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Civic Holiday, Simcoe Day and Emancipation Day

Updated: May 15, 2023



Today we know August 1st as a Civic Holiday . In Toronto, however, it's also known as Simcoe Day in honour of John Graves Simcoe, Upper Canada's first lieutenant governor and the man who initiated the abolishment of slavery in Canada.

The Toronto City Council established the civic holiday in honour of Simcoe in 1869.

It's no coincidence that, in of all places, Simcoe's name still resonates in southern Ontario.

Simcoe's anti-slavery act was the first to pass in a British colony and remained in effect until August 24, 1833, when Britain's Slavery Abolition Act put an end to slavery in most of the empire.

Emancipation Day

August 1st is also Emancipation Day and is celebrated across the former British colonies. Countries in the Caribbean as well as Canada and some parts of the United States mainly observe these days in August because of the Slavery Abolition Act. Since 2008, the entire province of Ontario has dedicated the civic holiday to Emancipation Day .

This paved the way to freeing over 800,000 enslaved Africans and their descendants in Canada, parts of the Caribbean, Africa, and South America. Since then, August 1 has been commemorated in many parts of the world, including through celebrations of freedom across Canada.

How it ties in with the Caribbean festival in Toronto

Since 1967, Toronto has been home to the annual Caribbean Carnival, or Caribana.

The festival’s traditions are related to Emancipation Day celebrations that some Canadians brought from their former home countries. Back then in the 60’s, the committee was preparing to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Canada. People were asked to put on some various cultural events, so these committee members, a lot of whom were immigrants from the Caribbean, infused into this event some of the ways in which Emancipation Day was celebrated back home.

Today, it is a celebration of Caribbean culture, a festival of food, beautiful costumes, lively music and dance that attracts more than one million people annually from all over the world.


Although many just see it as a day off or long weekend, it is important to acknowledge the painful history of slavery here in Canada but also celebrate the strength and determination of Black communities, who fought – and continue to fight – for freedom, justice, and equality.

We hope people understand the reason behind these holidays and celebrations (Simcoe Day & Emancipation Day).

Lets encourage it to generate, conversations, clarity and acknowledgement and most importantly celebrate the strength of the black communities!


Events for August 1

Join us on Monday, August 1 as we celebrate from noon to 8 pm with a Caribbean Festival featuring food vendors, Crafters Market, live entertainment and more!

Caribbean Festival 

August 1 | 12 to 8 PM | Emancipation Park ​(7599 Dixie Road)

Emancipation Day celebration is expected to attract more than 1,000 residents and tourists throughout the day. This year the celebration promises to be a fun-filled event with free entertainment for the entire family as well as Caribbean foods available to purchase.

Food Vendors 

  • Snowie By Cherry

  • Daddy Brown's 

  • Lemon Heaven

  • Curry N Tingz

  • D & D Sould Food Kitchen 

  • Annesta's Delight 

  • Sam's Juices ​

Crafters Market 

  • Elegant Fashion & Jewelry

  • Yaga My Locs

  • Nessaa Boutique 

  • Tropixx Beauty

  • Soulful Colour

  • Gye Nyame Fashion & Accessories

  • Gosdebbie​

Stage Schedule

  • 12:00 PM     Host Charles Matthew Jr. ​Welcome & Opening Remarks 

  • 12:05 PM     Mayor Remarks

  • 12:10 PM     Performance by Indigenous Storyteller Mskwaasinkwe Agnew

  • 12:30 PM     Peformance by Freedom Mas Band

  • 12:50 PM     DJ Musically In Motion 

  • 2:30 PM       Performance by Freedom Mas Band

  • 4:30 PM       Performance by Anasai Storyteller Gail Miller

  • 6:00 PM       Performance by Pan Fantasy Steelband

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