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Today commemorates internment of Ukrainian immigrants

Between the years of 1914-1920, more than 8,000 "enemy aliens" were held in camps across Canada.

Letter to the Editor

Today is National Internment Commemoration Day in Canada. The history of Canada’s World War I internment operations remains not widely known, nor understood.

From 1914-1920, 8,579 “enemy aliens” were interned behind barbed wire under armed guard in 24 camps across Canada. The majority were ethnic Ukrainian immigrants, nominal subjects of the Austro-Hungarian empire and included 81 women and 156 children. At least 109 internees died of illness or injury in the camps and six men were fatally shot trying to escape.

More than 80,000 others were compelled to register with the authorities and endured state sanctioned indignities, including for some the confiscation of what little wealth they had. Those who were wounded in less visible ways cannot be so easily counted and the trauma of internment resonates still. A trilingual, 100-year anniversary commemorative statue and interpretive panel stands at the east end of St. Paul’s Lagasse Park - we invite you to visit it.

Amil Shapka is a St. Paul area resident and a member of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation.

Editor's note: The Ukrainian Canadian Congress has released the following video produced by Ryan Boyko capturing the history of the internment of Ukrainian immigrants in Canada. Please click on the link to view it.