Parks Canada recognizes Chloe Cooley for her courage and determination during her forced transportation in 1793
NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, ON, Feb. 3, 2024 /CNW/ – Today, the Government of Canada commemorates the national historic significance of Chloe Cooley at a special plaque unveiling ceremony at Navy Hall in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. The commemoration was made by Chris Bittle, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities and Member of Parliament for St. Catharines, on behalf of the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada.
Chloe Cooley was an enslaved woman of African descent living in Queenston, Upper Canada. In March 1793, her enslaver Adam Vrooman arranged to sell Cooley to an American in upstate New York. Cooley resisted her forced transportation, and in response, she was bound with rope to prevent her escape and gagged to silence her protest. With the help of his brother Isaac Vrooman and a son of Loyalist McGregory Van Every, Adam Vrooman violently forced Cooley into a small boat and transported her across the Niagara River to the American shore. Cooley continued to resist but was ultimately unable to escape.
Though Cooley’s resistance did not result in her freedom, it left a strong impression on Peter Martin, a free man of African descent and a veteran of the American Revolutionary War, and William Grisley (Crisley), a white employee of Vrooman’s. The two men later testified to her capture before Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe and two members of the Executive Council of Upper Canada. Though Attorney General John White was instructed to prosecute Adam Vrooman, no charges were laid as he was acting within his legal rights in selling Cooley. This served as a catalyst for Simcoe to instruct the Attorney General to draft legislation imposing limits on enslavement in Upper Canada.
Cooley’s resistance led to legislative changes resulting in the 1793 Act to prevent the further introduction of Slaves, and to limit the Term of Contracts for Servitude within this Province, which contributed to the extension of the Underground Railroad into Upper Canada and the gradual abolition of slavery. Her story became a well-known example of the everyday acts of resistance of enslaved women.
The Government of Canada, through Parks Canada and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, recognizes significant people, places, and events that shaped this country as one way of helping Canadians connect with their past. By sharing these stories with Canadians, we hope to foster understanding and reflection on the diverse histories, cultures, legacies, and realities of Canada’s past and present.
The designation process under Parks Canada’s National Program of Historical Commemoration is largely driven by public nominations. To date, more than 2,250 designations have been made nationwide. To nominate a person, place or historic event in your community, please visit the Parks Canada website for more information: https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/culture/clmhc-hsmbc/ncp-pcn/application.
“Chloe Cooley’s acts of resistance demonstrate her enormous courage and determination against her enslavers, and her story is a testament to the struggles of enslaved people in Upper Canada in the late 1700s. Her actions contributed to changes in legislation which limited slavery in Upper Canada, and as a result, had an enormous impact on the lives of others and on future generations. Designations such as Chloe Cooley’s shed light on the lives of those whose stories have long been overlooked. By commemorating Chloe Cooley, we can better understand Canada’s history of enslavement and how the effects of its legacy can still be felt today.”
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities
And Member of Parliament for St. Catharines
- The exact location of Chloe Cooley’s crossing along the Niagara River is unknown.
- The Government of Canada has recognized the Upper Canadian Act of 1793 Against Slavery as a National Historic Event.
- Along with banning the importation of enslaved people into the province, the Act to prevent the further introduction of Slaves, and to limit the Term of Contracts for Servitude within this Province placed limits on contracts of labour, and declared that children born after July 3, 1793, would be freed at age 25, and that their children would be free at birth.
- The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada plaque commemorating Chloe Cooley is to be unveiled in Niagara-on-the-Lake, which is the traditional territory of First Nations including the Haudenosaunee and the Anishinaabeg. This territory is covered by the Upper Canada Treaties and is within the lands protected by the Dish with One Spoon wampum agreement.
- Created in 1919, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada advises the Minister of Environment and Climate Change regarding the national significance of persons, places, and events that have marked Canada’s history. Together with Parks Canada, the Board ensures that subjects of national historic significance are recognized under Parks Canada’s National Program of Historical Commemoration and these important stories are shared with Canadians.
- Parks Canada is committed to working with Canadians in our efforts to tell broader, more inclusive stories in the places that it manages. In support of this goal, the Framework for History and Commemoration outlines a comprehensive, and engaging approach to sharing Canada’s history through diverse perspectives, including shedding light on tragic and difficult periods of Canada’s past.
Backgrounder: Chloe Cooley National Historic Person
Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada
Government of Canada recognizes Chloe Cooley as a person of national historic significance
SOURCE Parks Canada
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