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UCCLF unveils panel commemorating “enemy aliens” in Calgary, Alberta

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

For immediate release (Calgary, AB, June 12, 2023)

The Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation (UCCLF) on Saturday, June 10th, officially unveiled in Calgary Canada’s newest educational and commemorative panel marking the country’s first use of the War Measures Act.

A darker chapter in Canadian history, the act paved the way for internment operations during and after the First World War which ensnared 8,000 Ukrainians and others in a network of 24 camps, and forced a further 80,000 to check in semi-regularly with police.

More than 100 people from the Calgary area attended the unveiling at Ukrainian Pioneers Park (600 block of 7th Avenue NE).

Under the War Measures Act, thousands Ukrainians and other eastern Europeans invited to settle in Canada had their rights stripped. They were forbidden to leave, labeled “enemy aliens,” arrested, and made to work on government and corporate constructions projects. Those affected arrived to Canada or were born of those arriving bearing Austro-Hungarian passports – Canada’s enemy at the time. The interned suffered not because of any crime committed, but because of where they had come from. Many remained “in fear of the barbed wire fence” for decades following parole.

“The panel unveiled today, in Calgary’s Ukrainian Pioneers Park, will help visitors to the park and others learn about what happened in Calgary and across Canada more than a century ago to minorities like the Ukrainians, when the government implemented laws based on fear,” said UCCLF chairman Borys Sydoruk.”No region of Canada was spared the federal government’s internment operations – not least of which Alberta, home to five camps at Castle Mountain and Cave & Basin in Banff National Park, Jasper, Lethbridge and Munson.”

The affected communities included Ukrainians, Austrians, Bulgarians, Croatians, Czechs, Germans, Hungarians, Italians, Jews, Poles, Romanians, Serbians, Slovaks, Slovenes and others. Most were civilians.

Guest speakers included Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek, Calgary MP Michelle Rempel Garner, and Dr. Danylo Moussienko, President of Ukrainian Canadian Congress (Calgary Branch).

"It is a shameful point in history, and yet Ukrainian Canadians persevered” said Gondek. “You faced down discrimination, and you stood yourself back up.

“Today's panel unveiling also reminds us that we must know our history to ensure it is never repeated,” said the mayor. “To do that, we need to know the truth, and call out the atrocities that have been committed on our own land […] If we do not highlight the wrongs of the past, we stand to repeat them.”

Rempel Garner, who could not attend the unveiling due to travel interruptions, send a letter to the UCCLF. “Alberta is home to many Ukrainians – both those who claim Ukrainian ancestry and those who have recently come to our province,” said Rempel Garner, via the letter. “We remember a horrific time in our collective history when thousands of people of Ukrainian descent were labelled ‘enemy aliens’ and unjustly arrested and interned because of their national heritage. “This panel will help educate and spread awareness among residents of our community about this dark time in our history."

Consecrating the interpretive panels were Rev. Fr. Patrick Yamniuk and Fr. Vasyl Hnativ of St. Vladimir’s Ukrainian Orthodox Sobor, and Rev. Fr. Roman Planchak of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church.

The UCCLF worked collaboratively and with the support of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Calgary Branch and others. The UCCLF thanks them all for their support.

Internment interpretive panel, Ukrainian Pioneers Park, Calgary, Alberta, June 10, 2023, Photo Credit Borys Sydoruk

Mayor Jyoti Gondek speaking at the Internment interpretive panel unveiling, Ukrainian Pioneers Park, Calgary, Alberta, June 10, 2023, Photo Credit Alexander Iwasyk

Borys Sydoruk, UCCLF Chairman, speaking at the Internment interpretive panel unveiling, Ukrainian Pioneers Park, Calgary, Alberta, June 10, 2023, Photo Credit Alexander Iwasyk


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