Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hidden no more

It's time Canada commemorates Ukrainian internment in labour camps

  • Print
Men under guard at the Cave and Basin internment camp, where Parks Canada opens a new exhibit building on Thursday.

WHYTE MUSEUM OF THE CANADIAN ROCKIES PHOTO Enlarge Image

Men under guard at the Cave and Basin internment camp, where Parks Canada opens a new exhibit building on Thursday.

Mary Manko was born in Montreal. Along with the other members of the city's Ukrainian community, her family was rounded up and transported, during the First World War, to the Spirit Lake internment camp in Quebec's remote Abitibi region.

Yet Mary Manko rarely dwelt on her family's suffering. Instead, she wondered whether Japanese, Italian and German Canadians would have been mistreated during the Second World War, or some Quebecois in 1970, if people had only remembered Canada's first national internment operations. They didn't. So wrongs done once were done again, then again.

Despite indifference, ignorance, even hostility, the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association installed commemorative plaques and statues at most of Canada's 24 internment sites, while calling on Ottawa for acknowledgment and redress.

c_

We never asked for an apology or compensation. Manko believed today's Canadians shouldn't pay for past wrongs. To put it another way: What your grandfathers did to our grandfathers is not something you should apologize for, nor something we should gain from. UCCLA's campaign evolved as Mary wanted -- it was about memory, not money.

"Enemy aliens" were held in Banff from mid-July 1915 to mid-July 1917 at Castle Mountain and also at Cave and Basin, where a permanent exhibit opens Thursday, Canada's first official commemoration.

The unpleasant story of forced labourers exploited in Western Canada's national parks will be hidden no more. Photographs of civilians behind barbed wire should mute the mutterings of those who still deny these men were kept under duress.

Why did it take nearly 100 years for this story to be told? The destruction of most records from the Office of Internment Operations didn't help. And mainstream historians were generally content noting "Germans, Austrians and Turks" were rounded up during the Great War, never wondering who they really were and whether imprisonment was justified. Parks Canada's website still doesn't admit most were Ukrainian. Until recently, nothing was taught about this in any school. Don't be surprised if this is the first time you're hearing about the internment operations of 1914-1920.

But why did Banff's residents forget? Were they ashamed for never protesting as innocent men were herded into Canadian concentration camps, compelled to do heavy labour for the profit of their jailers? Or was it because the internees were not their social or racial equals? A hint of such prejudice extruded into the Crag and Canyon, Banff's newspaper, on Nov. 18, 1916: "...the majority of our citizens are of the opinion that the scenic outlook is not vastly improved by the presence of the slouching, bovine-faced foreigners."

Apprehension cowed entire communities. Sir Hugh Macdonald, son of Canada's first prime minister, advised the justice minister in July 1919: "Fear is the only agency that can be successfully employed to keep them within the law and I have no doubt that if the Dominion government persists in the course that it is now adopting, the foreign element here will soon be as gentle and as easily controlled as a lot of sheep." It worked.

Nick Lypka, a Castle Mountain prisoner, admitted as much, but only decades later. He remained afraid "because they could arrest me again."

It was a former Manitoba MP, Dauphin's Inky Mark, a Chinese-Canadian from a family of head-tax payers, whose Bill C-331 -- Internment of Persons of Ukrainian Origin Recognition Act -- led to the formation of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund in 2008. Additional monies were granted for a Cave and Basin internment museum, obliging Parks Canada bureaucrats to recall a story they worked harder to erase than to remember.

That tale should be told at Cave and Basin. It won't be. Parks Canada is about tourism, not truth.

There was a receiving station for "enemy aliens" in Winnipeg, yet Canada's first national internment operations will barely be mentioned in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Why not? That's another yarn, one yet to be told. It will be.

 

Lubomyr Luciuk is a professor of political geography at the Royal Military College of Canada.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 19, 2013 A9

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Humans of the Holidays

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS June 23, 2011 Local - A Monarch butterfly is perched on a flower  in the newly opened Butterfly Garden in Assiniboine Park Thursday morning.
  • JOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Local-(Standup photo)- Humming Around- A female ruby -throated hummingbird fly's through the bee bomb  flowers Friday at the Assiniboine Park English Garden- Nectar from flowers are their main source of food. Hummingbirds wings can beat as fast as 75x times second. Better get a glimpse of them soon the birds fly far south for the winter - from Mexico to South America- JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS- Sept 10, 2009

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Now that former cabinet minister Theresa Oswald has entered the NDP leadership race, do you believe the "gang of five" rebel ministers were right to publicly criticize Premier Greg Selinger's leadership?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google