Kevin Junor – Champion for the ‘Black Battalion’ 

Kevin Junor is on a mission is to raise awareness of the No. 2 Construction Battalion, the Black World War I soldiers who served in a segregated unit.

November 22, 2023 | | Local Heroes

In 1980, when 17-year-old Kevin Junor of Scarborough first met with a recruiter from the Toronto Scottish Regiment to discuss signing up for the army reserves, he had only one stipulation: “As long as I don’t have to wear no skirt.” Forty-three years later, on the eve of his November 2023 retirement from the military, he quips, “You know what? They lied.”

Now a Bolton resident, this diversity and anti-racism activist is a leading champion of the long-overdue recognition of the No. 2 Construction Battalion, a unit created to segregate Black soldiers from others who served in the First World War.

Kevin Junor, whose mission is to raise national awareness of the No. 2 Construction Battalion, next to the Shelburne plaque honouring the memory of the Black First World War soldiers who served in the segregated unit.

Born in England, Kevin moved to Jamaica as an infant. Looking for a better life, his single-parent mom then immigrated to Canada, leaving Kevin with his grandparents. He says, “It was a practice for West Indian kids to be with their grandmother. It also speaks to a parent trying to keep a relationship with their kids from far away.”
When Kevin was 10, his grandmother died, and he came to live with his mother in Canada. By then the two had been apart for nearly half his life, so in addition to adapting to a new country, he also had to learn to live with, as he says, “a person I didn’t know.”

After graduating from high school, Kevin studied civil engineering at Seneca College. Then came a long professional career with the Ontario public service, starting at the Ministry of Transportation, then working in several other departments, and finally ending up in Correctional Services. In 2019 he retired as deputy superintendent of administration at the Ontario Correctional Institute in Brampton.

  • Story Continues Below Advertisements
  • In his parallel career as an armed forces reservist, Kevin rose through the ranks from private to his current rank of captain. He was the Toronto Scottish Regiment’s first Black regimental sergeant major and served two tours of duty, in Sierra Leone and Jordan. Among the many honours he earned for his service is membership in the Order of Military Merit, awarded for conspicuous merit and exceptional service.

    Over the years, Kevin participated in many initiatives involving diversity, equity and inclusion, both in his work with the province and the military. Through that work, he learned the story of the No. 2 Construction Battalion. Formed in 1916, the unit, made up of mostly Black volunteers, wasn’t welcome to fight alongside other Canadian soldiers. Kevin says, “They were told, ‘It’s a white man’s war. You’re not welcome.’”

    The stamp commemorating the battalion, issued by Canada Post in 2016.

    Though most battalion members came from Nova Scotia, the unit also included men from across Canada, as well as the United States and the Caribbean. They were gathered into a segregated unit and sent overseas, where they provided critical non-combat construction and maintenance support. While their contributions were invaluable, they faced systemic racism throughout the war. And at its conclusion, the unit was disbanded without fanfare.

    Setting out to ensure the role these men played in shaping Canada was recognized, Kevin advocated on several fronts, including as a member of the committee that advised the federal government on crafting an apology to the descendants and relatives of the Black soldiers.

    Finally, in July 2022, he was master of ceremonies at an event in Pictou, Nova Scotia, to rededicate the official plaque that commemorates the No. 2 Construction Battalion. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau subsequently delivered a formal apology: “For the blatant anti-Black hate and systemic racism that denied these men dignity in life and in death, we are sorry.”

    Though Kevin is retiring from his dual careers, and plans to spend some time in his new hot tub, don’t expect him to slow down. He’s in demand on the public speaking circuit, very active in his church and has a keen interest in politics. He encourages others to see his full life as a jumping-off point: “Allow my accomplishments to be your minimum standard.”

    About the Author More by Jeff Rollings

    Jeff Rollings is a freelance writer living in Caledon.

    Related Stories

    Local Heroes 2023

    Nov 27, 2023 | In The Hills | Local Heroes

    Here’s to the hard-working folk who are passionate about helping others, and making our communities a great place to call home.

    The War Heroes of Headwaters We Must Not Forget

    Sep 8, 2023 | Tony Reynolds | Heritage

    A new exhibition at the Museum of Dufferin honours the history of service by veterans from Orangeville, Mono, Mulmur and more.

    Making Black History in Caledon

    Mar 24, 2020 | Liz Beatty | Heritage

    A new museum exhibit called Our Voices, Our Journeys celebrates local black history through the personal stories of a Caledon congregation’s pioneering contributions to Headwaters.

    Local Heroes 2022

    Nov 20, 2022 | In The Hills | Back Issues

    Every year we honour those who go above and beyond to help others, to make exciting things happen, and to improve the quality of life in their communities.

    Leave a Comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    By posting a comment you agree that IN THE HILLS magazine has the legal right to publish, edit or delete all comments for use both online or in print. You also agree that you bear sole legal responsibility for your comments, and that you will hold IN THE HILLS harmless from the legal consequences of your comment, including libel, copyright infringement and any other legal claims. Any comments posted on this site are NOT the opinion of IN THE HILLS magazine. Personal attacks, offensive language and unsubstantiated allegations are not allowed. Please report inappropriate comments to