Canada honours national historic significance of No. 2 Construction Battalion, C.E.F

Parks Canada

July 5, 2022 Pictou, Nova Scotia Parks Canada Agency

The No. 2 Construction Battalion displayed the strong determination of Black men to overcome racism and contribute to Canada’s First World War effort. Not only did these men serve their country, they did so with a tenacity and courage that defied social norms and prejudices of the time.

Today, Darrell Samson, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, and Member of Parliament for Sackville-Preston-Chezzetcook, on behalf of the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, commemorated the national historic significance of the No. 2 Construction Battalion with a special ceremony held at the Pictou wharf, Nova Scotia. This event was held in collaboration with the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia and the Department of National Defence to unveil a replacement commemorative plaque.

Many people of African descent volunteered to serve in the military after Canada entered the First World War in 1914, but while some were able to enlist, others were turned away because of racist assumptions that they were unfit to serve. It took ongoing pressure by the African Canadian community to help force a change. Rather than integrating African Canadians into existing units, the Department of Defence and Militia authorised the formation of the No. 2 Construction Battalion on 5 July 1916.

Serving with the Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.), the No. 2 Construction Battalion was made up of volunteers from across Canada, the United States, and the Caribbean, who went overseas in 1917 and provided essential support services, often under enemy fire. Once overseas, the men primarily served with the Canadian Forestry Corps in France, where they provided lumber for the front and performed important supporting tasks while continuing to be subjected to racial discrimination and harassment.

For over one hundred years, the story of the No. 2 Construction Battalion has been a source of pride for African Nova Scotians and African Canadians. The “Black Battalion” represents the adversity faced by African Nova Scotians and African Canadians, at that time and since. It also represents great perseverance at a personal and a community level.

The Government of Canada, on the recommendation of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, recognizes significant people, places, and events that shaped our country. The designation process is largely driven by public nominations. National designations, like that of No. 2 Construction Battalion, reflect the rich and varied history of Canada and provide an opportunity for Canadians to connect with our diverse heritage.

/Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).View in full here.