Introduction: Between 1914 and 1920, during Canada's first national internment operations, thousands of Ukrainian Canadians were needlessly imprisoned as "enemy aliens" in 24 concentration camps spread across Canada, subjected to discriminatory measures including the confiscation of valuables and properties, disenfranchisement, the exploitation of the internee's labour, deportation and censorship.
The Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association: The Association is a non-partisan, non-profit volunteer group mandated by the Ukrainian Canadian community to negotiate a Ukrainian Canadian Redress Settlement with the Government of Canada. We have been active since 1984 and have a nation-wide network of volunteers, advisors and donors.Legislative Efforts: On 27 September 1991, the Liberal MP for Kingston and the Islands, Mr Peter Milliken, rose in the House of Commons to recommend that the Government should "acknowledge that the internment, disenfranchisement and related repressive measures taken against Canadians of Ukrainian origin...were unwarranted and unjust," to "instruct Parks Canada to erect historical markers at each of the ...sites where Ukrainians were interned and (develop) a permanent historical educational exhibit at the Castle Mountain internment camp site in Banff National Park," and to "undertake negotiations...on redress." All parties then represented in the House of Commons unanimously approved Mr Milliken's motion. On 8 June 1993, the Leader of the Opposition, the Honourable Mr Jean Chrétien, wrote, "The Liberal Party understands your concern...we support your efforts to secure the redress of Ukrainian-Canadians' claims arising from their internment and loss of freedoms during the First World War...we will continue to monitor the situation closely and seek to ensure that the government honours its promise."
Regrettably, to date, the expectations raised by Mr Chretien's letter have not been realized, nor were similar promises made by the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney kept. Over one million Canadians of Ukrainian heritage have now been kept waiting for over a decade to see justice done.
Community Initiatives: Convinced that our community must show initiative on this matter the UCCLA and its supporters, on 4 August 1994, installed the first-ever trilingual historical marker in memory to the Ukrainian Canadians imprisoned at Fort Henry, near Kingston, Ontario, site of Canada's first permanent internment camp. On 12 August 1995 a statue, entitled Why?, was erected at Castle Mountain, in Banff National Park. Subsequently another statue, Never Forget, was placed near the Kapuskasing internment camp site, in north central Ontario. Additional plaques have since been consecrated at Kapuskasing, in Jasper National Park, and, with the assistance of Parks Canada, at the Cave & Basin site near Banff. Negotiations to erect similar markers in Vernon, Brandon, Winnipeg and elsewhere are now underway. Most of these efforts have been funded entirely by the Ukrainian Canadian community and its supporters, organized on a project-by-project basis by the UCCLA's unpaid volunteers. UCCLA members has also published educational materials on this subject, including A Time For Atonement: Canada's First National Internment Operations and the Ukrainian Canadians, 1914-1920 and Righting An Injustice: The Debate Over Redress For Canada's First National Internment Operations.
Requests: Repeatedly, beginning with a formal petition presented in Ottawa to the Honourable Sheila Finestone, MP, Minister responsible for the Status of Women, and Multiculturalism, dated 18 October 1995, and continued through correspondence with Dr Hedy Fry, the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and the Status of Women, our Association has requested that the Government of Canada make a modest grant available for placing a statue and plaque commemorating the women and children interned at the Spirit Lake (La Ferme) internment camp, in northern Quebec. We have underscored the symbolic importance of recognizing this unfortunate episode in Canadian history while the last two known survivors of the internment operations, both Montreal-born women, and co-chairs of our National Redress Council, remain alive. We have also requested that steps be taken to ensure that the historical integrity and sanctity of the Spirit Lake internment camp cemetery be protected, in keeping with our request for similar protection to be accorded to the Kapuskasing camp cemetery, a site of unique Canadian archeological and historical importance.
Finally, we wish to place on record that our Association still hopes that the government will acknowledge that Canada's first national internment operations were unwarranted and unjust. We also propose that a permanent historical exhibit about the experience of Ukrainian Canadians during the internment operations be developed, utilizing the Tea Shoppe building at Cave & Basin, in Banff National Park, for this educational purpose.
By taking these few, modest steps the Government of Canada will help ensure that no other Canadian ethnic, religious or racial minority ever suffers as Ukrainian Canadians did during this country's first national internment operations. And that alone would help right the historical injustice done to those who can no longer be compensated for that wrong.
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Copyright © 1997 Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association
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Originally Composed: Thursday January 23rd 1997.
Date last modified: Monday October 27th 1997.