Category Archives: Commemorative

‘Why did it take nearly 100 years for this story to be told?’

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Crag & Canyon

Mary was born in Montreal. She was a child-survivor of the Spirit Lake internment camp. Instead of dwelling on her family’s suffering she wondered whether Japanese, Italian, and German Canadians would have been mistreated during the Second World War, or some Quebecois in 1970, if people had only remembered Canada’s first national internment operations. They didn’t. So wrongs done once were done again, then again.

Despite indifference, ignorance, even hostility, the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association installed commemorative plaques and statues at most of Canada’s 24 internment sites, while calling on Ottawa for acknowledgement and redress.

We never asked for an apology or compensation. Mary believed today’s Canadians shouldn’t pay for past wrongs. To put it another way: what your grandfathers did to ours is not something you should apologize for, nor we should gain from. UCCLA’s campaign evolved as Mary wanted — it was about memory, not money.

‘Enemy aliens’ were held in Banff from mid-July 1915 to mid-July 1917, at Castle Mountain and Cave & Basin, where a permanent exhibit opens tomorrow. The unpleasant story of forced labourers exploited in western Canada’s national parks will be hidden no more. Photographs of civilians behind barbed wire should mute the mutterings of those who still deny these men were kept under duress.

Why did it take nearly 100 years for this story to be told? The destruction of most records from the Office of Internment Operations didn’t help. And mainstream historians were generally content noting “Germans, Austrians, and Turks” were rounded up during the Great War, never wondering who they really were, whether imprisonment was justified. Parks Canada’s website still doesn’t admit most were Ukrainian. Until recently, nothing was taught about this in any school. Don’t be surprised if this is the first time you’re hearing about the internment operations of 1914-1920.

But why did Banff’s residents forget? Were they ashamed for never protesting as innocent men were herded into Canadian concentration camps, compelled to do heavy labour for the profit of their jailers? Or was it because the internees were not their social or racial equals? A hint of such prejudice extruded into the Crag and Canyon, 18 November 1916: “…the majority of our citizens are of the opinion that the scenic outlook is not vastly improved by the presence of the slouching, bovine-faced foreigners.”

Apprehension cowed entire communities. Sir Hugh Macdonald, son of Canada’s first prime minister, advised the Justice minister, in July 1919: “Fear is the only agency that can be successfully employed to keep them within the law and I have no doubt that if the Dominion government persists in the course that it is now adopting the foreign element here will soon be as gentle and as easily controlled as a lot of sheep.” It worked. Nick Lypka, a Castle Mountain prisoner, admitted as much, but only decades later. He remained afraid “…because they could arrest me again.”

Remarkably, it was a former Manitoba MP, Inky Mark, a Chinese Canadian from a family of Head Tax payers, whose Bill C 331 – Internment of Persons of Ukrainian Origin Recognition Act, led to the formation of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund, in 2008.

Additional monies were granted for a Cave & Basin internment museum, obliging Parks bureaucrats to recall a story they worked harder to erase than to remember.

That tale should be told at Cave and Basin. It won’t be. Parks Canada is about tourism, not truth.

Lubomyr Luciuk is a professor at the Royal Military College of Canada.

Marsha Skrypuch presentation at Banff Public Library, June 19th 6pm

prisoner_small silvervsm

Marsha Skrypuch, author of two books on the internment and internee descendant will be giving a reading and presentation on internment at the Banff Public Library on June 19th at 7:30pm.

This event coincides with the official opening of the Parks Canada Internment Pavilion

on 20 June 2013 at 2:00pm at the

Cave & Basin National Historic Site, Banff National Park, Banff, Alberta.

For further information contact 1-866-288-7931 or visit

The Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund is now on Facebook.

Cave & Basin official opening June 20, 2013, 2pm MT

During Canada’s first national internment operations of 1914-1920 thousands of Ukrainians and other Europeans were branded as “enemy aliens,” forced to work for the profit of their jailers, disenfranchised, and subjected to other state-sanctioned censures, not because of anything they had done but only because of who they were, where they had come from.

