Canadian WW1 internment operations marked by new Calgarian Ukrainian monument
A memorial exhibit marking a dark chapter of Canada’s First World War involvement was unveiled in Calgary Saturday.
An interpretive panel dedicated to remembering internment operations was installed in the Ukrainian Pioneers Park in the northeast.
It's a way to commemorate a sad, largely forgotten point in Canadian history when the country invoked the War Measures Act.
That decision led to the government imprisoning more than 8,000 European immigrants -- mostly Ukrainians -- when the war broke out. They were deemed enemies of the state and shipped to 24 camps across Canada, forced into labour as the fighting continued.
There were five such camps in Alberta.
"When I found out about it only a year ago, I thought it was kind of crazy that this isn't anything that we're taught about or know about," Kyle Hoyda with the Ukrainian Canadians Civil Liberties Foundation said. "So being able to do something simple is a small step we can take to educated people about our history.
"It's important to know how we got to where we are so we can learn from that."
Conditions in the internment camps were harsh. Several prisoners committed suicide, and many others were shot trying to escape.
Daniel Moussienko, who is with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Calgary branch, says he feels like the type of mistreatment is all too common.
"The reason why it's so impactful to us is because it seems to be a common story. It's always been a significant challenge to gain independence or be proud to be Ukrainian because there's always some upper hand that's telling you not to do so."
Austrians, Bulgarians, Croatians, Czechs, Germans, Hungarians and many others were also impacted.
The federal government intentionally destroyed its entire archive of the camps in 1950, but Ukrainian Canadians have been fighting hard to make sure they are not forgotten.
The new monument is a way to make sure the stories don't slip into history.
"I'm hoping someone might look at it and say, 'wow, I had no idea,'" Hoyda said. "Maybe they'll go home and read a little bit more about it."
In 2008, the Ottawa awarded $10 million to the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund. That money has gone towards erecting similar monuments to Saturday's.
In fact, in 2014, 100 permanent memorials were unveiled across the country.
Remarks at the unveiling were delivered by mayor Jyoti Gondek.