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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Canadian Internment camp in BC being remembered

On Saturday, 24 October 2009, the Ukrainian Canadian community of British Columbia, with the support of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation, will be unveiling a trilingual plaque in Edgewood, recalling the confinement there of Ukrainians and other Europeans during Canada's first national internment operations of 1914-1920.

This plaque is one of a series that have been placed across Canada, starting in 1994. Each marker is located at or near the site of a WWI Canadian internment camp.

Thousands of men, and some women and children, were interned because of where they had come from, who they were. None of them were guilty of any disloyalty, yet they found themselves branded as 'enemy aliens,' stripped of what little wealth they had, and forced to do heavy labour for the profit of their jailers.

"By recalling this unfortunate episode in Canadian history, we hope to ensure that no other ethnic, religious or racial minority ever suffers state-sanctioned indignities of the kind that Ukrainians and others did during the First World War period," said Andrea Malysh, a member of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the local co-ordinator of the event.

I interviewed Andrea to get some information on the unveiling ceremonies and some background on what happened at the camp, and why the unfortunate internees built "The Highway to Nowhere" under less than ideal conditions. It aired on Nash Holos last Sunday, but if you missed it, you can listen to it here.

The ceremonies will begin at 10:30am on Saturday, 24 October 2009, at the Edgewood Internment Camp Site Entrance, in Edgewood, British Columbia. (10 kms off of Hwy 6, 2 hours east of Vernon. )

For more information on the event and the eight WWI internment camps in BC, contact her at the local UCCLA number (250) 558-2959 or visit the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association website.

This past year, the federal government finally officially acknowledged this travesty visited on Ukrainian and other East European immigrants during the WWI era, and symbolically returned the confiscated wealth of the internees, which had never been returned to them or their families. This symbolic gesture came in the form of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund. There's more information here.

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