Jahmal Daniel, 11, standing in St. Lawrence Hall, where Frederick Douglass once lectured to abolitionists, admitted he didn’t know this province had slave owners.


“I thought Ontario was unracist,” he said.


Khiara Walch, a Grade 4 student from Scarborough, explains. “We don’t learn about black history in school,” she said.


Yesterday, community leaders announced 80 students from across the province will be funded to have a hands-on look at slavery in the province.


The conference was organized to commemorate the 200 years since 1807, when slavery was officially abolished in Britain.

Jean Augustine, the provincial fairness commissioner, said Canadian slavery isn’t in textbooks.

“They’re on the sidelines. They’re footnotes,” she said.

Augustine and Mike Colle, Ontario’s minister of citizenship and immigration, stressed the federal government should be spearheading these initiatives.

“They chose not to do anything,” Colle said. “That’s why we decided that, in Ontario, we were going to do something anyway.”