Calvin Ruck

The Hon. Calvin Ruck

September 4, 1925–October 19, 2004

Senator, Senate of Canada, Ottawa, ON. Born: Sydney, NS.

The late Honorable Calvin Ruck devoted his time and efforts to the service of others. During his life he worked as a janitor, delivery driver, social worker, author, human rights officer, and finally as a senator. He devoted his career and life to the betterment of others, particularly Nova Scotia’s Black community.

Born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, his parents emigrated to Canada from Barbados. Calvin left school after Grade 10 and worked as a labourer in Sydney. He moved to Halifax at the age 20, finding employment as a CN Rail porter and later as a janitor at the 12 Wing Shearwater air force base outside Dartmouth. However, when he tried to buy a home in the White neighbourhood of Westphal in Dartmouth in 1954, residents circulated a petition to keep him out because they did not want Black people there. They failed, but the incident motivated him to challenge the obstacles faced by African Nova Scotians, from segregated barbershops to restrictions on entering the navy.

During the First World War, a debate raged over whether Blacks were worthy to serve in the Canadian military. The government formed an all-Black unit called the No. 2 Construction Battalion, which served overseas during the conflict. Although it attracted recruits from other parts of Canada and the United States, most of its members were Nova Scotians. After the war ended, the unit was largely forgotten. But not by Senator Ruck. In 1987, after years of research, he published a book called, The Black Battalion: 1916-1920, Canada’s Best-Kept Military Secret, which accorded the soldiers the recognition they deserved.

In 1998, he was appointed to the Senate of Canada, where he served until reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75 in 2000.

Other: From 1968 to 1981, he worked as a Community Development worker with the Government of Nova Scotia; and from 1981 to 1986, he worked with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

Affiliations: Held a number of positions within the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, and was a member for most of his adult life; Treasurer, the Black Cultural Society of Nova Scotia.

Community: In the 1950s and 1960s, he organized campaigns against businesses in the Dartmouth area, including barber shops, which refused to serve Black people. He worked with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission from 1981 to 1986; and campaigned tirelessly for the Canadian Government to recognize the heroics of Jeremiah Jones during the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Works: Canada’s Black Battalion: No. 2 Construction, 1916-1920The Black Battalion: 1916-1920, Canada’s Best Kept Military Secret.

Honours: Include, received diploma from the Maritime School of Social Work, Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia in 1979 (the School of Social Work now awards a Calvin W. Ruck scholarship annually); awarded the Governor General’s Commemorative Medal for his work in the community (1992); named to the Order of Canada (1994).

Black History Canada – Calvin Ruck