Stephen Harper on Ukrainian internment

I suppose the fact that thousands of Ukrainian-Canadians were interned in labour camps during WWI should not surprise me, but I have to admit that it does. I’m not surprised from a historical perspective, the early 20th century was certainly a far more brutal and rascist period than we live in now.

I am surprised that the Canadian government hasn’t yet officially recognized this act of injustice. Especially after the efforts made to redress Japanese internment in WWII during the nineties, it’s almost impossible to me that this has not also been addressed.

Between 1914 and 1920, Canada witnessed its first internment operations under the war measures act. Thousands of loyal Canadians were systematically arrested and interned in 24 camps throughout our country, Simply because of their national origin nearly 9000 Canadians were interned, the vast majority of Ukrainian origin. At the outset of the First World War, western Ukraine was occupied by the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Canada was at war with Austria-Hungary. In the midst of wartime hysteria, everyone with a connection to Austria-Hungary was wrongly deemed a threat to our country.

Ironically, in this case, many thousands of Ukrainian Canadians had actually fled the occupying power in their homeland. A knowledgeable assessment of the situation could have only led to one conclusion: These refugees of Canada’s wartime enemy were not enemies of Canada. They were new, loyal, British subjects, and allies of our wartime cause.

In fact, in 1915, the British foreign office twice instructed Ottawa to grant Ukrainians “preferential treatment”, arguing that they were to be considered “friendly aliens” rather than “enemy aliens”, yet the dominion government would not change its course. Moreover, many of those interned were not just naturalized British subjects, but were Canadian citizens, born in Canada, but bearing the wrong last name or the wrong parentage even children were interned.

courtesey: New World Man