HALIFAX -- Canada’s largest Black community gathered Saturday to mark the day when slavery was abolished in the British empire, 186-years ago.

Nova Scotia senator Wanda Thomas Bernard is working to have Emancipation Day officially recognized across the country.

"It will force us to reconcile that part of our history that has led to trauma," said Bernard.

"And we maintain that, the current day anti-black-racism and the Black Lives Matter movement is really rooted in that history of slavery, and that legacy of post-slavery, that legacy of marginalization, and anti-black racism that really took hold. And that has never really been fully addressed."

Ontario is the only province where Emancipation Day is officially recognized. Senator Thomas Bernard hopes Ontario’s decision will lead to national official recognition, soon rather than later.

African Nova Scotian communities were also recognized at the North Preston demonstration.

"There used to be 50 of them, so we're dwindling right now,” said Steven Benton, who attended Saturday’s event.

Eddie Carvery, who was born and raised in Africville, said the A. Murray MacKay Bridge should be renamed after the community that was destroyed, so it could be built.

"That's our bridge on our land,” says Carvery. “Give us our name back, it's part of Africville.”

People who attended Saturday's demonstration are asking for police funding to be changed, allowing for money to be diverted to local community projects.

"Many people don’t understand that defunding doesn’t mean elimination or anarchy, but rather allocating the right amount of resources toward improvement and solving appropriate problems," said Denise Allen.

While 2020 has been an extraordinary year for the discussion of racism, those who attended Saturday say the work isn’t over.

"The needle has moved but we haven’t moved it the way we need to move it," said Benton. "The kids behind us, these children here, that's the future and the present right now also."