Jamaica in Modern Canada

Canada (McKoy’s News) – Jamaica in Modern CanadaJamaica and Canada have had long historic links. The relationship between the two countries is closely knit.  The Jamaicans in Canada have not been recent arrivals and they have had a significant role in forming Canada’s history and in making modern Canada.

The earliest bonds between Canada and Jamaica were a product of each region’s role in a British imperial world built in huge part on the backs of African descended peoples, the slaves who survived the horrors of the middle passage from Africa to the Caribbean.

Canada’s earliest ties with Jamaica within the British Empire were forged when New Foundland became a node in the triangle trade when it began to export its salted cod to the British West Indian slave owners in return for locally bottled Jamaican Rum.

The Maroons

The Maroons were the first Jamaican migrants to land ashore today’s Canada. The history of the Maroons is relatively unknown in Canada but they hold a central place in the imaginations of most Jamaican people as they exemplify an independent culture of resistance to slavery in the British Caribbean. When Jamaica passed to British hands, the Maroons, strengthening by runaway British slaves, fought battles with the British during the years of 1665-1795, a period that historians refer to as the Maroon Wars. The Jamaican governor, Lord Balcarres, under the advice of the Jamaican legislature decide to exile those who had not surrendered within a ten-day period, despite assurances that those who surrendered after the deadline would be allowed to stay in the island.

In 1796 the Maroons arrived in Halifax, where they faced immense difficulties, partly wrought by the suddenness of their exile and their difficulty in adjusting to the culture and climate of a cold colony in British North America. The maroons also suffered discrimination from the colony’s White population, which looked upon them with the same disdain they reserved for the other Blacks settlers, who many felt had been unceremoniously dumped upon their doorstep by their imperial masters. So like the Blacks who arrived before them, the Maroons suffered the prejudices of the host society. Some Whites believed them to be arrogant, rude, heathenish and superstitious.  Others regarded them primarily as a source of cheap labour. Settled on the outskirts of Halifax, the Maroons were employed to help build the Halifax Citadel but they refused to become compliant Nova Scotia settlers. Deeply satisfied with their time in Nova Scotia, the Maroons decided in 1800 to leave for Sierra Leone, where they joined many Black Loyalists who had left Nova Scotia eight years earlier.

In the mid-nineteenth century, British Columbia received an influx of Black settlers from the United States – primarily California – and from Jamaica. Blacks fled California to escape the social, political and economic discrimination. Although California had entered the union of the United States of America as a free state in 1850, slavery was still widely practiced illegally, and the free Black population suffered myriad indignities of White supremacy. Many of the Blacks decamped for Victoria, where, joined by White settlers from British North America and the United States, they attempted to forge a non-native settler colony on un-ceded First Nations territory. Though it is not clear what brought Blacks from elsewhere in the British Empire – for instance, Jamaica – once in British Columbia, they became an important part of burgeoning settler colony.


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