On November 17th, the Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence, and the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, announced dedicated funding to commemorate the legacy of No. 2 Construction Battalion at an event hosted by the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia, a long-standing champion of the legacy of No. 2 Construction Battalion.
The Department of National Defence (DND)/Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) will invest $2.25 million over five years for commemorative activities, educational materials, and community war memorials that commemorate No. 2 Construction Battalion, the only all-Black battalion-sized formation in Canadian military history.
The announcement of this funding follows the historic apology to the descendants of the battalion by the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence in July 2022. In preparation for the apology event, DND/CAF worked with the National Apology Advisory Committee (NAAC), who issued a report outlining eight recommendations to make the apology meaningful for No. 2 Construction Battalion descendants. One of the recommendations included the establishment of long-term funding that creates ongoing opportunities for education, remembrance, and honouring of No. 2 Construction Battalion.
Funded by DND/CAF and administered through Veterans Affairs Canada’s (VAC) Commemorative Partnership Program, the funding announced responds to the NAAC’s 5th recommendation.
The announcement was followed by a presentation of the first No. 2 Construction Battalion camp flag to the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia for commemoration. The presentation was made by the perpetuating unit for No. 2 Construction Battalion, the 4 Engineer Support Regiment within the Army 5 Division.
DND/CAF is taking important steps to implement meaningful change to culture in the military and the Department, including measures to eradicate systemic racism and discrimination, and it continues to take every opportunity to learn from the past and build a better, more inclusive Canada for all. This funding is a concrete example of the Government of Canada’s commitment to taking meaningful action to encourage diversity and inclusion and combat racism in our workplaces and society.
“The contributions of No. 2 Construction Battalion members to the First World War effort were invaluable, yet they faced systemic anti-Black racism throughout and after the war. The story of No. 2 Construction Battalion is one of resilience, determination, and strength in the face of adversity. Acknowledging the experiences of these brave men and promoting their legacy is an important step in reconciling past wrongs and promoting diversity and inclusion within the Canadian military today and in the future.”
– The Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence
“The extensive contributions of No. 2 Construction Battalion members to Canada’s war effort deserve to be recognized and properly honoured. A chapter in our history, today’s announcement will help preserve their legacy to be shared with generations to come.”
– The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence
“Located in my riding, the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia has done outstanding work to commemorate the men who served in No. 2 Construction Battalion, and to ensure that more Canadians learn about this important part of our military history. Today’s investment shows our government’s commitment to perpetuating the legacy of the Battalion, in collaboration with descendants and community leaders.”
– Darrell Samson, Member of Parliament for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook
“The dedicated funding launched in the spirit of No. 2 Construction Battalion is another example of the work we’re doing in partnership with the Government of Canada to ensure the memory of those brave Black Men, who overcame great obstacles to serve, will live on for future generations.”
– Russell Grosse, Executive Director of the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia and Co-Chair of the National Apology Advisory Committee
- No. 2 Construction Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, also known as the Black Battalion, was created on July 5, 1916, during the First World War. It was a segregated non-combatant unit, the first and only all-Black battalion-sized formation in Canadian military history.
- Throughout the First World War, members of No. 2 Construction Battalion faced racism. They showed resilience, determination, and strength in the face of adversity. Following the end of this war, the unit was officially disbanded on September 15, 1920, without ceremony or recognition for their service or sacrifices on behalf of Canada.
- In July 2022, the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence delivered an historic apology to the descendants of the battalion, with input from the National Apology Advisory Committee (NAAC), which made eight recommendations to guide the apology.
- The NAAC developed its recommendations after conducting cross-Canada community engagement with over 1,200 people, of whom 400 self-identified as descendants of No. 2 Construction Battalion.
- The Government of Canada is committed to implementing all eight of the NAAC’s recommendations.
- The dedicated funding provides $2.25 million for grants and contributions – $250,000 in the first year and $500,000 in the subsequent four years.
- VAC expects to issue the first call for applications in winter 2024.
- For over three decades, the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia has hosted an annual No. 2 Construction Battalion remembrance ceremony.
SOURCE Government of Canada