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The First Black Man to Arrive in Canada Was Not a Slave!

Mathieu da Costa, first Black man in Canada

Although much of early North American history involves Black men and women who were brought to the Americas as slaves, the first Black man in Canada was a free man named Mathieu da Costa. A talented translator who was fluent in six different languages, da Costa made a career by serving as a translator for Europeans on exploratory and trading expeditions to North American territories.
His Time in America

Although being fluent in several European languages was important for da Costa’s success, where he proved most capable was in enabling trade in the Americas due to his ability to serve as an intermediary with native residents. Unfortunately, being so talented came at a cost for da Costa, as he was abducted by the Dutch who wished to make use of his services.

In 1608, he signed a contract with the Dutch which bound him to assist Pierre du Gua de Monts on a trip across the Atlantic Ocean. The travels took da Costa to Acadia, a French-colonized region which comprised parts of both modern-day Canada and modern-day Maine.

By making this trip, da Costa broke ground as the first recorded free Black man to come to what we know now as Canada, and earned his spot in historical records.