Nova Scotia

Formal apology to No. 2 Construction Battalion set for July

The federal government will formally apologize to the No. 2 Construction Battalion this July. The Nova Scotia-based battalion served in the First World War. It was the first military unit in Canada made up largely of Black personnel.

Nova Scotia-based battalion, which was largely Black, served in World War 1

This image from the fall of 1916 shows members of the No. 2 Construction Battalion, Canada's first military unit made up primarily of Black personnel. (Nova Scotia Archives)

The federal government will formally apologize to the No. 2 Construction Battalion this July.

The Nova Scotia-based battalion served in the First World War. It was the first military unit in Canada made up largely of Black personnel.

The apology will be delivered on July 9 in Truro, N.S.

"The apology is important for us historically to look at what happened in the past and to say publicly to all Canadians, including the descendants of the No. 2 Construction Battalion, that the discrimination they faced was unacceptable," said Anita Anand, Canada's minister of defence.

The battalion was primarily used in a non-combat role. It built roads, cleared trees and maintained railway tracks among other duties.

Much work has been done to preserve the heritage of the unit.

Nova Scotia's Black Cultural Centre and the Government of Canada worked together to develop a database to help identify members of the Battalion and their descendants.

Anita Anand is Canada's minister of defence. (The Canadian Press)

"Going forward the Canadian Armed Forces must be a place where diversity and inclusion are central to our way of operating," said Anand. "It's time for us to commit to non-discrimination moving forward."

The defence minister spent the first 18 years of her life living in Kentville. She said she has a personal connection to some of the families of the battalion through their descendants who were from the Annapolis Valley.

"They did suffer discrimination and we need to recognize that, we need to call it out and apologize for it."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

Being Back in Canada highlights stories about Black Canadians. (CBC)

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