Contributed by the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund
Even though there was never any evidence of disloyalty on their part, thousands of Ukrainians and other Europeans were imprisoned needlessly and forced to do heavy labour in 24 internment camps located in our country’s frontier hinterlands during Canada’s first national internment operations of 1914-1920.
“The Revelstoke internment camp was opened from September 6, 1915 to October 23, 1916 at Mt. Revelstoke and the internees were used as forced labour to build the National Park,” said Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund Program Manager Andrea Malysh.
Tens of thousands of others, designated as “enemy aliens,” were obliged to carry identity documents and report regularly to the police. Many were subjected to other state-sanctioned indignities, including disenfranchisement, restrictions on their freedom of speech, movement and association, deportation and the confiscation of what little wealth they had, some of which was never returned. This happened even though the British Foreign Office informed Ottawa that these eastern Europeans were “friendly aliens” who should be given “preferential treatment.” These men, women and children suffered not because of anything they had done but only because of who they were, where they had come from.
In consultation with the Ukrainian Canadian community’s representatives the Government of Canada set up the Canadian Fist World War Internment Recognition Fund, in 2008. An Endowment Council including several of the affected ethno-cultural communities was established to support educational and commemorative initiatives that hallow the memory of the internees and remind all Canadians of the need to remain vigilant in defence of civil liberties and human rights in times of domestic and international crisis.
For information on project criteria, eligibility and grant applications forms please visit www.internmentcanada.ca. The fund also allows for the acquisition, restoration and preservation of relevant artifacts. The Endowment Council is therefore asking Canadians living in or near communities where internment camps were once located to let us know if you have any artifacts or documents that can help us better understand what the daily life and experience of the internees was like.
For further information on the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund, call the Program Manager, toll free at 1-866-288-7931.
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