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Private, service dress, Colored Infantry Company, Upper Canada Incorporated Militia, 1843-1850

Type: Image

Raised in 1838, the Colored Infantry Company recruited from Blacks in Upper Canada was the only provincial unit on duty between 1843 the unit's disbanding in 1850. It served mainly along the American border in the Niagara area. Besides the service dress shown, these Black Canadian soldiers also had the shako and scarlet coat trimmed with white lace for full dress as in the British infantry. Reconstruction by Garth Dittrick. (Parks Canada)

Site: National Defence

The Volunteer Corps

Type: Document

The colony of British Columbia had no militia before joining Canada in 1871. Instead, volunteer corps were raised, especially after tensions with the United States increased during the late 1850s. One unit was raised by escaped American slaves.

Site: National Defence

Private, 2nd Construction Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, circa 1917

Type: Image

The 2nd Construction Battalion was the first military unit of the Dominion of Canada to recruit Canadians of African origin. Racism made it impossible for them to join other units. The Construction Battalion was raised in July 1916, mainly from Nova Scotia volunteers. It served in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick for a year, and was then sent to France, where it served behind the lines building roads and railroads. The 2nd Construction Battalion followed in the footsteps of earlier pre-Confederation units such as Captain Runchey's Company of Colored Men (1812-1815), the Colored Infantry Company (1838-1850), and the Victoria Pioneer Rifle Corps (1860-1866). Reconstruction by Ron Volstad. (Canadian Department of National Defence)

Site: National Defence

The Legacy of the War of 1812

Type: Document

Although largely forgotten today, the War of 1812 had important consequences. The failed American invasions meant Canada could become a separate state, giving some degree of shelter from the American 'melting pot' for Francophones, Loyalists, Amerindians and escaped slaves.

Site: National Defence

Rejection of Volunteers

Type: Document

Canada's white-led army discriminated against recruits from visible minority groups. Aboriginals, blacks and Japanese were discouraged from joining the 'white man’s war'. However, when the manpower crisis emerged in 1917, these same communities were reluctant to volunteer when the restrictions were lifted. Only 5,100 visible minority members volunteered for service during the war.

Site: National Defence