The Wilberforce Settlement

By: Leaftech

Although Canada's history is not without its dark areas, many Canadians are proud of the fact that the country was at least first opposed to the idea of slavery well before our neighbours to the south. While it is certainly worth celebrating the fact that we embraced the idea of all people being equal as far as freedom is concerned at an earlier time in our history than others, our country is certainly not free from the blemish of slavery.

That being said, Canadians and several Canadian communities can take pride in the contributions that the country made towards helping out those in bondage in the United States. In this article, we will take a look at the very first community to be established in Canada as a refuge for runaway slaves, in what is now Lucan, Ontario.

The Quakers

It is well worth noting whenever slavery is considered that there were several groups in the United States and in other English based countries who were opposed to slavery from their very formation. The most noted of these groups was the Society of Friends, also known as Quakers. This was a religious group that held slavery to be an abomination against the basic rights of men and women as granted by God.

In 1829, the Quakers purchased a parcel of land in the vicinity of what, today, is Lucan. It was there that they sent a group of over 200 free slaves.

The 'Slaves'

As a point of fact, the group that made its way to the Lucan area were not in fact slaves at all; they were free men and women from the Ohio area. Due to the Black Codes however, they were in danger of being enslaved again and thus fled more than 500 miles from their homeland. They named their new home the Wilberforce Settlement.

Although everyone had the best of intentions, the largely urban population of the settlement did not take well to the harsh conditions and today the town has a population of largely Irish heritage.

The Namesake

The settlement took its name from William Wilberforce. Wilberforce was a gifted speaker who was a part of British politics for many years. During most of his tenure in government, both as opposition and in the majority party, he fought to end the slave trade in Britain and all its colonies.

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