Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Sign of the times

This is unfortunately indicative of the times we live in.

Internee Plaque Defaced at Castle Mountain, Banff National Park

For Immediate Release (5 April 2006 - Toronto)

On 12 August 1995 the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association and its supporters unveiled a trilingual bronze plaque and installed a statue of an internee near the base of Castle Mountain, in Banff National Park.

Entitled "Why?" the statue, sculpted by John Boxtel, was intended to remind passers-by and visitors to Banff of a "dark chapter" in the nation's history, Canada's first national internment operations of 1914-1920, when thousands of Ukrainians and other Europeans were needlessly imprisoned as "enemy aliens," not because of anything they had done but only because of who they were, where they came from. Internees were held near Castle Mountain and at Cave & Basin, both within the national park, and forced to do heavy labour for the profit of their gaolers, between 14 July 1915 and 15 July 1917.

While the plaque and statue have become "must see" stop-overs for Park visitors, a report received yesterday has confirmed that the plaque attached to the base of the statue was defaced sometime in the last several weeks. Commenting, the director of research for UCCLA, Dr Lubomyr Luciuk, said:

"The statue we placed at the base of Castle Mountain bears a simple inscription, 'Why?' - for we are certain that many of those rounded up during Canada's first national internment operations must have repeatedly asked themselves exactly that - Why are we being held when we have done no wrong? Why are we forced to do heavy labour for the profit of others? Why were we separated from our families and communities?

"Over the years we have seen many visitors to Banff stopping along the highway to remember these innocent internees, even to lay flowers at the base of the statue. That has been very heartening. Our efforts, in effect, recaptured an episode in our national history that had long been forgotten, perhaps even suppressed.

"Now we must ask ourselves - Why would anyone carve a vulgarity onto a memorial plaque?

"Why are there those in our society who are so ignorant, so primitive, that they indulge in such anti-Ukrainian prejudices? This is a blatant example of Ukrainophobia and racism. We condemn the perpetrators and invite other communities to do likewise. We are also asking Parks Canada officials in Banff to immediately repair the plaque and increase patrols in the area to prevent any similar outrages in future."

A couple of weeks ago, a bronze plaque with an inscription honouring two Canadian Victoria Cross recipients (including Ukrainian Canadian Philip Konowal) was stolen off the side of the street, in plain view, in New Westminster, BC. It's basically been written off to a growing problem of scrap metal thieves.

Well, it's a convenient explanation.

1 comment:

Aussiegirl said...

Unfortunately there are always a few haters spoiling things for everyone else who supports the effort. We musn't let the few idiots get us down -- but the act must be condemned and the damage repaired. I bet most Americans don't even know that this internment ever happened in Canada. But then we interned Germans and Japanese as well, but at least there was the excuse that their homelands were at war with us.