered his deportation in May.

But his departure for Canada was delayed due to “medical reasons.” 

“My cousin got an email from the Canadian Embassy saying that his travel had been postponed due to medical reasons, and that’s all they would tell us at that time,” Marostega said. It was later confirmed that he tested positive for COVID-19.

Formerly a practising doctor in Louisiana, Hill had been serving more than 14 years in prison for health-care fraud and distributing a controlled substance before being transferred to the detention centre.

He was 72 and considered at high risk when he was transferred to Farmville. After contracting the coronavirus, Hill was taken to a local hospital, where he died about a month later. Almost every single detainee at the detention facility has contracted COVID-19.  

“It was devastating,” Marostega said. “Fourteen years waiting, we find out he is finally going to be released.” 

James Hill’s family and friends donated items to help him settle back in after returning to Ontario from prison in the U.S. Marostega, his niece, says the family now has to return the items. (Ellen Mauro/CBC)

She said the family was told in April it would take only a few weeks before Hill could come home. But his return was pushed back to the beginning of July.

“It shouldn’t have taken this long,” she said. “We blame the Canadian [Embassy] for that when they could have asked, ‘Why is he not coming home earlier?’ I think [they] should have advocated for that a little more for him. To me, that’s their job.” 

In a statement, Global Affairs Canada offered “sincere condolences to the family,” but it did not respond to the family’s criticism.

“To be honest, all the emails that my family sent that got responses back, they were all very blanket responses — somebody else was looking into it…. And in terms of the embassy, I felt like they just passed a message back and forth but there was no saying to ICE this wasn’t OK,” Marostega said.

“Our family offered to pay for transportation, medical check, everything — and it was all brushed under the table.”

WATCH | Family speaks out after Canadian man dies of COVID-19 is ICE custody:

James Hill died of COVID-19 while in the custody of U.S. immigration enforcement while awaiting deportation to Canada. 2:11

Marostega also reached out to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and to her local MP but said the responses were inadequate.

Now, she and her family are left to clean up the room they had set up for her uncle’s arrival and return items that were donated from relatives.

While she knows Hill won’t be coming home, she said she hopes a situation like this won’t happen to someone else. 

“I can’t bring my uncle home, but if I can bring somebody else’s home, right?”

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