YRDSB Develops Map to Help Students Learn about Historic No. 2 Construction Battalion

Students are using an interactive online map to learn more about the members of Canada’s only segregated Black military battalion during the First World War, and the anti-Black racism they faced. 

York Region District School Board’s Museum and Archives partnered with historian Kathy Grant to develop the online No. 2 Construction Battalion map. The map was created from archival records held at Nova Scotia Archives. Students can use the map to explore where the soldiers from the battalion came from and learn more about the men, their families and their military service. 

The Canadian Expeditionary Force, No. 2 Construction Battalion was formed in 1916 as a segregated unit after many Black volunteers were turned away from recruiting stations for several years as a result of anti-Black racism. The Black soldiers of No. 2 Construction Battalion were given the opportunity to serve in a segregated non-combatant unit under predominantly white leadership. It was the first and only all-Black battalion-sized formation in Canadian military history. In July 2022, the Government of Canada delivered an apology for the systemic anti-Black racism experienced by members of No. 2 Construction Battalion before, during and after the war. 

“It’s important that students learn about No. 2 Construction Battalion, because it shows the determination of these soldiers to serve. It shows their patriotism. A lot of times when you learn about First World War history, you don’t see examples of members of the Black community,” said Kathy Grant, historian and founder of the Legacy Voices Project.

“I think it’s important just to acknowledge those soldiers who were treated unfairly and poorly,” said Asmeha, Grade 8 student, Oscar Peterson P.S.

Watch how one educator has used the map to enhance learning in the classroom. Hear from students, members of the YRDSB Museum and Archives, Kathy Grant and Captain Kevin Junor of the Toronto Scottish Regiment. 

News Release