Barbed Wire

Ukrainians seek Ottawa redress for internment

Written by Bruce Campion-Smith

The Toronto Star
29 March 1993

Barbed Wire

It's been 79 years since Mary Haskett and her family were rounded up from a Montreal neighborhood and taken to an internment camp hacked out of the Quebec wilderness.

She was just 6 years old but time can't dim her memories of the camp: the soldiers, the strict regime, and even the family garden where they grew food.

More than anything, she remembers the death of her 2-year-old sister, Carolka, at the camp.

Today, Haskett, 84, heads to Parliament Hill, seeking government redress for the internment of some 5,000 Ukrainian Canadians during World War I.

The Mississauga resident, the sole survivor of the internment camps, will be part of a delegation from the Redress council of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

The association has gone to Ottawa with four requests:

They have arranged to meet several MPs but so far their attempts to meet Prime Minister Brian Mulroney or Multiculturalism Minister Gerry Weiner have been rebuffed.

"She's very disappointed. She still has the Ukrainian spirit though, so we're not giving up," her daughter Frances Haskett said.

Deemed "enemy aliens," Canadian-born Haskett and her family were among thousands of Ukrainian Canadians rounded up by federal authorities in 1914 and sent to 24 camps across the country.

Their crime: They came from an area of Ukraine that was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, which was fighting the Allies.

"What threat was her family to the state?" said Lubomyr Luciuk, who has written a book about the internments.

"We know that people suffered mental and physical disabilities as a result of this internment," he said.

Eighty thousand other Ukrainian Canadians were registered as enemy aliens, had their voting rights suspended and were forced to carry identification.

Time has all but erased public recollection of the camps. Government records were destroyed during the 1950s, there's little mention of the internment in the history books and even Spirit Lake - the site of the camp where Haskett was detained - has been renamed.

"Mom used to tell us about it when we were kids and we just couldn't believe she would be in a camp," her daughter said.

But the memory lives on in the Ukrainian community, which for years has been pressing Ottawa - without luck - for some form of redress.

Barbed Wire

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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

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