For over 20 years the volunteers of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association campaigned to have this still-little known episode in Canadian history recognized. Following passage of Bill – C331, Internment of Persons of Ukrainian Origin Recognition Act (2005), UCCLA participated in negotiations with the Government of Canada that created the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund and secured additional resources for a permanent exhibit at the Cave & Basin camp site in Banff National Park. The Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (l’Association ukrainienne-canadienne des droits civils) is a non-partisan, voluntary, non-profit research and educational organization committed to the articulation and promotion of the Ukrainian Canadian community’s interests and to the defence of the civil liberties and human rights of Ukrainians in Canada and elsewhere.

For more information please go to or follow us onTwitter at

Enemy Aliens, Prisoners Of War:
Canada’s First World War Internment Operations, 1914-1920
Cave & Basin National Historic Site, Banff National Park, Alberta
Remembering Canada’s
Forgotten Internment Operations
Visit the new exhibit opening officially 20 June 2013

Au cours des premières opérations d’internement nationaux du Canada de 1914 à 1920, des milliers d’Ukrainiens et d’autres Européens ont été stigmatisés comme «étrangers ennemis», obligés de travailler pour le bénéfice de leurs geôliers, privés de leurs droits et soumis à d’autres censures sanctionnées par l’État, et ce, non à cause de tout ce qu’ils avaient fait, mais à cause de leur origine.

Depuis plus de 20 ans, les bénévoles de l’Association ukrainienne-canadienne des droits civils (UCCLA) font campagne pour que cette épisode méconnue de l’histoire canadienne soit reconnue. À la suite de l’adoption du projet deloi –C331, Loi portant reconnaissance de l’internement de
personnes d’origine ukrainienne (2005), UCCLA a participé aux négociations ayant mené à la création, par le gouvernement du Canada, du Fonds canadien de reconnaissance de l’internement durant la Première Guerre mondiale et à l’allocation de ressources additionnelles pour une exposition permanente au site historique national Cave and Basin, situé au Parc national Banff.

Fate of the “Russian Gang”

Michael Bahry, Thomas Konyk, Alexander Martiniuk, Filip Rotinsky and Sam Zalusky. All were Ukrainian by nationality.

On the night of 22 June 1919 the “Russian Gang” donned masks, and raided a bunkhouse near Havelock, Ontario. One robber, Konyk, was carrying a loaded pistol. It discharged and a Macedonian worker, Philip Yanoff, was hit and bled to death.

Tried and found guilty, Martiniuk, Rotinsky, and Zalusky got life in Kingston Penitentiary. Bahry and Konyk received death sentences.

Nine clergymen appealed to the Minister of Justice, 8 December 1919, Their plea was rejected, as was a last-minute attempt to save Bahry from execution, Konyk’s lawyer, Mr P T Ahern, affirmed his client was holding the gun when it went off and that Zalusky — not Bahry It was not to be.

A double execution was carried out in the Peterborough County Jail, 14 January 1920, Ukrainian New Year’s Eve on the Julian calendar. Arthur Ellis, one of Canada’s most notorious hangmen, presided. The Peterborough Daily Review reported how this “gruesome spectacle” had “attracted a number of the morbidly curious.” Following their judicial execution the felons were laid in coffins, heads to the west, conforming
to an old belief that when our Saviour returns it will happen in the east, the geography of their placement allowing the dead to walk toward Him at the Second Coming.

Until August 1994 Michael and Thomas were all but forgotten, disinterred during an archaeological survey conducted 80 years after the Great War began. Their skeletons were removed to the University of Western Ontario, examined carefully.

When we discovered what befell these “enemy aliens” we passed no judgement on how others, long before our time, decided their fate. Yet we were determined to give these two young men, convicted criminals if you will, shelter in hallowed ground, for that is a Christian duty.

Bahry and Konyk will now rest in peace until that final Day of Judgement that awaits us all.

