Celebrating countless contributions of Black Canadians in the military

Marking Black History Month

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By the Defence Visible Minority Advisory Group – Borden Citizen

Black Canadians have a long history of service in uniform. Often having to overcome great challenges just to enlist in the military in earlier eras when our society was less inclusive, they persevered to make their mark. From the days before Canada was even a country of its own to the current efforts in Afghanistan, the sacrifices and achievements of Black Canadians have shone through.

February is Black History Month, and the Defence Team and its Defence Visible Minority Advisory Group (DVMAG) acknowledges and celebrates the achievements and contributions that Black Canadians have made to enrich the culture of our diverse nation.

Throughout our history, Black Canadians have a long tradition of serving in uniform and helping to protect the prosperous country we enjoy today, despite facing racism and discrimination.

Image gallery

  • Black Canadian soldiers during the Second World War
  • No. 2 Construction Battalion marching band in Truro, Nova Scotia in 1916
  • Four soldiers with the Canadian Corps pose with ammunition before loading it into tramway cars to be taken up the line during the First World War
  • Sergeant Dave Gibbs

Black soldiers participated in the War of 1812 and in colonial militias before Confederation. In 1859, William Hall became the first black person and the third Canadian to be awarded the Victoria Cross. During the First World War, Black Canadians served in the No. 2 Construction Battalion, the only predominantly black battalion in Canadian military history.

The Second World War saw thousands of black men and women serve in our armed forces. From Korea, on through peacekeeping operations to our most recent efforts in Afghanistan, Black Canadians have served with distinction in every branch of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), some sadly making the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

We recognize the immense achievements and sacrifices made by those generations of men and women who fought to defend our lasting freedom, peace and prosperity. Those past generations of Canadians and those who continue to serve the CAF today deserve our greatest admiration for helping build this nation and the CAF of tomorrow.

As part of our defence policy, Strong, Secured, Engaged, the Department of National Defence (DND) and the CAF will strive to leverage that strength of our multicultural and diverse society; we must reflect the country which we defend.

Please join us in honouring black Canadians during this month. We invite you to learn more about black Canadians’ contributions by visiting the Black History Month web page.

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