The First Canadian-born Black Jet Pilot in the RCAF; first Human Rights Officer for the Canadian Armed Forces.
Walter “Wally” Peters was a man of many accomplishments. Born the youngest of six children in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis County during the Great Depression, he relocated with his family to Saint John, N.B., where he graduated from Saint John High School. A gifted athlete, he switched from rugby to football when he moved on to Mount Allison University, graduating in 1959. He went on to further studies at the University of Southern California. Returning to Saint John, he worked for the municipal government and for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. At 24 years of age he enrolled in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). At this time there were very few African Canadians in the RCAF. Peters was accepted into the jet pilot training program and completed the course with top honours, becoming the first Canadian-born Black jet fighter pilot. He would have a distinguished career in the Canadian Armed Forces as well as the broader realm of aviation. Based in Saskatchewan, his skills were put to good use as a flying instructor. He also flew the C-100 “Canuck” fighter/interceptor in a number of air shows. In the early 1970s he was involved in organizing the famous Snowbirds air demonstration squadron, which flew the iconic CT 114 Tutor jet. In addition to being the first human rights officer in the Canadian Armed Forces, Walter Peters was an advisor to the United Nations Security Council in New York. In 1983 he briefed the Security Council on the shooting down, by the Soviet air force, of a Korean civilian airliner with the loss of nearly 300 lives. He retired from the RCAF with the rank of Major in 1984 and worked until 1988 with Transport Canada. Many testify to his importance as a role model for both visible minorities and all members of the RCAF. Walter Peters was the first president of the New Brunswick Association for the Advancement of Coloured People. (Photo courtesy of Catherine (Peters) Jones)