Reform Leader Preston Manning is backing a Ukrainian-Canadian faction that wants a quick - and relatively cheap - resolution of an 80-year old injustice.
Manning has asked Prime Minister Jean Chretién to co-operate with requests from the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association to formally acknowledge with regret the internment of 5,000 Ukrainian immigrants during the First World War.
The association wants an interpretive centre built at Castle Mountain in Banff National Park, site of one of the largest internment camps, and commemorative plaques installed at the other 25 locations.
Funding of about $1 million would come from a proposed 25-cent surcharge on non-resident visitors to Banff National Park starting Aug. 4, the 80th anniversary of the first jailings. The symbolic six-year program would continue until June 20, 2000, eight decades after the last of the Ukrainian internees was released. The fee represents the average daily wage for the prisoners who built roads, the golf course and tourist facilities under armed guard.
"It seems these requests are reasonable, provided that they can be done without cost to the federal treasury," Manning wrote in a letter to Chretién.
The complication for Manning and Chretién is that the civil liberties association broke off a couple of years ago from the much larger Ukrainian Canadian Congress, which the government recognizes as the community's official representative. The rift is based on personality conflicts and different approaches to resolving the claim.
At issue is money. At the end of the war, the Custodian of Enemy Alien Property confiscated $100,000 from the released prisoners and kept the funds in government coffers. Adding interest, that sum is now valued at $10 million. A special Price Waterhouse report estimates there's another $35 million outstanding in lost wages because of the slave labour practices, and an undetermined sum for unjust imprisonment. The money would be put in an endowment administered by the congress for community projects.
"What's at stake here is the larger picture: what about the money the government still has," said Ihor Bardyn, who chairs the congress's redress committee, which dismisses the idea of a park surcharge as inappropriate.
A 1991 motion by Kingston Liberal MP Peter Milliken to address the imprisonments was unanimously approved in the Commons. Milliken, a Liberal backbencher, supports the civil liberties association. "I'm interested in dealing with a group of people who are reasonable and I don't think that it's reasonable to compensate people who are now dead."
There are five other Canadian ethnic groups - Chinese, Italian, Jewish, German and East Indian - seeking apologies for events in both world wars. Chretién has asked Multiculturalism Minister Sheila Finestone to balance fairness and fiscal restraint in looking for solutions.
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Document URL: http://www.infoukes.com/history/internment/booklet02/doc-107.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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