Internees cutting wood, near Spirit Lake internment camp, Quebec, 1916 (Photo Courtesy of Y. Luhovy)
Prime Minister Brian Mulroney is right to consider apologizing to Canadians of Ukrainian ancestry, for their forefathers' internment in Canada during the First World War.
Canadian history is full of many such injustices of the state acting against its own citizens. The Ukrainian case may be less well-known than the detention of Canadians of Japanese ancestry, but it was no less wrong.
There are many events that Canada might apologize for. One could start with the European settlement of Canada, which resulted in the annihilation or displacement of many native peoples. One could apologize for the expulsion of Acadians. For the discriminatory treatment handed out to religious minorities, and various immigrant groups, over the decades and the centuries.
The point of such apologies is to enable Canadians to confront our history, to admit that by the standards of our present day, what was done in the past was often wrong and often unjust.
A nation that knows the truth about its history is a nation that better knows itself. The basis of vigorous nationhood is a clear and frank understanding of how Canada came to be.
In this context, a prime ministerial apology to Ukrainian-descended Canadians would redress an abiding wrong. If appropriate, the apology ought to be accompanied by symbolic compensation. Money alone cannot compensate for altered destinies, transformed lives, lost years of happiness.
But a symbolic compensation, like a formal apology, acknowledges that a grievous wrong was committed, one that the Canada of today cannot condone.
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Document URL: http://www.infoukes.com/history/internment/booklet02/doc-057.html
Copyright © 1994 Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Copyright © 1994 Lubomyr Luciuk
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Originally Composed: Tuesday December 3rd 1996.
Date last modified: Thursday October 30th 1997.