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Gathering will examine history of internment camps

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/12/2014 (883 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It was 6 a.m. on July 6, 1940, when 10-year-old Myron Shatulsky desperately hugged his father goodbye as two men in dark coats took him away.

Evil was loose in the world, and men in dark coats were taking a lot of people away from their homes.

Myron Shatulsky

Myron Shatulsky

But this was in Winnipeg,

"They were taken and shipped out to Kananaskis, Alta., to a concentration camp... what Canada called an internment camp," Shatulsky recalled Friday as Brandon University announced details of what it is calling the first-of-its-kind conference examining Canada's internment of civilians.

"Who was I to know I would see him next in two years, in Hull, Que., in jail?" said Shatulsky.

"They had no basis to arrest anyone. They had the full power, without giving rhyme or reason," said Shatulsky, a retired draftsman and choir conductor. Even when his father was released late in the war, he had to report regularly to the RCMP.

Canada had interned Canadians of Ukrainian heritage in the First World War. In 1940, Shatulsky's father was imprisoned for being the editor of a left-wing Ukrainian-language Winnipeg newspaper, his son said.

Leftist and communist Canadians were taken away. "There were Russians, there were Ukrainians, there were Jews, there were Italians," said Shatuksy. "It united us."

Unlike Shatulsky, retired Winnipeg school principal Art Miki had to accompany his entire displaced family from B.C. to Manitoba.

His grandparents were born in Japan in 1892 and 1903, said Miki, but, "My parents were born here."

That made no difference to the Canadian government.

"People had their properties confiscated, and they lost their jobs," Miki said. "Some 21,000 people from my community were incarcerated, and never, ever charged."

BU history Prof. Rhonda Hinther said there has never been such a conference before linking academics, survivors and descendants of internees, to examine what Canada did to its citizens and to compile an oral history.

It will be held June 15 to 17 at the Ukrainian Labour Temple, with the assistance of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and will cover both world wars as well as events such as the October Crisis, the 2010 G20 summit in Toronto and the current war on terror.

Hinther said researchers want to hear from people willing to tell their stories, at internmentworkshop2015@gmail.com.

Even in the camps, Hinther said, the internees maintained their Canadian identities by writing and singing anti-fascist songs, or, as Shatulsky's father did, crafting an anti-Hitler ashtray.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Nick Martin.

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