Ministers of Veterans Affairs and National Defence Commemorate Black History Month
Posted on Tuesday February 11, 2021
Ottawa – The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, and the Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence, issued the following statement to mark Black History Month in Canada:
“Black History Month is a time to honour Black Canadians, both past and present. It is also a time to reflect and learn more about their distinguished service, which dates back to long before Confederation. This is particularly true this year with the theme, Canadians of African descent: Going forward, guided by the past.
“Black Canadians have served in all of our country’s major conflicts since the founding of Canada. During the First World War, many Black Canadians experienced significant barriers and racism, which hampered their efforts to join the military. As a result, the first large, Black-only unit in Canadian military history was formed. Nova Scotia’s No. 2 Construction Battalion included soldiers from across Canada and served in France from 1917 until the end of the war. Some 2,000 additional Black Canadians would also serve with other regiments during the conflict, many of them seeing action in the trenches of the Western Front.
“Since this time, Black Canadians have served in many branches of the military. They served during the Second World War both on the home front and abroad. They served during the Korean War, the Cold War and on international peacekeeping efforts, such as the major United Nations mission in the aftermath of the Suez Crisis of the 1950s. Many also served in Afghanistan and today are contributing members on current Canadian Armed Forces’ missions and operations.
“We are forever grateful not only for their service, but for their resiliency, courage and leadership in ensuring their ability to serve our country and protect peace and freedom. For their exceptional efforts, a number of Black Canadians have recently been recognized and honoured for their service.
“In 2017, Chief Warrant Officer Claude “Ollie” Cromwell became one of many Black Canadians to be recognized for his service in uniform when he was inducted as a member of the Order of Military Merit. In May 2019, construction began on a new Royal Canadian Navy Arctic and Offshore Patrol ship that will be named HMCS William Hall. This is in tribute to Able Seaman William Hall, the first Black person and first Canadian sailor to receive the Victoria Cross.
“We recognize the commendable service of Black Canadians who continue to serve our country today, helping ensure Canada remains strong and free. The determination of Black Veterans continues to inspire us through the generations who serve in the present.
“We call on all Canadians to learn more about Black Canadian stories and take part in the various Black History Month events held across the country this February.