Members of the Ukrainian community are debating whether to press Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to discuss redress for the First World War internment of Ukrainians two years after he promised to issue a statement "soon".
Mr. Mulroney is scheduled to address this weekend's Ukrainian Canadian Congress annual meeting, which will celebrate a century of Ukrainian presence in Canada. Preparations for the meeting in Winnipeg, however, have been marked by disagreement and unease about how to deal with the issue of internment of Ukrainians.
The internment of 5,000 Ukrainians was carried out by Canada against British advice and, in most cases, the property seized was never returned. Most were interned for no other reason than that their homeland was considered part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
A redress committee has been seeking a formal acknowledgement by the Canadian government that the internment was wrong, and is asking for some form of community redress similar to that given to Japanese Canadians for their Second World War internment.
Dr. Oleh Romanyshyn, who as editor of the Ukrainian Echo in Toronto wrote a strong editorial urging that the issue be resolved, said in an interview that this weekend's meeting would be a good time for the Prime Minister to deal with the issue.
He said, however, that there were some in the Ukrainian community who felt the congress "was not an opportune moment" to press the issue with the Prime Minister.
Ihor Bardyn, chairman of the redress committee, said some members of the Congress's executive in Winnipeg were opposed because they thought the issue would be raised during the annual meeting's banquet. However, it won't, he said, and if the issue is not raised publicly by the Prime Minister himself then it will be raised privately with him.
Mr. Bardyn said the Prime Minister received a report several months ago from Multiculturalism Minister Gerry Weiner and has asked Mr. Weiner for a list of options for a government response.
"Mr. Weiner is to bring in his report to the Prime Minister right after the referendum vote," Mr. Bardyn said. "But as far as I'm concerned, he [the Prime Minister] does not need any more information" to address the issue, he said.
But Lubomyr Luciuk, director of research for the Congress's Civil Liberties Commission, said he feels any blame for disagreement among the Ukrainian community over raising the question of redress, is the result of "the mixed signals" that the government has been sending.
"That there are different views is only normal...but I think one of the biggest problems is that the Prime Minister's office has been sending contradictory signals," Mr. Luciuk said.
The Prime Minister made a positive statement two years ago, followed by positive statements from Mr. Weiner and the Liberal and New Democratic Parties, he said.
"So all these signals coming out one way and then months and months of nothingness leaves people confused," he said.
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Document URL: http://www.infoukes.com/history/internment/booklet02/doc-068.html
Copyright © 1994 Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Copyright © 1994 Lubomyr Luciuk
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Originally Composed: Tuesday December 3rd 1996.
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