Now that the Mulroney government has rewarded Japanese Canadians who were unjustly interned during World War II with some $300 million and counting, it is understandable that other mistreated groups want recognition and atonement.
Namely, Chinese and Ukrainians -- so far.
Most of us know about the Chinese who had to pay a head tax ($50 to $500) in Canada around the turn of the century and were treated roughly. Not many know about Ukrainians.
Some 8.500 Ukrainians were interned during World War I, from 1914 to 1920, not because they were enemies, but because they were foreigners and different.
It was a shocking policy and we should feel ashamed of what our country did. And it is quite in order for government to acknowledge that internment was unwarranted and unjust, as the Ukrainian Canadian Committee requests.
But the other requests (demands?) are not so simple -- that monuments be built of the 26 sites of the camps; to pay for archival studies of the period and translations of these into French; to assess the economic losses to Ukrainians at the time, with an eye to future compensation.
Pierre Trudeau was right when he said today's society can't be held accountable or responsible for past (mis)deeds. Else there is no end to atoning for man's injustice to man.
Objectively, there was less reason for interning Ukrainians in World War I than Japanese in World War II. We weren't at war with Ukraine. There was no Ukrainian Pearl Harbor.
That said, we should not pay anything to anyone.
Apologize, regret, deplore past injustices, of course. Even put up a (one is enough) memorial. We should have been content to do that with the Japanese, but didn't. Instead we paid conscience money -- put profit into their indignity.
It would be folly to compound the mistake by repeating it. Besides, Lib-left opinion isn't sympathetic to Ukrainians, so Mulroney won't seek to appease them.
Your welcome editorial recognition of the "unwarranted and unjust" nature of Canada's first national internment operations and of their traumatic impact on UkrainianCanadian society ("Post No Bills", The Ottawa Sun, Nov 10, 1988), is marred by your convoluted assessment of the redress issue. By giving our fellow Japanese-Canadians compensation in the form of a community development fund and individual redress, the government has established a moral and legal precedent for resolving other minorities' claims. To argue that Canadians of Chinese or Ukrainian origin should not receive equal treatment would be to advocate discrimination, which I cannot believe is your intention. As for what your editorial terms "Lib-left opinion" I should think that the reaction of such persons to the Ukrainian and Chinese cases is a good litmus test of their sincerity on issues involving the basic human rights and freedoms of Canadians. Most importantly, it must be understood that resolving past injustices cannot be a selective process.
Dr. Lubomyr Luciuk
(We'd be guilty of advocating discrimination only if we thought the payments to Japanese Canadians were correct. We don't.)
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Document URL: http://www.infoukes.com/history/internment/booklet02/doc-030.html
Copyright © 1994 Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Copyright © 1994 Lubomyr Luciuk
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Originally Composed: Sunday September 22nd 1996.
Date last modified: Thursday October 30th 1997.