Canada’s international role and image as a peacekeeper force were just being formed in the 1960’s by our then Prime Minister, Lester B. Pearson. That’s when I arrived as the youngest in an immigrant family. It would be a long time coming yet, before exceptional moments in my new country’s history, in particular, military history would cross my mind or that of others Canadians.
To my child’s eyes, life immediately around me seemed pretty uniform. A working class area with what they called post war-time housing. These were quickly built single homes occupied by white people.
Statistics Canada listed the majority population in my province at that time, in descending order percentages, as being of British origins, then German, then Ukrainian.
The French and their descendants since their co-founding of the Dominion of Canada formed an appreciable majority in pockets of the country. Black people, however, and their contribution to Canada, among other cultural identities, were scarcely noted. Their stories like many military footnotes in history, were yet to be recognised, never mind celebrated.
For a long time in contemporary life, white was the colour of achievement. Of aspirations. Of history made. Time and experience have impacted how we see Canada’s social fabric. We are a visibly multicultural landscape and now have landmarks and special days that preserve past contributions of many more of Canada’s early peoples. One of these is the 100th anniversary of a group of black Canadians who had to fight just for the right to participate in military service to their country. Please enjoy this fascinating account of about the #2 Construction Battalion – a secret no more, taken directly from the pages of The Canadian Immigration Museum at Pier 21: [Read more…]