Barbed Wire

No parallel

Winnipeg Free Press
29 November 1988

Barbed Wire

The letters of L. Luciuk and W. Werbeniuk, published in the Free Press on November 14, require a brief response. In tones of paternalistic tutelage, both regard as "inappropriate" or "obviously not well informed" serious views that differ from their own. I do not know Mr. Spolsky's reasons for making the comments cited in your article of November 6. For my part, I acknowledged that there was harsh treatment of some Ukrainians in Canada during the First World War. Nevertheless, and contrary to the claim of Dr. Luciuk, the enormity of the injustice done from 1941 onwards to Canadians of Japanese origin -- men, women and children -- has no parallel in Canada during that war.

After the outbreak of war in 1914 immigrants who were citizens of states with which the British Empire was at war were required to register with the authorities. Over 80,000 did so, my grandfather among them. The majority were probably Austrian citizens of Ukrainian nationality.

A total of 8,579 men were actually interned during the war. This number included military reservists of countries which were at war with the British Empire, men who had failed to register or who had tried to leave he country without permission, and men whom local authorities regarded as troublesome. Of the internees, 2,009 were German, 5,954 "Austro-Hungarian", 205 Turkish and 99 Bulgarian, plus 312 others. Most of the "Austro-Hungarians" were Ukrainian immigrants who had not been naturalized. A small number of women and children were permitted (not required) to accompany them.

Doubtless many enemy aliens were unnecessarily interned -- "unnecessarily" because they represented no danger to anyone even though they may have been in minor breach of regulations. None of them was interned -- as were Japanese Canadians -- because of their ethnicity; it was their enemy citizenship that made them suspect. The real affront to democracy was the unwarranted and politically motivated disfranchisement in 1917 of those Canadians born in an enemy country and naturalized after March 31, 1902 Many of these decent people thus deprived of the vote were Ukrainians. This has scarcely been noted by those who are now seeking to take advantage of the reparation made to Japanese Canadians or by those who want money from the government to research questions to which they are convinced they already know most of the answers.

Finally, I agree with Mr. Werbeniuk that my remarks were incorrectly construed as those of an "opposition". They might be seen more accurately as a call for common sense and attention to historical fact.

Stella Hryniuk

Barbed Wire

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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.