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Author blasts Charest for Ukrainian waffling

Written by Marilyn Moysa

The Edmonton Journal
13 April 1993

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Environment Minister Jean Charest is trying to score political points with Ukrainian Canadians just days before arriving in Edmonton, says a political science professor.

"He's talking out of both sides of his mouth," Bohdan Kordan, a professor at Grant MacEwan Community College, said Monday. "He knows he's about to visit a city that has a huge demographic block of Ukrainian Canadians."

Kordan, who has written a book about internment camps in Canada, took exception to the Conservative leadership contender's comments Monday on his denial of a request to commemorate a camp in Banff National Park.

Charest has said his refusal to approve a plaque and interpretative centre marking the site of the First World War camp at Castle Mountain was based on a recommendation from the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

The board concluded the internment of 600 Ukrainian immigrants near Banff from 1915-17 was "not, in and of itself, of national historic significance."

But in a letter published in The Journal Monday, Charest - who's scheduled to visit Edmonton Thursday - said there's nothing stopping individuals from requesting the board re-examine the request "if they feel not all the facts have been accounted for."

Kordan said Charest has "somehow got the shoe on backwards.

"The question is not whether individuals should be appealing this anymore to a committee that will decide what history is or is not," Kordan said.

"The question is whether Charest knows the meat of a motion that was passed in 1991."

MPs of all parties endorsed a private member's motion in September 1991 that called on the Tory government to instruct Parks Canada to erect a permanent historical educational exhibit at the Castle Mountain site, he said.

Six hundred men were labelled enemy aliens during the First World War and forced to do such jobs as constructing the Banff Springs golf course.

"What he should be doing is saying to his senior department officials 'How can we best move on this and ensure that history is recorded as it should be?'"

Kordan disagreed with Charest's statement that the Historical Sites and Monuments Board is an independent body made up of historians and other experts from across Canada.

"Basically, you have 17 commissioners that come together once a year and are selected because they represent a province and essentially are individuals who may be well-connected to the party," Kordan said.

He said what happened should be recognized as a national tragedy.

"They should have an army of people ploughing through past historical records instead of recommendations from a committee of individuals that are being paid $350 a day to sit around at the Delta Sheraton in Ottawa."

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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: Wednesday December 4th 1996.
Date last modified: Thursday October 30th 1997.