Over a century has passed since Canada’s only Black military unit, formed in Pictou, N.S. in 1916, was harshly denied the right to fight for their country in the First World War by the Canadian Expeditionary Force because of the color of their skin.
Instead, they were deployed to France in 1917 and given non-combat support roles such as building roads, railways, and bridges so that lumber could be transported where it was needed.
Finally, on March 28, 2021, 104 years after the No. 2 Construction Battalion was deployed overseas, the federal government of Canada has announced its intention to issue a formal apology for the racist treatment of the members of this military unit.
In a virtual address, Minister of National Defense Harjit S. Sajjan said that the formal apology will be issued after meaningful consultation with their descendants and the Black community. “More than one hundred years after the No. 2 Construction Battalion was disbanded, we are ever grateful for their bravery and resilience in the face of hate and adversity,” he said. “But more than our gratitude, we owe these members, their families, and their community an apology for the racism and discrimination they endured in their service to our country.”
Sajjan expressed his hope that the government and community will be able to gather in Nova Scotia to honor and remember the No. 2 Construction Battalion once it is safe enough to loosen the Covid-19 restrictions.
In the meantime, Sajjan attended the virtual 29th Annual Honor and Remembrance Tribute Ceremony for the No. 2 Construction Battalion which was hosted by the Black Cultural Center of Nova Scotia on Saturday morning. To celebrate the 105th anniversary of the battalion’s establishment, the Black Cultural Center for Nova Scotia in collaboration with the Department of National Defense working Committee has launched a website dedicated to its memory and history.
Source Image: Black Cultural Center of Nova Scotia