Lubomyr Luciuk serves as Director of Research for the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (

UCCLF supports new feature film about Canada’s first national internment operations

Armistice Films

For immediate release: Toronto, On. Oct. 16, 2012
Feature Film receives support from Ukrainian Foundation:
At a meeting in the Nation’s capital, Actor/Film Maker Ryan Boyko appealed to the executive of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation (UCCLF) for support of a new Feature Film about Canada’s First National Internment operations of 1914-1920.

The film “Enemy Aliens” is a fictional account that takes historical events from 24 internment camps and the culture of hysteria at the time and weaves them into a fantastic tale of adventure, betrayal, love, injustice, hope and a struggle for survival against all odds.

In particular, “Enemy Aliens” tells the story of two brothers who leave Ukraine in 1913 for the promise of a better life in Canada, only to be swept up in the politics of the War Measures Act under which they are deemed “enemy aliens”. One alarming turn after another shapes an epic adventure that changes lives forever.

The members of UCCLF in attendance voted unanimously in favor of supporting the project. UCCLF contributed the sum of $25,000.00 toward the Feature Film. Further to their donation, UCCLF’s members took an extra step by earmarking “Enemy Aliens” as one of their supported projects. Donations to “Enemy Aliens” can now be made directly to UCCLF, a not-for-profit organization that will issue tax receipts for donations.

This project has also received support from the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund

For more information on this and other upcoming projects, please visit

Donate Today

UCCLF is a Canadian Registered Charity. Donations can be mailed directly to us and are also accepted through  All of UCCLF’s Directors are unpaid volunteers and we do not maintain office space or have paid staff, therefore donations directly support our projects. Income tax receipts are available for all donations of any amount and are greatly appreciated.

Click here to print out the form and mail it, along with a cheque or credit card information.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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CanadaHelps accepts donations by credit card, including Visa, Mastercard and Amex, and by Interac Online.

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Tax receipts can be downloaded from the website once a donation is completed and are sent by email immediately following the payment of your donation(s).  Please check your email following the donation and be sure to check your junk/spam folder in case the message has been diverted by your email client.  If you have a MyCanadaHelps account, all donations and all receipts are stored online for you to be downloaded and printed at any time.

Mailed in donations will receive a tax receipt by mail within three weeks.

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Yes. Electronic receipts from CanadaHelps and mailed receipts from UCCLF are valid for tax filing by the Canada Revenue Agency.

Internment Historical Marker Program

Efforts to preserve and enhance cultural assets can provide important economic benefits and opportunities for greater social cohesion, reinforcing a common identity and strengthening socio-economic aspirations.  By treating our cultural heritage as a capital asset and preserving it via the Internment Historical Marker Program throughout Canada, Canadians can then hold that heritage in trust for future generations. The plaques that have been placed at the internment camp sites across the country serve to mark the spot, make a claim on the history of that part of Canada, remember the victims of the camps, and share the history with tourists and passers-by.

Prior to UCCLF obtaining formal charitable status, its members have worked with the communities in which internment camps operated throughout Canada to install commemorative plaques and statues.  These plaques identify the camp and their prisoners and are located at 20 of the 24 camp sites throughout Canada.

Installation of the existing 20 plaques has taken approximately 20 years to accomplish with countless voluntary hours of UCCLF members working with individuals from each community, including municipal and town officials to secure permission from landowners, historical society members to ensure accurate placement of the markers, and generous individuals who have donated the materials for the plaques.

UCCLF members have also worked with Parks Canada to have the trilingual interpretive panels installed at the Cave and Basin site near Banff, Alberta.

Outstanding camp sites include: Eaton, Saskatchewan; Lethbridge, Alberta; Montreal, Quebec; and Halifax, Nova Scotia.

UCCLF is striving to ensure the final plaques are installed in 2014, prior to the 100th anniversary of the opening of the first camp.  If you would like to help us accomplish this goal, please Donate Now or Volunteer.

View our Interactive Map of Internment Camps here.