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Vegreville site of UCCLF’s latest WWI Internment monument

Updated: Jun 26

For immediate release (Vegreville, Calgary, June 25, 2024)

Canada’s newest educational and commemorative monument to the Internment operations of 1914-1920 was unveiled Sunday, June 23, 2024, in Pysanka Park in Vegreville, Alta.

About 120 people helped the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation (UCCLF) unveil a commemorative statue and educational plaque in the Alberta town, located 100 km east of Edmonton on the Yellowhead Highway.

Commemorating the first use of the War Measures Act in Canada, it recalled a dark chapter in Canadian history, paving the way for the Internment operations which ensnared 8,000 Ukrainians and other eastern Europeans in a network of 24 camps coast to coast between 1914 and 1920, and forced another 80,000 to check in semi-regularly with police.

The internees, who had previously been invited to settle the land and make it agriculturally productive, had their rights stripped. They were forbidden to leave, labeled “enemy aliens,” arrested, and made to work on government and corporate projects – such as road or golf course construction.

Those affected arrived to Canada, or were born of those, bearing Austro-Hungarian passports – Canada’s enemy at the time. The interned suffered not because of any crime committed, but because of from where they had emigrated. Many remained “in fear of the barbed wire fence” for decades following parole.

“Until 1989, I didn’t know there were Internment camps in our national parks,” said Borys Sydoruk, chairman of the UCCLF, at the unveiling. “I suspect that many of you growing up in Alberta did not know that there were five camps in Alberta alone, as that numerous infrastructure projects in our parks were built with internee labour.”

Titled Endurance, the monument was designed and sculpted by St. Paul, Alta., artist Herman Poulin.

Endurance will help educate Pysanka Park’s approximately 80,000 visitors per year about what happened to minorities like the Ukrainians,” said Sydoruk. “It will also remind us what happens when civil liberties are forgotten, when irrational fear of the unknown is whipped up into populist hysteria.”

Guest speakers included: Boris Balan, President of the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko; Orysia Boychuk, President of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress-Alberta Provincial Council; Jerry Bayrak, a descendant of internees; Hon. Jackie Armstong-Homeniuk, Alberta MLA and Parliamentary Secretary for Settlement Services and Ukrainian Evacuees; and Vegreville Mayor Tim MacPhee.

Consecrating the interpretive panels were The Rt. Rev. Mitred Archpriest Slawomir Lomaszkiewicz, St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and Fr. Iryney Valyavka, OSBM, Holy Trinity Catholic Church, both from Vegreville.

Borys Sydoruk, UCCLF Chairman, speaking at the unveiling of the Pysanka Park Internment Monument, June 23, 2024

Pysanka Park Internment Monument

Participants at the unveiling of the Pysanka Park Internment Monument, June 23, 2024

Consecration of Internment monument by Rev. Fr. Iryney Valyavka, OSBM (left), Holy Trinity Ukrainian Catholic Church, Vegreville, AB, and Rt Rev. Mitred Archpriest Slawomir Lomaszkiewicz, (right) St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Vegreville, AB.


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