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Ukrainian Canadians present demands

Written by Andre Picard

The Globe and Mail
29 October 1988

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The internment camp near Edgewood, British Columbia, 1916 (Photo courtesy of US National Archives)

The Ukrainian Canadian Committee yesterday presented a list of five demands it says the federal government should meet to atone for the internment of more than 8,000 Ukrainian Canadians during the First World War.

The group did not ask for a formal apology or for immediate financial redress, but proposed a timetable for resolving their concerns.

"This is a rational and sensible proposal, and we are convinced it will be dealt with expeditiously by the government," Dmytro Cipywnyk, president of the committee, said in an interview.

He said Multiculturalism Minister Gerry Weiner personally endorsed the package and promised to present it to the cabinet for approval before the end of November. (The federal election is slated for Nov.21.)

"I suspect this is not just a hollow election promise. Mr. Weiner was very sincere and I am confident that whatever party wins this election will carry through with his promise," Dr. Cipywnyk said.

Mr. Weiner could not be reached for comment.

The committee has demanded that the federal government:

  • Formally acknowledge that the internment of Ukrainian Canadians between 1914 and 1920 was unwarranted and unjust;

  • Erect historical monuments at the 26 sites where Ukrainian Canadians were interned, and rebuild the Castle Mountain, Alta., work camp as a historical site;

  • Amend the Emergencies Act to ensure that Canadians who hold dual citizenship are not subject to internment or other repressive measures during domestic or international conflicts;

  • Provide $363,000 for archival studies and translation of archival material into French, and an additional $200,000 for an independent accounting firm to tally the economic losses suffered by Ukrainian Canadians;

  • Agree to resolve the issue of redress before 1991, the centennial of the first Ukrainian Canadian immigration to Canada.

    The Ukrainian Canadian Committee says that 8,579 Ukrainian immigrants, most of them naturalized Canadians, were uprooted from their farms and towns in Western Canada and shipped to work camps during the First World War. Many of their homes and businesses were confiscated and sold at bargain-basement prices.

    A further 88,000 people, mostly Ukrainian Canadians, were labelled "enemy aliens", and were forced to report regularly to police and had to carry identity papers at all times.

    "Our ultimate goal is to get acknowledgement for the fact that a terrible wrong was done. We want to make sure these atrocities are recorded in the history books so future generations can learn from past mistakes," said Lubomyr Luciuk, chairman of the committee's civil liberties group.

    "It's really premature to discuss the issue of redress, symbolic or otherwise," he said.

    Last month, the federal government announced a compensation package worth more than $300-million for Japanese-Canadians who were interned or forcibly relocated between 1942 and 1949.

    The package included $21,000 for each surviving internee, a $12-million fund for Japanese-Canadian educational, cultural and social activities, and $24-million for the establishment of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, to fight against racism and promote harmony between racial groups in Canada.

    At the time, Mr. Weiner said the situation of Japanese Canadians was "unique and unparalleled" and would not set a precedent for compensating other groups wronged in the past.

    The Chinese Canadian National Council is also seeking $23-million in redress from the federal government for a "head tax" imposed on all Chinese immigrants to Canada between 1885 and 1923. The tax, paid by more than 81,000 immigrants ranged from $50 to $500.

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    Copyright © 1994 Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association

    Copyright © 1994 Lubomyr Luciuk

    We acknowledge the help in the preparation of this document by Amanda Anderson

    Page layout, design, integration, and maintenance by G.W. Kokodyniak and V. Pawlowsky

    Copyright © 1996-1997 InfoUkes Inc.


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    Originally Composed: Sunday September 22nd 1996.
    Date last modified: Thursday October 30th 1997.