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Descendants of Canada’s all-Black battalion say ‘justice, healing’ needed — not just a federal apology

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Descendants of Canada’s all-Black battalion say ‘justice, healing’ needed — not just a federal apology

Southwestern Ontario descendants of Canada’s first and simplest segregated military unit say getting justice and “transformative action” for the way the Black members were treated at some stage in the First World War, and after their return dwelling, ought to level-headed stagger past getting an apology from the federal govt.

Early Newspaper
Participants of the No. 2 Construction Battalion on November 1916, at some stage in recruitment in Windsor, Ont., the place shut to 100 of us volunteered to be part of the 600-person unit. (Museum Windsor/ E. Mackintosh)

Southwestern Ontario descendants of Canada’s first and simplest segregated military unit say getting justice and “transformative action” for the way the Black members were treated while serving overseas at some stage in the First World War, and after their return dwelling, ought to level-headed stagger past just getting an apology from the federal govt.

The No. 2 Construction Battalion was created on July 5, 1916, following protests for the factual for Black of us to affix the war effort. On the opposite hand, volunteers were given tasks admire digging trenches, doing roadwork, laying barbed wire and burying the dead under dangerous circumstances. 

“I’d prefer to contemplate these men celebrated as the heroes they were,” said Barbara Porter, who’s related to three battalion members and is vice-president of the Amherstburg Freedom Museum (AFM). 

Barbara Porter, whose grandfather and two great-uncles served with the battalion, has made it her mission to obtain other descendants and fragment together the remnants of its history. (CBC Information)

“In any other tradition, they would have been called engineers, because that’s what they did — they constructed roads, whatever was necessary for them to achieve.” 

Porter’s grandfather, Alfred Augustus Tudor, and her two great-uncles served with the unit. She has made it her mission to obtain other descendants and fragment together the remnants of the history of one of Canada’s most significant battalions.

Porter and other AFM members have been working the past four years on uncovering the list of of us from southwestern Ontario who enlisted in the No. 2 Battalion. 

Whereas she welcomes the government’s intent to apologize, Porter also said it is past due.

One of the few family photos left of Alfred Augustus Tudor, Porter’s grandfather. (Submitted by Barbara Porter)

“I really feel that not simplest ought to level-headed we apologize for what happened to those men and how they were treated as 2d-class citizens, the government ought to level-headed examine at apologizing to all Black of us — as far as slavery goes, we have to start healing this nation.” 

Porter said the museum has been looking to reach out to others gathering photos and information on members who served in the battalion. 

Elise Harding-Davis, African-Canadian heritage consultant and mature curator of the AFM, hopes the apology from the government starts a dialogue. However she’s skeptical, given it took 105 years to announce the apology. As nicely, she added, the boys of the No.2 Battalion were subjected to sub-par living circumstances compared to their white compatriots, while carrying out their tasks with out the means to nicely defend themselves. 

“This was a war … however we weren’t going to be given a gun. We were going to be given a shovel.” 

Even when returning dwelling from war, Harding-Davis added, No.2 Battalion members were often not greeted with accolades and praise. 

“Not many obtained a veterans’ pension … Whereas many of the white men who came back became teachers or obtained govt jobs, that didn’t happen for the Black men. A few were given medals, however a medal would not feed your family.” 

Elise Harding-Davis, an African-Canadian heritage consultant and mature curator of the AFM, hopes that when the federal govt apologizes as promised for the treatment of battalion members, it starts a dialogue. (CBC Information)

Now with Ottawa’s announced plan, Harding-Davis hopes that transformative action will take place, in addition to the apology. 

“I am hoping it be not a political ploy and I hope it be really some kind of retributive justice, perhaps extra Black of us in leading roles in the military.” 

‘They had to achieve what they may’ 

Phil Alexander, secretary for the AFM, was a child when he lived across the avenue from James Jacobs, who was from Windsor and enlisted to the join the war effort in London, Ont.  

“I’d always attempt to greet him as he was off on his rounds in the morning to command the mail … He and his wife were very pleasant of us and came to the same church that we attended.”  

James Jacobs, from Windsor, enlisted to affix the war effort in London, also in southwestern Ontario. (Amherstburg Freedom Museum)

Alexander said he didn’t hear essential from Jacobs about facing racism at some stage in his time in the military, however that it may have been a matter of necessity to downplay it. 

“I can simplest assume that he encountered it because he didn’t complain about maltreatment,” said Alexander. “They had to achieve what they may to take a examine at to slot in and not be noticed as being totally different, because that would lead to harsh negative treatment.” 

Dorothy Wright Wallace is president of the Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society. Her father and uncle were part of the No. 2 Battalion, and Wallace’s father died when she was a child.

She said her father didn’t share roar experiences of racism, however the history speaks volumes.

“When they obtained there, they were handed shovels and picks, and that kind of tells you factual then and there, they were just there for the manual labour.” 

LISTEN | Hear extra from Wallace about what the federal govt’s intent to apologize means to her

Afternoon Drive7: 07Federal govt to area a formal apology to Canada’s first and simplest racially segregated military unit

Dorothy Wright Wallace, the president of the Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society, speaks with CBC Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre about the Federal governments anticipated apology to Canada’s first and simplest racially segregated military unit. 7: 07

Call for apologies for all Black members

Harding-Davis says the federal govt must also work on issuing apologies to all Black volunteers who served in Canadian battalions. 

“The of us that would have most appreciated this apology are dead. There were four or five other devices of Black men who volunteered on their hold to combat for King and Country. Are they going to be apologized to as nicely?” 


For extra reports about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success reports in the route of the Black neighborhood — take a look at Being Black in Canada, a CBC venture Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read extra reports here.

(CBC)

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Descendants of Canada’s all-Black battalion say ‘justice, healing’ needed — not just a federal apology

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