To celebrate Black History Month, Canada Post created a stamp and official first-day cover honouring the No. 2 Construction Battalion, a predominantly black battalion of the First World War.
“The Battalion’s creation is a story of persistence in the face of adversity. They helped to pave the way for later generations of Black men and women and people of all diverse races to serve in Canada’s army, navy and air force,” said, the Honourable Judy Foote, Minister of Public Services and Procurements, responsible for Canada Post Corporation, in a news release.
During the First World War, many Black Canadians were restricted from joining the forces to serve their country in the war. Many of them were told that it was “a white man’s war.”
However, as the war progressed enlistment fell from 30,000 to 6,000 a month, according to Historica Canada. This led to the creation of a No.2 Construction Battalion on July 5, 1916. Though the unit’s officers were White, the Battalion was the first one allowing Black Canadians, and even some from America, to join the war effort.
Their role was to support the front lines by building infrastructure, bring out the wounded and defusing land mines.
The Canada Post stamp illustrates their role in the war through the use of archival photos of actual members of the Battalion mixed with depictions of trees and the soldiers at work since falling trees was also part of their job. The Battalion served alongside the Canadian Forestry Corps.
“Their determination to serve and their contribution to the war effort were an important step on the journey to racial equality in this country. We are proud to highlight this little-known aspect of Canadians’ participation in that epic conflict,” said Deepak Chopra, President and CEO, Canada Post.
The official first-day cover features a postmark which features Pictou, NS, the site of the battalion’s first headquarters.
The No.2 Construction Battalion marks its 100th anniversary this year. The perseverance of this unit has been highlighted in Canadian First World War history. A docudrama was produced in 2001, narrating the story of the Battalion. The movie is entitled Honour Before Glory.
The stamp was illustrated by Dennis Budgen, through a photogram from the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia, and designed by Lara Minja.