Ukrainian Canadian internment was part of the
confinement of "enemy aliens" in Canada during and
for two years after the end of the First
World War, lasting from 1914 to 1920.
Ukrainian men of Austro-Hungarian citizenship were kept in
camps and related
work sites, also known, at the time, as concentration camps.
Another 80,000 were registered as "enemy aliens" and obliged to
regularly report to the police. Those interned had whatever little
wealth they owned confiscated.
During the First World War, a growing sentiment against "enemy
aliens" had manifested itself amongst Canadians. The British
government urged Canada not to act indiscriminately against subject
nationalities of the Austro-Hungarian Empire who were in fact
friendly to the British Empire. However, Ottawa took a hard line.
These enemy-born citizens were treated as social pariahs, and many
lost their employment. Under the 1914 War Measures Act
, "aliens of enemy
nationality" were compelled to register with authorities. About
70,000 Ukrainians from Austro-Hungary
fell under this description. 8,579 males were interned by the
, most of
whom were probably ethnic Ukrainians
the interned were poor or unemployed single men, although 81 women
and 156 children (mainly Germans in Vernon and Ukrainians at Spirit
Lake) had no choice but to accompany their menfolk to two of the
camps, in Spirit Lake, near Amos, Quebec, and Vernon, British Columbia.
Some of the internees were Canadian-born
and others were naturalized British subjects, although most were
recent immigrants. Citizens of the Russian Empire were not interned.
Many of these internees were used for forced labour in internment
camps. Conditions at the camps varied, and the
Internment Camp, where labour contributed to the creation of
Park, was considered exceptionally harsh and
The internment continued for two more years after
the war had ended, although most Ukrainians were paroled into jobs
for private companies by 1917. Even as parolees, they were still
required to report regularly to the police authorities. Federal and
provincial governments and private concerns benefitted from the
internee's labour and from the confiscation of what little wealth
they had, a portion of which was left in the Bank of Canada at the
end of the internment operations, 20 June 1920. A small number of
internees, including men considered to be "dangerous foreigners,"
labour radicals, or particularly troublesome internees, were
deported to Europe after the war, largely from the Kapuskasing camp, which was the last to be shut
Of those interned 109 died of various diseases and injuries
sustained in the camp, six were killed while trying to escape, and
some, according to Sir William
's final report, went insane or committed suicide
as a result of their confinement.
Since 1985, the organized Ukrainian-Canadian community sought
official acknowledgment for WWI internment, conducting a campaign
that underscored the moral, legal and political obligation to
redress the historical wrong. The campaign included the
memorializaiton of places of internment as historic sites.
Currently there are twenty plaques and memorials across Canada
commemorating the internment, including two at the locations of
former concentration camps in Banff National Park. These have been
placed by the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association and
On November 25, 2005, Conservative MP Inky Mark's Private Member's
Bill C-331, Internment of Persons of Ukrainian Origin
, received Royal Assent. This act acknowledges
that persons of Ukrainian origin were interned in Canada during the
First World War and it legally obliges the Government of Canada to
negotiate "an agreement concerning measures that may be taken to
recognize the internment" for educational and commemorative
On May 9, 2008, the Canadian government established a $10 million
fund managed by the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras
Shevchenko, for commemoration of the experience of thousands of
Ukrainians and other Europeans that were interned between 1914–20
and the suspension of civil liberties of tens of thousands of
Thought to be the last known survivor of the internment measures,
Mary Manko, was only a child of 6 when she was interned with her
family at Spirit Lake. She died in July 2007. More recently another
survivor, Mary Hanchurak, born in the Spirit Lake camp, was found,
aged 92, making her the last known survivor of the internment
operations. She died in 2008.
On 12 September 2009 the Canadian First World War Internment
Recognition Fund was announced formally with a notice published in
The Globe and Mail (national edition, Focus & Book section)
describing how individuals or groups can apply for funding for
commemorative, educational and cultural activities recalling
Canada's first national internment operations. For more information
about the Endowment Council go to www.internmentcanada.ca.
- Luciuk 2006, p 50.
- Kordan 2002, pp 16–51.
- Kordan 2002, pp 90–115.
- Kordan & Melnycky 1991.
- Kordan & Mahovsky 2004, pp 27–41.
- Bohdan & Mahovsky 2004, pp 45–62.
- Kordan, Bohdan and Peter Melnycky (1991), In the Shadow of
the Rockies: Diary of the Castle Mountain Internment Camp,
Edmonton: CIUS Press.
- Kordan, Bohdan (2002), Enemy Aliens: Prisoners of War:
Internment in Canada During the Great War, Montreal-Kingston:
McGill-Queen's University Press.
- Kordan, Bohdan and Craig Mahovsky (2004), A Bare and
Impolitic Right: Internment and Ukrainian Canadian Redress,
Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press.
- Luhovy, Yurij (1994), Freedom Had a Price: 1914–1920
Canada's First Internment Operation, VHS/DVD, 55 min.
- Luciuk, Lubomyr (2000) Searching for Place: Ukrainian Displaced
Persons, Canada and the Migration of Memory (University of Toronto
Press, reprinted in 2001).
- Luciuk, Lubomyr (2001), In Fear of the Barbed Wire Fence:
Canada's First National Internment Operations and the Ukrainian
Canadians, 1914-1920, Kingston: Kashtan Press.
- Luciuk, Lubomyr (2006), Without Just Cause, Kingston:
- Martynowych, Orest (1991), “Registration, Internment and
Censorship”, in Ukrainians in Canada: The formative period,
1891–1924, pp 323–34. Edmonton: Canadian Institute of
Ukrainian Studies. ISBN 0-920862-76-4.
- Bill C-331, An Act to acknowledge that
persons of Ukrainian origin were interned in Canada during the
First World War and to provide for recognition of this