Canada’s First National Internment Operations 1914-1920
Between 1914 and 1920, thousands of Ukrainians and other Europeans were imprisoned as “enemy aliens” in 24 internment camps located across Canada. These prisoners, part of Canada’s first national internment operations, came to the Dominion as peaceful immigrants desirous of becoming law-abiding Canadian citizens. Deprived of their freedom, and disenfranchised, many internees lost their personal wealth and were forced to do heavy labour on federal government projects.
Since 1985, organizations within the Ukrainian-Canadian community worked diligently in seeking official acknowledgement for this internment. These organizations assisted in conducting a campaign to reveal moral, legal, and political obligations in redressing the historical wrongdoings. In November 2005, the Internment of Persons of Ukrainian Origin Recognition Act, was passed, obliging the Government of Canada to negotiate “an agreement concerning measures that may be taken to recognize the internment” for educational and commemorative projects.
The enactment initiated negotiation work with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko. In addition, a Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund was established which funds projects commemorating the thousands of Ukrainians and other Europeans who suffered a suspension of their civil liberties and freedoms between 1914-1920.
The Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village is the site of the only internment camp monument in Northern Alberta (on the photo). Installed on August 11, 2002, the plaque commemorates this tragic episode in Canadian history.