On Labour Day, let’s talk about Canada’s history of slavery, coerced labour and cheapened racialized work.

When Metro News published in 2014 that historians report there was an "estimated 4,000 slaves who were forcibly brought to Canada, either directly as property, or shipped through the trans-Atlantic slave trade from other British colonies” the information was framed in a narrative of surprise and shock. ‘Canada’s secret slave-owning past’ read the headline.

It’s just one of countless examples of the disconnect between public memory and Canada’s very real history of economic gains on the backs of racialized people.

Canada is certainly not alone in funding nation building projects this way. We know the historical growth of American and European economies, for example, are deeply rooted in the theft of Indigenous lands, enslaved labour, violent plantation economics and the repression of black lives. But how often do we talk about enslaved black labour in New France?

Here’s a list of online resources and links we rounded up that talk about the sometimes violent and the always systemic repression of racialized labour in Canada.


Alberta Labour History Institute oral history interview of Jennifer Kelly, 2001 [Transcript]

The African Canadian legal odyssey: Historic essays edited by Barrington Walker,
2012 [Google book]

Canada's colour coded labour market: The gap for racialized workers by Sheila Block and Grace-Edward Galabuzi,
2011 [Wellesley Institute report]


Canada's economic apartheid: The social exclusion of racialized groups in the new century by Grace-Edward Galabuzi, 2006 [Google book]

Charting Our History: A chronology of racialized workers in Canada and the laws that impact them [PSAC North PDF download]

Chloe Cooley and the 1793 Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada [Ontario Heritage Trust backgrounder]

Ethnic Agricultural Labour in the Okanagan from the 1880s to the 1960s by M. Lanthier and L. Wong, 2002 [Online version of report for the Royal BC Museum]

The history of Blacks in Canada: A Selectively annotated bibliography by George H. Junne, 2003 [Google book]


Japanese Canadians and the racialization of labour in the British Columbia sawmill industry by Audrey Kobayashi and Peter Jackson, 1994 [PDF article download

Never Home: Legislating Discrimination in Canadian Immigration [Multimedia website] 

North of the color line: Migration and Black resistance in Canada, 1870-1955 by Sarah-Jane Mathieu, 2010 [Google book]

Racialization and Work by Jennifer Kelly and  Dan Cui, 2012 [Google book]

Racialized immigrants in Canada’s changing labour market: An investigation of the effects of precarious work on black Caribbean women by Maqueita Hibbert, 2008 [Ryerson Digital Library]

Selling Diversity: Immigration, Multiculturalism, Employment Equity and Globalization by Yasmeen Abu-Laban and Christina Gabriel, 2002 [Questia excerpt

Slavery in Canada: Do We Know Our History? [CBC online timeline]

The Untold Story of Canadian Slavery and the burning of Old Montreal by Afua Cooper, 2006 [Google book]

We welcome your suggestions for links to add to our (very incomplete) list!