On August 4th, 1701, 1,300 representatives of 39 Indigenous nations gathered in Montreal (the population of Montreal at the time was around 1,200) to make peace with the French and put an end to the intermittent wars between the Iroquois, the French, and their native allies. However, this treaty ensured the superiority of New France in dealing with issues relating to the region's First Nations and to military expansion.
It was under Intendant Jacques Raudat that slavery was legalized in New France. In 1709, he issued an ordinance affirming that "the Panis (Native American nation) and black people belonged in full ownership to those who bought them", thus legalizing slavery in the colony. From this day on, it became common for merchants and members of the clergy to own slaves. According to historian Marcel Trudel, 4,185 slaves are estimated to have been owned in Quebec. Two-thirds were Indigenous, and the rest were Afro-descendants. About 1,500 of them are said to have lived in Montreal.
Marie-Joseph Angélique was a black slave from Montreal who was executed on June 21st, 1734, after being accused of setting fire to the city's merchant district, south of rue Saint-Paul on April 10th, 1734. Supposedly, Marie-Joseph Angélique would have committed this act while trying to escape slavery. She was convicted for the crime, tortured and then taken to the gate of Notre-Dame Basilica to be hanged. It remains unclear whether she actually committed this crime or not, but Marie-Joseph Angélique remains an emblem of the resistance of black Montrealers against slavery.
Between the years 1785 and 1806, it was possible to see advertisements of slaves for sale in the newspapers.
This is the portrait of an African woman, Marie-Thérèse Zémire, brought from Africa to Haiti and then taken to Montreal as a slave of Beaucourt's wife. If this black woman had been left behind on the island and had survived the Haitian revolution, she would have lived the rest of her life as a free woman. In most of the British Empire - including Quebec - slavery was not abolished until 1834.
Pictures on this page
From top to bottom
- Copy of the Great Peace treaty of 1701, Chronique d'une saga diplomatique, Alain Beaulieu, Montréal, éditions Libre Expression, 2001.
- Ordonnances des intendants, Raudot, Jacques, Ordonnance concernant l’esclavage au Canada, 13 avril 1709. Source : Bibliothèque et Archives Canada. FR CAOM COL C11A 30 fol. 334-335.
- Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal, [Vers 1930], BAnQ Québec, Fonds L'Action catholique, (03Q,P428,S3,SS1,D14,P181), Photographe non identifié.
- Slavery advertisement from Upper Canada Gazette, 10 February 1806, Active History
- Portrait of a Haitian woman, François Malépart de Beaucourt, 1786. ©McCord Museum