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Apology, research funds sought: Ukrainians delay internee redress bid

Written by David Roberts

Winnipeg Free Press
29 October 1988

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Internees at work, near Spirit Lake internment camp, Quebec (Photo courtesy of Y. Luhovy)

Ukrainian Canadians say they want an apology and $563,000 to write two books on First World War ethnic internment and to study how much compensation the 10 to 20 surviving internees might receive.

Lubomyr Luciuk of the Ukrainian Canadian Committee said representatives received a positive response yesterday from Multiculturalism Minister Gerry Weiner on five proposals concerning the internment of about 5,000 Ukrainians between 1914 and 1920.

"It was an extremely satisfying meeting," Luciuk said of the 45-minute meeting in Toronto.

"Mr. Weiner indicated a number of his cabinet colleagues look favorably on the issue. Mr. Weiner appeared receptive and said the government would act expeditiously on this."

Historical markers

Earlier this week, Wasyl Werbeniuk, the committee's executive director, complained that a Free Press report was erroneous when it said the committee's proposal included a request for compensation for internees.

"I cannot advise what the proposals are, but I can categorically advise that monetary redress is not included," Werbeniuk said.

Ukrainian officials say as many as 20 former internees are still alive, but no figure as to possible compensation for them has been discussed with Ottawa.

Luciuk said the committee's proposals to Weiner included requests for:

  • A formal government apology for the internment of Eastern Europeans between 1914 and 1920.

  • Parks Canada construction of historical markers at the sites of the 26 former internment camps across Canada.

  • Parks Canada restoration of the former Castle Mountain camp in Alberta.

  • An amendment to the federal Emergencies Act, which the committee claims allows for the arbitrary internment of foreign citizens in a national crisis. Luciuk said nearly one million Canadians also hold Soviet citizenship by virtue of Soviet law.

  • A government grant of $363,000 to the Ukrainian Canadian Committee for research, educational and archival studies on the internment and for the production of two books -- one French, one English -- on the internment episode. The committee also wants a government grant of $200,000 for an independent economic impact study that would serve as a guide to future monetary compensation for surviving internees.

    John Gregorovich, chairman of the civil liberties commission of the Ukrainian Canadian Committee, and Dr. Dmytro Cipywnyk, the committee's president, also said Weiner responded positively to the proposal.

    "We can't draw a (compensation) figure out of the air," Cipywnyk said, adding an independent review of the economic damage to internees would provide a starting point for future compensation negotiations with the federal government.

    "The main thing at this point is an acknowledgement that it was wrong," Gregorovich said.

    He said 8,500 people were interned by the Canadian government between 1914 and 1920. About 3,000 of these were prisoners of war. The remainder were Ukrainians, Slovaks, Czechs, Serbs, Croatians and members of other Eastern European ethnic groups.

    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.

    Earlier this year, survivors and relatives of some 21,000 Japanese Canadians interned during the Second World War received an official apology from Ottawa, along with $288 million in compensation.

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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.