Ottawa, ON – The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, and the Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence, issued the following statement today to mark Black History Month in Canada:
“Black History Month is a time to celebrate the significant contributions of Black Canadians to our country and learn about their heritage, as well as the hardship they have overcome. Black Canadians have a proud tradition of military service that dates back long before Confederation. Many Black Canadians can trace their family history to the late 1780s, when American slaves fought for the British cause during the American Revolutionary War, and in exchange were rewarded with land and their freedom. Many more Black immigrants arrived in Canada after the War of 1812, or via the Underground Railroad during its peak period between 1840 and 1860, while others arrived in the mid-20th century from Caribbean and African countries. Today, they form an important part of the fabric of our society that makes our country stronger and more vibrant.
“The theme this year is ‘Black Canadian Youth: Boundless, Rooted, and Proud.’ We are proud to honour those who served in uniform with bravery and dedication, young Black Canadians like Sergeant Seymour Tyler, who, at the age of 19, joined the No. 2 Construction Battalion during the First World War, and went on to serve in the Carleton and York Regiment in the Second World War. And we also remember Flight Lieutenant Gerald Carty, who enlisted at age 18, and as one of the youngest commissioned officers in the Royal Canadian Air Force, flew in more than 35 bomber missions over occupied Europe as a wireless air gunner. These determined men fought racism and discrimination at every turn, for the basic right to serve their country—and serve it with pride and honour, they did.
“We also pay tribute to the Black Canadian women who began to join our military during the Second World War. While many contributed to the Allied war effort by working in factories on the home front to produce vehicles, weapons, and other vital supplies, other Black Canadian women joined the armed forces. Their involvement in our military continued in times of peace: Corporal Marelene Clyke, for example, was just 17 years old when she enlisted as a reservist in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps in 1951
“We call on all Canadians to join us in commemorating Black History Month. The determination of Black veterans, and the past struggles they had to overcome to enlist in the military, continue to inspire us through the generations who serve in the present. We honour the sacrifice of those who served in uniform, and we thank them for their continued military service to help make our diverse country strong and free.”