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Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of Canada’s First National Internment Operations

Ottawa, August 22, 2014 – On the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of Canada’s first national internment operations, over 100 commemorative plaques will be unveiled at sites across Canada at precisely 11:00 a.m. local time, creating a “wave” of commemorations across the country.

During World War I and through to 1920, thousands of men, women and children were interned under the auspices of the War Measures Act simply because they were identified as citizens of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Germans and citizens of the Ottoman Empire were also interned. Internees were obliged to perform unpaid labour to develop Banff National Park, the logging industry in Northern Ontario and Quebec, steel mills in Ontario and Nova Scotia, and mines in British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia.

“Today’s ceremony is recognition of a past injustice committed by a society on its own members,” said the Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker of the Senate. “At the same time, it is hoped that it will also be seen as a commemoration of that side of our humanity which truly believes that, no matter what our origin or creed, we can live together in community and peace.”
“These gestures can never right the wrongs committed. But, they will help to remind us and future generations that the rights we enjoy as members of a civilized community need to be carefully guarded and nurtured; during both times of peace as well as conflict,” added Speaker Kinsella.

The 100th Anniversary of Canada’s first national internment operations will also be commemorated on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Following the Canadian anthem at 11:00 a.m., the Peace Tower Carillon will perform the Ukrainian folksong, I will perish in exile (Ha Чужинї зaгибаю):

Ha Чужинї зaгибаю
(I will perish in exile)

I will perish in a foreign land,
my life is being lived in vain.
I am looking after my family,
but where is my life going?
O gracious God,
give me back my home.
Grant that I may hear once more
the sweet sound of the words of my family.

These events have been spearheaded by the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation (UCCLF), with support from the Endowment Council of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund. The Fund was established in 2008, following the unanimous adoption in the Senate of Canada of Bill C-331, the ‘Internment of Persons of Ukrainian Origin Recognition Act,’ to educate Canadians about the forced internment on Canadian soil of thousands of Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Croatians, Czechs, Hungarians, Romanians, Serbians, Slovaks and others identified as “enemy aliens” during World War I.

Janelle Feldstein    8/22/2014


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