As many of you are probably aware, February was Black History Month. In the past, we’ve taken this opportunity to write about the No. 2 Construction Battalion- Canada’s first and only all-black non combatant battalion during the First World War. This year, however, in keeping theme with our “After the War” travelling exhibition, I wanted to write about the returning black soldier’s experience. It has often been argued that the all-black battalion helped fight significant home-front battles related to racism and inequality. While I am not disputing this claim, I think it also important to consider the ways in which an all-black battalion also helped reinforce segregation and inequality in the CEF and throughout Canadian society. This reinforcement ultimately lead to an increased race consciousness and social activism among Black Canadians. It is through this lens which I write this post.
One hundred years ago, delegates of the victorious Allied nations arrived in France at the Paris Peace Conference. In the following six months, they would take part in some of the most critical negotiations and decisions to reestablish peace and a new international order. With nearly 61 000 war dead, Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden argued that Canada had earned her separate representation at the peace conference and the Dominion was given two seats in the negotiations that would lead to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.