Honouring the contributions of Black Canadians to Canada's military heritage

Today, the Honourable Kent Hehr, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, issued the following statement to mark Black History Month in Canada:

“The year 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the creation of the No. 2 Construction Battalion, the first large Black military unit in Canadian history. At a time when prejudice made it difficult for Black Canadians to enlist in the war effort, they persevered. In doing so, members of the No. 2 Construction Battalion, and some 2,000 additional determined volunteers who joined other military units during the First World War, helped pave the way for future generations of Black Canadians to also proudly serve their country.

“Many were awarded medals for their service, including Private Jeremiah Jones and Band Sergeant Seymour Tyler. Private Jones was posthumously awarded the Canadian Forces Distinguished Service Medallion for his heroic efforts at the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Band Sergeant Tyler bravely served Canada in both World Wars, receiving the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his service in the First World War and the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and the Defence Medal for his service in the Second World War.

“Black Canadians have a long tradition of bravely serving our nation in uniform—from the early days before Confederation through to the South African War, the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War, peacekeeping missions, and in modern-day conflicts like Afghanistan. Some, like Corporal Ainsworth Dyer and Private Mark Graham, have made the ultimate sacrifice for their service.

“Canada is richer for its diverse heritage. Throughout the year, but especially in February, we honour the contributions and achievements of all Black Canadian service men and women.

“Lest we forget.”

For more information on the military contributions of Black Canadians, visit veterans.gc.ca.