Prime Minister apologizes to descendants of 2nd Construction Battalion


TRUROBORN. , July 9, 2022 /CNW/ – Today, the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeauand the Minister of National Defence, Anita Anandapologized on behalf of the government of Canada for the systemic anti-black racism that members of Construction Battalion No. 2 endured before, during, and long after World War I.

The Prime Minister apologized at a ceremony in Truro, Nova Scotia, for the government’s appalling mistreatment of soldiers who served in the battalion, as well as their families, descendants and communities. For the blatant anti-Black hatred and systemic racism that robbed these men of their dignity in life and in death, we are sorry.

One of the most selfless things a person can do is to stand up and volunteer to fight for their country – it is an act of extraordinary bravery, honor, sacrifice and loyalty. At the start of World War I, many black volunteers were turned away when they offered to sacrifice their lives for all of us.

No. 2 Construction Battalion was formed in 1916 as a separate unit because many black servicemen were not allowed to fight alongside their white countrymen. It was the first and only all-black battalion-sized formation in Canadian military history, formed only after black communities across Canada pressure government and military officials.

Although the contributions of members of No. 2 Construction Battalion to the war effort were invaluable – they cut lumber used in trenches, railroads and even airplanes – they faced systemic racism. anti-black throughout the war.

After the end of World War I, the unit was officially disbanded without recognition for their service or sacrifices on behalf of the government of Canada.

During his address, the Prime Minister acknowledged and apologized for these injustices. The story of the 2nd Construction Battalion is one of resilience, determination and strength in the face of adversity. The men who served in the battalion are Canadian heroes.

Today, as we apologize for the blatant anti-Black racism these brave men faced, we seize every opportunity to learn from the past and build a better, more inclusive world. Canada for everyone. As we, as a country, continue to fight systemic racism, discrimination and xenophobia in all its forms, the story of Construction Battalion No. 2 will play an important role in ensuring that this injustice does not happen again. never.


“For the blatant anti-Black hatred and systemic racism that denied the dignity of these men in life and in death, we are sorry. Only when the truths of the past are recognized can we begin to heal. the wounds they have created and to build a better, more understood Canada for everyone. I would like to thank the descendants of No. 2 Construction Battalion, members of the National Apology Advisory Committee, and members of the Black communities of New Scotland and through Canada for their important advocacy that helped move this day forward. The story of the 2nd Construction Battalion and the stories of bravery, honor and sacrifice of many other Canadian pioneers will play an important role in ensuring that this horrific treatment never happens again. »

– The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeauprime minister of Canada

“Members of No. 2 Construction Battalion were discriminated against before, during and after their service in the Great War. We are deeply sorry for all descendants of the battalion and for those members of the battalion who are no longer with us today. I hope today’s apology will help pay tribute to all Black Canadians who have bravely served this country in times of war and in the pursuit of peace. Canada which lives up to the ideals that members of the battalion fought so bravely to protect. We still have a long way to go, but we will continue to walk this road together until we get there.”

– The deputy. Anita AnandMinister of National Defense

“The history of No. 2 Construction Battalion is remarkable in many ways, not least because its members defended Canada at a time when she did not offer them fair or equal treatment in return. This formal apology is a necessary step to redressing the record and recognizing the important legacy and contributions of the members of 2 Construction Battalion to the history of the Canadian Armed Forces. As we continue to work for fairness and justice for all, we must remember the courage and sacrifices of the members of No. 2 Construction Battalion who played a vital role in the fight on the ground and in the fight against racism.

— General Wayne Eyre, Chief of the Defense Staff

“The brave men of 2nd Construction Battalion served with pride and bravery, despite the harsh adversity they faced. These Black Canadians, a long-time presence in our country, felt the patriotic call during wartime, but unfortunately faced barriers because of the color of their skin. Today we can remember and honor their important legacy as it is a step towards racial equality in our country.

— Russell Grosse, Executive Director, Black Cultural Center for New Scotland

Fast facts

  • In preparation for today’s event, the Canadian Armed Forces worked with a community-led National Apology Advisory Committee (NAAC) that conducted sixCanada community consultations attended by 690 descendants of former members of the 2nd Construction Battalion. The NAAC is made up of community leaders, historians, and descendants of No. 2 Construction Battalion serving as volunteers. It is co-chaired by Lieutenant-Colonel Barry Pitcherrepresenting the Canadian Army, and Russell Fatexecutive director of the Black Cultural Center for New Scotland (BCCNS), the partner of the event.

  • The NAAC offered eight recommendations to the Government of Canada. The government is committed to respecting all the recommendations.

  • The 2nd Construction Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) was created on July 5, 1916 in Pictou, Nova Scotia, during the World War One. On September 9, 1916the headquarters of No. 2 Construction Battalion was transferred to Truro, Nova Scotia, to fit the size of the unit. Recruitment took place across the country and over 600 men were initially accepted, most from New Scotlandwith others from New Brunswick, Ontario, Western Canadaand of United States and the West Indies.

  • While No. 2 Construction Battalion was an isolated black unit, its leadership was overwhelmingly white. The battalion’s only black officer was the Chaplain, Honorary Captain Reverend William Andrew White.

  • The land over which the men of the 2nd Construction Battalion marched before their deployment to Europe in March 1917 is the same field on which the apology event took place today.

  • The men of No. 2 Construction Battalion were denied service in front-line units because of the color of their skin. They were mainly used in Francethe majority being assigned to No. 5 District, Jura Group, Canadian Forestry Corps to support logging operations.

  • On June 1, 2022the 2nd Construction Battalion was awarded the ‘France and Flanders1917-18′ Battle Honor, a distinguished military honor recognizing and honoring their brave service during the Great War. On the same day, the Canadian Military Engineer Branch announced the continuation of the Battalion and the 4th Engineer Support Regiment (4 ESR) located at the Canadian Forces Base. Gagetown, New Brunswickpublicly recognized the Battalion, ensuring that it takes its rightful place in from Canada proud military history so that its members will be remembered and honored for generations to come.

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