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Internment of Ukrainians in Canada 1914-1920

Internment in Canada

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The purpose of these pages is to inform the general population about the Canadian Government's First National Internment Operations during the period of 1914-1920 which interned Ukrainian Canadians in Concentration Camps across Canada.

With the outbreak of World War I, the War Measures Act (1914) was implemented as a result of an Order In Council by the Canadian Government. This resulted in the internment of 8,579 "enemy aliens" of which over 5,000 were Ukrainians who had emigrated to Canada from territories under the control of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It also meant an additional 80,000 individuals (of which the vast majority were Ukrainians) were obliged to register as "enemy aliens" and then required to report to local authorities on a regular basis.

These internees were used to develop Canadian infrastructure as "forced-labourers". They were used to develop Banff National Park, the logging industry in Northern Ontario & Quebec, the steel mills in Ontario & Nova Scotia, and in the mines in British Columbia, Ontario & Nova Scotia. This infrastructure development program benefited Canadian corporations to such a degree that the internment was carried on for two years after the end of World War I.

To this date it has not been determined what was the driving force for the Internment. Was it due to wartime xenophobia and war fever, or the Economic benefits of a forced-labour system, or bigoted-driven emotions against Canada's first non-Official language speaking immigrants? The truth is that it was probably due to mixture of these reasons. Unfortunately, the War Measures Act formed the basis for future government incursions on the Civil liberties of Citizens and immigrants to Canada. This act was used as the basis of the internment of the Japanese Canadians in 1941 and the French-Canadians (or Quebecois) in 1970. This act was always implemented via an Order in Council, rather than through approval via the democratically elected parliament. This Act was first implemented during World War I where Ukrainian Canadians were primarly and unjustly made it's first victims.

The internment issue exposed many of the anti-immigrant feelings of the general population of the day. Reading through some of the references, it is shocking that the fundamental comments made 80 years ago are also prevalent in today's society. Perhaps by gaining an understanding of past historical examples of intolerance and abuses, it can help prevent such an attrocious actions being taken in the future by the Government of Canada.

Even more disturbing, since the 9/11 event in the United States there has been actions in the United States against the Muslim community that mirror the actions against the Ukrainians in World War I. In essence Guantanamo Bay has become the new Internment Operation of the day. Similar echoes exist in Canada. Recent incursions on the civil liberties of some members of the Muslim community in Canada have led to a Government Commission to get to the truth of why their civil iberties were overlooked. The lessons of the past have definitely not been learnt at all.

It was obvious to many Ukrainian Canadians that this was a part of Canadian history that the Government did not wish the general public to learn about. This belief was strengthened by the government's destruction of a large percentage of the government documents about Canada's First National Internment Operations in the 1950's.

During the previous Conservative Government there was word that initial overtures were made by the Government of Canada under the Right Honourable Brian Mulrooney, Prime Minister of Canada to settle the Internment issue as he had with the Japanese Canadian Community. For reasons that are not clear these negotiations were not pursued.

On June 8th 1993 the Honourable Jean Chretien, then the Leader of the Opposition and leader of the Liberal Party of Canada promised in a letter to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress to settle this issue upon forming the next Government of Canada. On October 25th 1993 the Right Honourable Jean Chretien became the new Primie Minister of Canada. During his 11 year reign, he refused to negotiate with the Ukrainian Community on this issue and renegged on his promise to the Ukrainian Community. A broken promise to the community.

In November 2002 Project Roll Call was released. This was a document listing the names of all the Internees that could be found from various sources. As the original government records were destroyed in the 1950's, this list was pieced from documents in the National Archives and other historical archives. This was followed up by a Postcard sent out via Inky Mark, MP in an attempt to contact the potential decendants of Internees to let them know about this sad chapter in Canadian history and requesting that they contact their MP on this issue.

Bill C-331, Internment of Persons of Ukrainian Origin Recognition Act, a Private Member's Bill had been introduced by Mr. Inky Mark, MP, Conservative, Dauphin--Swan River--Marqutte electoral district on October 12th 2004 to address this very issue. This was the fourth time he had introduced this legislation over the previous sessions of Parliament. It initially had the support of the Conservative Party of Canada, the Bloc Quebecois, the New Democratic Party of Canada and some members of the Liberal Party of Canada. By the time it hit 3rd reading on November 23rd 2005, it had received the support of all members of the house. Bill C-331 passed the Senate on November 25th 2005 as one of the last pieces of legislation to pass prior to the Federal General Election of 2005/2006. Bill C-331 received Royal Assent on November 25th 2005 and became Canadian Law. The success of this Bill was the result of hard work of Mr. Inky Mark, MP, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko, the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and many other vounteers across Canada. This is the closest the Ukrainian Canadian community has come to resolving this issue since the end of Canada's First National Internment Operations.

