OTTAWA, ON, Jan. 30, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — No. 2 Construction Battalion, the first and only all-Black battalion-sized unit in Canadian military history, is commemorated in the 2023 issue of the Royal Canadian Mint’s ongoing commemorative Black History series. In the early years of World War I, hundreds of black Canadians eagerly tried to enlist for Canada, but racism prevented many from joining their white compatriots on the overseas battlefields. In 1916, persistent lobbying and a request from the British for labor battalions presented an opportunity to create a black unit. The No. 2 Construction Battalion would serve alongside the Canadian Forestry Corps in the forests of France. They helped with wood and milling work, including loading and transporting finished wood by rail. This wood was vital to the Allied war effort, lining trenches, supporting observation posts and used in the construction of airplanes in France. Some battalion members even fought and suffered casualties while serving with other Canadian Expeditionary Force units. The battalion returned to Canada in early 1919 and was disbanded in 1920.

After much research, writing, storytelling and advocacy, descendants of No. 2 Construction Battalion and their allies successfully campaigned for a formal apology for the racism and discrimination suffered by battalion members, prompting the Honorable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada and the The Honorable Anita Anand, Secretary of State for National Defence, addressed the Assembly of Descendants in Truro, Nova Scotia on July 9, 2022.

The 2023 $20 Fine Silver Coin – Commemorating Black History is issued in conjunction with the annual celebration of Black History Month and honors the service and sacrifice of the proud members of Construction Battalion #2. It is available for purchase today.

“At the outbreak of World War I, many black men felt called to serve their country. Many were rejected due to anti-Black racism. After years of lobbying, the No. 2 Construction Battalion was authorized in 1916,” said Russell Grosse, executive director of the Black Cultural Center for Nova Scotia. “These brave men had to fight for service law, they provided valuable logistical support at the front. This coin commemorates No.2’s remarkable legacy and builds on the formal apology made by the Government of Canada last summer to ensure this important story is remembered.”

“Those who step forward to serve our country deserve to be honored. But for far too long – and for no other reason than the color of their skin – the men of Construction Battalion No. 2 have not deserved recognition for their service to Canada,” said the Honorable Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Treasury Secretary. “We have them responsibility to remember their sacrifice and this coin will help more Canadians know about and pay tribute to those who fought for the right to serve so bravely in uniform.”

“Despite discrimination before, during and after their service in World War I, the men of Construction Battalion No. 2 served our country bravely. We are forever in their debt,” said Honorable Anita Anand, Minister of National Defense. “Together with Canada’s official apology to Battalion members and descendants last summer, this coin will commemorate their remarkable contributions and help raise awareness for the Battalion. Today we reaffirm our gratitude to these courageous men and pledge never to forget their service to Canada.”

The reverse design of this 99.99% pure silver coin by artist Kwame Delfish depicts a soldier from Construction Battalion No. 2 standing at attention between two railroad tracks. His battalion’s cap badge is prominently displayed to his right, next to a landscape in France’s Jura region where the battalion was helping with logging and building a railway. To his left, battalion comrades march in a parade ahead of their deployment to Europe, March 1917.

“The existence and accomplishments of the men of Construction Battalion No. 2 is another part of Canadian history that must be recognized, celebrated and honored – forever,” said artist Kwame Delfish. “I hope I was able to capture these honorable men in a way that reflects their strength and resilience, while also raising awareness of the important role that the No. 2 Construction Battalion played in the Canadian Armed Forces.”

The obverse of the coin features an updated obverse design that will appear on collector and bullion coins from 2023 until a new permanent obverse is introduced on Canadian coins. Designed by Susanna Blunt, the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II against a repeating maple leaf pattern background is accompanied by a special marking consisting of a vertical inscription of the dates ‘1952’ and ‘2022’ separated by four beads representing the Four symbolize images that adorned Canadian coins throughout the reign.

“The Royal Canadian Mint is proud to continue to support the national celebration of Black History Month with a beautiful silver coin that provides a much-needed spotlight on the history of the No. 2 Construction Battalion to life,” said Marie Lemay, President and CEO of the Royal Canadian Mint. “Each new coin adds a piece to the incredible mosaic of Canadian history, and we are delighted to be able to permanently record the honorable achievements of the men of Construction Battalion #2 on a beautiful silver coin that can be passed from generation to generation.”

The 2023 $20 Fine Silver Coin Commemorating Black History – The No. 2 Construction Battalion is limited to an edition of 5,500 and retails at $99.95. This new collector’s item is available to order today from the Mint at 1-800-267-1871 in Canada, 1-800-268-6468 in the US or at It will also be available at the Royal Canadian Mint’s boutiques in Ottawa and Winnipeg, at participating Canada Post locations and through the Mint’s global dealer and distribution network.

Images of this coin are available here.

About the Royal Canadian Mint

The Royal Canadian Mint is the Crown Corporation responsible for minting and distributing Canada’s circulation coins. One of the largest and most diverse mints in the world, The Mint offers a wide range of specialized, high quality coin products and related services on an international scale. For more information about the Mint, its products and services, visit Follow the coin on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

SOURCE Royal Canadian Mint

For more information: Media please contact: Alex Reeves, Senior Manager, Public Affairs, Phone: 613-884-6370, [email protected]

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