Monday, June 05, 2006

the more things change ...

I don't like to get into political commentary on this blog, but this Toronto Star article about the terrorist arrests in Toronto on the weekend compelled me to comment. It seems to sum up the situation fairly well:

... Could be, of course, all a wild misunderstanding, colossal police blundering, systemic racism, nothing more sinister than a barbeque in the country. Could be the thing it appears, though - evidence of an enemy within.

And not just those accused who allegedly plotted to blow things up in southern Ontario - maybe the CN Tower, perchance the baseball stadium; most likely venues of large gathering, because the objective of terrorism, which this may or may not be, isn't merely to slaughter but to bludgeon the living with fear, to silhouette in gore one's utter vulnerability.

These accused wanted, if intelligence experts are correct (and they've been wrong before), to kill you. ...

A rather different scene than 100 years ago. Back then Canada threw innocent, hardworking people who were actually on their side in the war (e.g. immigrants from Eastern Europe fleeing oppresion in Austro-Hungarian empire) into 26 internment camps across Canada, beat, humiliated and even murdered some of them. Nowadays, however, Canada mollycoddles hostile malcontents intent on destroying the civilization the survivors of those camps helped build.

Another overlooked irony is the photo credit on this story: Lucas Oleniuk. I wonder if he is descended from one of the three Oleniuks who were interned at either Kapuskasing or Spirit Lake, according to Project Roll Call (a list of internees reconstructed from disparate documents on the WWI internment operations that escaped destruction by the Canadian government).

Chances are, if he is then he's probably not aware of it. (Although I could be wrong, I don't know the man from Adam.) Be that as it may, the federal government and media over the past century have done their best to help bury that chapter of Canadian history.

Problem with that approach, however, is that if the history book is buried, you can't learn history's lessons. And if you don't learn them, you're doomed to repeat them until you do.


Anonymous said...

These are arguably the first concentration camps!

Pawlina said...

Yes, certainly in Canada. The internment operations ushered in the War Measures Act as well.

Interestingly, many Canadian historians routinely overlook these incidents.

This book will help raise the calibre of our historical record, and add some much-needed depth to our collective memory.

Anonymous said...

Some maintain that the camps set up during the Boer War were the first concentration camps but the Boer war was exactly that - a War with POW camps (although this included Boer family members). Concentration camps target non-combat civilians .

Pawlina said...

Good point. Often in the discussion of concentration camps, that distinction is overlooked.

Another point is that the war was not being fought on Canadian soil. I wonder if similar concentration camps were set up anywhere else at any other point in history to incarcerate civilians in a country where no battles were being fought?