Racial Segregation of Black People in Canada – Military and More
Even when they were forced to serve in racially segregated units, Black men have served in the British army, militias and the Canadian military for many years. In 1859 Black men were rejected by the white male organizing committee in Victoria, BC when they wanted to volunteer as firefighters. To help defend against American expansion threats, Governor James Douglas approved a militia for Black men who were willing to offer their service. The unit was called the Victoria Pioneer Rifle Company (American Rifles) and was officially sworn in in 1861.
Under the saying “It’s a White Man’s War”, Black men were constantly turned away when they tried to enlist at the start of the First World War. Seeking more men to serve and in response to the pressure of Black communities across Canada, an all-Black unit was approved in 1916. The majority of Black men (over 600) from all over Canada who joined the Forces, had to enlist on the No.2 Construction Battalion that was stationed in Pictou, Nova Scotia. White soldiers refused to fight alongside Black men although a few individual Black men were accepted into some combat units.
Black people in Canada were racially segregated in many areas in life. In addition to military, housing, education and employment, they were discriminated against in and kept from many commercial establishments and transportation. To read more about segregation in theatres, barbershops, restaurants and inns, recreational facilities, cemeteries, transportation and immigration, read the full article on segregation on The Canadian Encyclopedia Webpage.