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Ukrainian internment claim 'won't go away,' backers say

Written by Nicolaas van Rijn

The Toronto Star
11 February 1990

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Ukrainian Canadians, still waiting after 15 months for an acknowledgement that thousands of their ancestors were unjustly interned during World War I, are beginning to think Ottawa is hoping their claim will go away.

"The sense we have is that the federal government is hoping to wait us out," said Lubomyr Luciuk, research director of the Ukrainian Canadian Committee's civil liberties committee.

"After setting a legal and moral precedent in settling the outstanding claims of Japanese Canadians who were wrongly interned during World War II, we're beginning to get the feeling that Ottawa is hoping our claim will simply go away.

"But it won't."

Ukrainian Canadians are seeking a formal government acknowledgment that some 5,000 of their ancestors, landed immigrants and naturalized Canadians were wrongfully interned during World War I.

Additionally, 50,000 or more were forced to register with the government as subjects of unfriendly powers and required to report to authorities regularly.

"We are seeking an acknowledgment and symbolic redress," Luciuk said, "not an apology or compensation."

"There are maybe fewer than a dozen people still alive of the 5,000 Ukrainian Canadians who were interned, and for their sakes this unfortunate episode should be cleared up."

And, Luciuk added, "when we come to commemorate the centennial of Ukrainians in Canada in 1991, we hope to do so with this blank spot filled in; we ask only for a simple acknowledgment that what happened to these people should not have happened."

A formal request for the acknowledgment, and a $563,000 grant to research and publish documents to tell their story, was filed by the Ukrainian Canadian Committee in October, 1988. shortly after Ottawa announced a $291 million compensation agreement tor Japanese Canadians interned by Canada during World War II.

The committee also is seeking to have historical markers erected to identify the 26 "concentration camps" set up across the country and the reconstruction of the Castle Mountain, Alta., camp.

Yesterday, Len Westerberg, a spokesman in the office of Gerry Weiner, minister of citizenship and multiculturalism, said the request "was simply received by the minister and passed to the Prime Minister's Office for consideration."

Christopher Davis, deputy press secretary to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, said he didn't know the status of the request.

Other requests for compensation awaiting consideration by the federal government come from the Chinese-Canadian and Italian-Canadian communities.

Chinese Canadians have asked Ottawa for an apology, and for cash compensation, for Chinese people who came to Canada between 1885 and 1923.

Italian Canadians are asking the Canadian government to apologize publicly to hundreds of their people who were interned without cause during World War II.

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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: Tuesday December 3rd 1996.
Date last modified: Thursday October 30th 1997.