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On August 22, 1914, the Government of Canada enacted the War Measures Act, permitting the government to suspend civil liberties and to incarcerate “enemy aliens” – citizens of countries or empires legally at war with Canada. Under the authority of The War Measures Act, Canada interned 8,579 such men, women and children – invited by Ottawa to settle the country and, in some cases, born here – in 24 internment camps from 1914 and 1920. Another 80,000 were forced to register regularly with police officials.  The majority of the affected were Ukrainians, targeted because they came from Bukovyna or Halychyna (Galicia), then provinces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

June 20, 2020 Globe and Mail Commemorati

The commemorative notice that appeared in the June 20, 2020 Globe and Mail newspaper.

June 20, 2020  One Hundred Anniversary o

The commemorative postcard that was mailed to 4,500 Canadians










The Canadian Museum of History has produced a travelling exhibition which examines the internment of Canadians of Ukrainian origin and other nationalities during the First World War, the internment of Italian Canadians and the internment and forced relocation of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War, and the arrest of hundreds of people in Quebec during the 1970 October Crisis.

For more information on this travelling exhibition, please visit:

Canada's First National Internment Operations

Regarded by historians as the “first great wave of immigration” to Canada, roughly 2.5 million newcomers arrived in the new Dominion between 1896 and 1911. A significant proportion of new immigrants arriving in Canada were Ukrainians, who were actively recruited by a government in search of labour to feed its growing resource and agricultural sectors. Like other newcomers, Ukrainians faced many hardships, and struggles in what was often an unwelcoming land. The outbreak of the First World War profoundly further altered the lives of the Ukrainian migrants in ways they could not have imagined when they left their homeland in search of a better life in Canada. Having emigrated from territories under the control of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Canada’s adversary during the First World War, Ukrainians and other Europeans came under increasing suspicion. As wartime anxieties fanned the flames of xenophobia, the passage of the War Measures Act provided the legal instrument for an order-in-council by the Canadian government. v This resulted in the internment of 8,579 Canadians labelled as “enemy aliens.” Over 5,000 of these people were Ukrainians. In addition, 80,000 individuals were required to register as “enemy aliens” and to report regularly to local authorities.


The affected communities include Ukrainians, Austrians, Bulgarians, Croatians, Czechs, Germans, Hungarians, Italians, Jews, Poles, Romanians, Serbians, Slovaks, Slovenes various people from the Ottoman Empire which include Alevi Kurds and Armenians, among others of which most were Ukrainian, and most were civilians. This marked the beginning of a traumatic period in Ukrainian Canadian history, one that would leave deep scars long after the last internment camp was closed.


Referred to as Canada’s First National Internment Operations, the period between 1914 and 1920 saw members of Ukrainian families separated and their property confiscated and sold. Thousands of Ukrainian men were consigned to internment camps and years of forced labour in Canada’s wilderness. Some have argued that the infrastructure development programs that received “free” Ukrainian labour benefitted the Canadian government and the captains of industry to such an extent that the internment continued for two years after the First World War had ended. Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that this episode in Canadian history has been largely overlooked by historians.

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