It was quite apparent by late Spring 2005 that Bill C-331 would pass with only the support of the Conservative Party of Canada, the Bloc Quebecois, and the New Democratic Party of Canada and it did not matter whether the Governing Liberal Party of Canada supported it or not. In the end the Liberals saw that they would be on the wrong end of the issue. They also realized that a Federal General Election would come within the year so they tried to circumnavigate the pending Bill C-331 with an Agreement in Principle. It was signed between the three negotiators of the Ukrainian Community and the Government representative, the Honourable Raymond Chan, M.P., Minister of State (Multiculturalism). The agreement promissed $2.5 million as a down payment with a further amount to be negotiated in good faith over the following few months. This agreement was signed in Regina, Saskatchewan on August 24th 2005.

Election day was held approximately 5 months after the signing of this agreement. The $2.5 million was never issued despite a $25 million dollar availability of funds for this purpose in the 2005 Federal Budget. Negotiations were not concluded at all during this time period. If one was cynical, one could perceive this as a cheap political ploy to distract attention from the passing of Bill C-331. As the initial $2.5 million was never payed out also suggests there was no pressure from the P.M.O.'s (Prime Ministers Office) to process the paperwork. One could not use the excuse that the Liberals ran out of time as they held power for 13 years and the Right Honourable Paul Martin, Prime Minister of Canada was in power for 2 of those 13 years. Another promise not kept on this issue.

During late Winter 2007, a public jousting match occured between Borys Wrzesnewskyj, MP, Etobicoke Centre (Ontario) (Liberal) and the Honourable Jason Kenney, MP, Calgary Southeast (Alberta) (Conservative), Secretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity) over the Internment Issue Resolution. This started at an anniversary banquet of a Ukrainian Organization in Toronto in late February 2007, with heated exchanges in Parliament in early March 2007 and culminating in a Press Conference in Etobicoke on March 13th 2007. The Press Conference was held by Borys Wrzesnewsky, MP, Etobicoke Centre (Ontario) and the Honourable Ralph Goodale, MP, Wascana (Saskatchewan) -- Minister of Finance under the former Liberal Government. Claims that there was a "Done Deal" for $12.5 million were made by both Goodale and Wrzesnewskyj. No supporting agreement with signatures, a memorandum or any other legal document was produced. It may have been their intentions to settle but nothing as so elaborate as a "Done Deal". This last view was supported in that none of the negotiating Ukrainian Organizations released a Press Release in Fall 2005 to state that such a deal was reached.

To this date, Inky Mark, MP, Dauphin--Swan River--Marquette has been the only federal politician that has kept his promise on the issue of Internment of Ukrainian Canadians during 1914-1920.

As of this date the Honourable Jason Kenney, MP (Calgary Southeast), Secretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity) is in negotiations with the three representatives of the Ukrainian Canadian community. It is publically unknown what the state of these negotiations are at. It is the hope of the community that they are progressing well and moving towards a final resolution to this issue.

The Staff of InfoUkes Inc. ask you to support the resolution of this important issue and to write your MP to ask what is the status of the negotiations with the new Conservative Government and to ask why this issue has not been resolved to this very date. Please be respectful and polite as rude behaviour will not do our community any good.

We at InfoUkes Inc. have been promoting this issue on our website since 1995. Help resolve this sad chapter in Canadian history for once and for all and do what is right.

To gain a better understanding of this sad chapter in Canadian history please feel free to explore the following listed pages.

The InfoUkes Inc. Staff
Updated April 2nd 2007

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Table of Contents

Icon War Measures Act, 1914
Icon A Time for Atonement: Canada's First National Internment
Operations and the Ukrainian Canadians 1914-1920
by Lubomyr Y. Luciuk (Limestone Press, 1988)
In Ukrainian (windows-1251)
Icon Righting An Injustice: The Debate Over Redress for
Canada's First National Internment Operations
Edited by Lubomyr Y. Luciuk (The Justinian Press, 1994)
Icon In My Charge: The Canadian Internment Camp
Photographs by Sergeant William Buck
by Lubomyr Y. Luciuk & Borys Sydoruk (The Kashtan Press, 1997)
Icon Badly Treated in Every Way: The Internment of
Ukrainians in Quebec During the First World War
by Peter Melnycky (1993)
Icon Internment: Additional Articles
Icon Canadian Gulag Archipelago
(Internment Camp Locations)
Icon Image Gallery: Photographs of Life for Ukrainians
in Internment Camps in Canada
Icon Requests - Requests to the Government of Canada
for Redress on the Internment of Ukrainians Issue
Icon Project Roll Call: Lest We Forget
Listing of the names of Internees
Icon Bill C-331: Internment of Persons of Ukrainian Origin Recognition Act
Projet de loi C-331: Loi portant reconnaissance de l'internment de personnes d'origine ukrainienne
Icon Agreement In Principle: August 24th 2005, Regina Saskatchewan
Icon Borys Wrzesnewskyj MP vs Hon. Jason Kenney MP, Secretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity)
Dispute on Internment Agreement Terms, February-March 2007
Icon Internment: Multimedia
Audio & Video
Icon Political Reality Check on the Internment Issue
[What is said versus What is done]
Icon Internment: Bibliography
Icon Internment: Other Sites

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