The Honourable Minister of National Defence, Anita Anand, issued the following statement today to recognize and observe the beginning of Black History Month.
“Today I ask Canadians to join me in celebrating the beginning of Black History Month.
“Black History Month gives us the opportunity to recognize and celebrate the many contributions that Black Canadians have made over the years to help make Canada the prosperous, peaceful, democratic and compassionate nation that it is.
“As Minister of National Defence, I especially appreciate and honour the Black Canadians who have proudly served and continue to serve this country, whether in uniform in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) or as public service employees with the Department of National Defence (DND), even in the face of discrimination, racism and hostility.
“We saw this commitment with the No. 2 Construction Battalion, which was formed during the First World War and was composed of Black soldiers who were not allowed to join their White compatriots in battle. This Canadian Expeditionary Force unit served our country from 1916-1920, yet their contributions and achievements were only recognized by the Government of Canada in 1992. The Prime Minister and I offered an official apology to their descendants last year. Their legacy, like their determination to serve, persevered, and we thank them for their service.
“In November 2022, we established a new tradition of laying a wreath at the National Remembrance Day ceremony to commemorate the sacrifice and contributions of Black members of the Canadian Armed Forces. This wreath laying signals the importance of acknowledging Black contributions and addressing anti-Black racism, and it demonstrates our commitment building a more inclusive institution.
“Black soldiers, sailors, aviators, special forces, and civilian National Defence employees have demonstrated remarkable resilience during our country’s most formative moments-from the beaches of Normandy to the mountains of Afghanistan, as well as here at home.
“While we have made progress in addressing harmful behaviours like systemic anti-Black racism within our organization, we acknowledge that there is much work to do. We will continue to make fundamental changes to eliminate systemic barriers and create safer spaces for Black employees to share their experiences – whether it is through the Defence Visible Minority Advisory Group, the Director of Anti-Racism Implementation, or the Defence Team Black Employee Network.